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Consider The Leaf  by Judy Glattstein. Timber Press, 2003.  Hardback: $24.95


A friend came to see the garden.  He stepped outside, looked over the scene and said, “I bet it’s beautiful when it’s in bloom.”   Author and garden consultant Judy Glattstein would have seen it differently.  As many longtime gardeners have discovered, it is the foliage that makes the garden.  The flowers are gravy.


Glattstein, in this book subtitled, “Foliage in the Garden”, considers the many possible combinations of foliage defined by shape, color and habit,  that distinguish a garden from a collection of plants.  Although the reader must be aware of regional substitutions, the combinations suggested by the author can be reproduced in any garden.


You might expect a book listing plant combinations to be repetitious and boring, but Glattstein crafts the images so well that you feel you are traveling through a well laid out garden, admiring the gardeners skill at selecting just the right plants to enhance each other’s attributes and focus your attention.


She moves carefully from combining leaf shapes, to taking color into account, and then adds the variables of sun, shade and seasons.   In addition to the plants themselves, she considers the impact of geometry in the garden and various ways to use the plants to create structure.


This is the guidance I was looking for.  When the garden looks like a froth of fussy leaves, the fix is here, in Glattstein’s inspirational prose and descriptions of effective plant combinations.

It will make you believe that the garden can be beautiful, even when it is NOT in bloom.



Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy