An inspiring and conscience-driven book for gardeners and nurseries

Background photo by Sandrine Biziaux Scherson

I have started and stopped and started again to write a review deserving of the accomplishment of Charlotte Adelman and Bernard L. Schwartz’s book Midwestern Native Shrubs and Trees, gardening alternatives to non-native species, an illustrated guide. The authors deliver much more than the title promises. Biodiversity: The Impact of the Every-Day Gardener could have been a sub- title.

To say that the book illustrates and describes native tree and shrub alternatives to hybrids and cultivars in a context of seasonal changes is an oversimplification. As one would anticipate, it is a virtual for Midwestern plants and their intended landscapes, and for the many organisms whose futures depend on them. The authors address every possible reservation to make the transition to natives, and provide realistic suggestions and additional resources.

The Preface and Introduction alone set this book apart. Those few pages unfurl revelations that pulled from me a murmur resembling a mournful prayer, ‘Forgive us, we know not what we do.” Like no other, the book points to human failure to anticipate the repercussions of widespread importation and cultivation of alien plants as replacements for natives. As if delivering a new dawn, the authors shed light on what we now know of this impact, and lay at the gate of each nursery and gardener in every region of the continent, the power to improve biodiversity of native plants and animals in North America and the ecosystems that sustain them.  That power also promises a leap to immense pride and satisfaction.

Photographed here is my personal copy showing sticky notes marking locations of facts and concepts, some shocking, others wondrous and inspiring. All, every single one, I want to remember. They are bells that warn. They are bells that celebrate! They are bells that ring with hope.

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