Resources [Updated:January 2012]

The education of a gardener is never-ending; there is always something new to learn and with the ceaseless flow of new and exciting plant material available, it’s very easy for a gardener – from novice to connoisseur – to begin to feel overwhelmed! I rely on reference materials: books, videos and websites are three readily available sources of information that are also reliable in the sense that they seem to change as quickly as information and fads – something gardeners are becoming increasingly aware of with the passing of each garden season.


I have complied a list of some of the books that have proven themselves to be invaluable during my shade garden education. I hope that they will be useful in your journey as well:

The Education of a Gardener by Russell Page should, in my opinion, be required reading for anyone contemplating creating a garden. He is revered as being one of the legendary gardeners and landscape architects of the twentieth century. His memoir styled writing is a wonderful mix of memories, knowledge and know how. Page was one of the earliest advocates that a garden draws it’s energies from the surrounding landscape, and many of his examples pay close homage to this principle.

Dear Friend and Gardener: Letters on Life and Gardening is a series of engaging letters between legendary English gardeners Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto. These two master gardeners compare notes on successes and failures in their two distinctly different gardens. Sprinkled liberally is a cheerful dose of gossip, life and nature! Chatto’s garden is located in East Anglia, and was once a desolate flat, dry exposed landscape. Today it is a destination pilgrimage for plant lovers – and is truly story of success winning out over adversity! Lloyd, creator and lord over historic Great Dixter, is best remembered for his controversial garden styles. He single-handedly created one of English gardening’s most talked about uproars when he transformed an old rose garden into a hotbed of brightly coloured tender perennials.

A Gentle Plea for Chaos by Mirabel Osler quickly found a place in my heart as it reads like a treatise that begs people to remember that a garden is essentially a tamed sliver of nature, and as such, needs to include areas that seemingly abandon structure for a touch of wilful abandon. Osler uses her own eight year garden creation experience as a blueprint, and continues by delving into numerous digressions, peppered with reflection. This reads like a guided musing on so many subjects that are close to every gardeners heart. In essence she is advocating a movement away from the planning and regimentation that many larger garden estates seem to favour, with , in her words, ‘the mentality of a stamp collector!’ In its place, she likes to let Mother Nature take control, creating moments of de-construction, that are always accompanied with a sense of whimsy and humour. You need only look at my own gardens to see how instrumental this wonderful book has been for me.

The Explorer’s Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials by Daniel Hinkley, former owner of Heronswood Nursery is my all-time favourite gardening book. Hinkley continues to be one of the true legendary plant hunters who remains at the forefront in providing new, rare and choice selections for the truly discerning garden connoisseur! His eclectic taste and insatiable curiosity where horticulture is concerned has led him on dozens of expeditions, plant hunting from China, Korea, Nepal, Chili, and to closer-to-home remote areas of North America. His legendary, now closed nursery on Puget Sound was home to close to 9000 plants, many of them growing among what can only be described as display gardens par excellence! While readers will recognize a few of the selections, most offer a welcome introduction to some of his more exciting plant discoveries and introductions which include: Corydalis flexuosa ‘Blue Panda,’ Disporum cantoniense ‘Night Heron,’ and Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette.’ Many of the rare and choice selections that make up the Shaded Walk within Teza’s Garden were first introduced to me while reading this fascinating book. Hard to locate until recently, it is readily available through Timber Press.

The Explorer’s Garden: Shrubs and Vines From The Four Corners of the World is the latest tome from plantsman Daniel Hinkley. I was immediately immersed in its contents, which introduces gardeners to a plethora of new and exciting shrubs and vines for the garden. While there are easily recongizable entries under genera ranging from Berberis, Hamamelis and Hydrangea, there is also a number of new and exciting specimens that instantly captured my attention and curiosity. I was immediately drawn to the genus Dichroa, a little known Hydrangea relative with spectacular blue flowers, followed by an almost electric blue fruit! While I do not live in a gardening zone that would afford it’s success, I have also found myself smitten with the genus Eucryphia – but a gardener must also be allowed to dream once in a while! Introducing each genera is a wonderful sample of Hinkley’s ‘Travelogue’ - a brief glimpse into the actual expeditions from which these new garden jewels were collected. There is a wonderful section that prefaces the actual plant list that speaks frankly and directly to the ever present threat of bioinvasiveness, an almost mandatory inclusion when so many new plants are being introduced into what to them is an ‘alien’ landscape! Thoughtfully, he also includes a brief section entitled ‘Notes on Propagation,’ that will greatly assist those who wish to try their hand at propogating some of the plants that are introduced within the text. This was a long awaited follow up, but like a fine glass of wine, things of this nature should never be rushed. Like it’s predecessor, it is also available from

An Encyclopedia of Shade Perennials by W. George Schmid is a prerequisite purchase for anyone wanting to have a comprehensive compendium of shade tolerant plants at their disposal. This reference combines information on more than 7000 species and cultivars from over 150 different genera – from Acanthus to Woodwardia – with some newbies, and others that are getting a second wind thanks to Schmid’s inclusion. Expertise and personal accounts of the plants listed here, make it an enjoyable and educational experience for the reader.

Without a doubt, one of my personal favourites is Beth Chatto’s Woodland Garden: Shade-Loving Plants For Year-Round Interest. This is the perfect companion for those who yearn to bring beauty to north facing beds beneath shrubs and trees – or, more aptly, for anyone wanting to create their own woodland garden! This book offers a wealth of personal and practical knowledge of more than 500 plants that thrive in the shade. Chatto’s unrivaled knowledge, combined with her keen eye for colour and aesthetics make this a ‘must have’ addition to the garden library. She details the transformation of her own derelict site into a woodland garden that is filled with life and vigor every passing season of the year. For more information on her nursery, see the Webpage link section.

One can simply never have enough of Beth Chatto's astute and eruditely written books on their collection! I was thrilled to discover this, Beth Chatto's Damp Garden,  a revised edition that actually entails the creation of not only her memorable damp garden, but all of the gardens on her inonic property. I love that her writing style invites the readers to stroll with her through her gardens from their infancy through the changes that continue today. She truly is the mistress behind the gardening philosophy that intrinsically links plant and placement. A stunning addition to the gardening library.

Always on the lookout for gardening periodicals of quality and substance, I was thrilled to stumble across Hortus Revisited, a twenty-first anniversary anthology of but a few of the articles that are the foundation of 'Hortus,' England's only privately published gardening quarterly. I was thrust into a world of garden history, styles and the very personalities whose names

Gardening with Woodland Plants by Karan Junker, owner of Junker’s Nursery draws upon her decades of experience as a nursery proprietor. It is her belief that woodland plants add magic to any garden, and contrary to the myths, large spaces and special soils are not necessarily requirements for success. At the heart of the book is a plant directory, which includes cultivars that have particularly valuable garden features that assist in retaining a ‘woodland’ character.

Those familiar with the Royal Horticultural Society, will no doubt recognize Christopher Brickell’s name. His name is attached to some of the most comprehensive garden tomes available, and when I saw that he had authored a book of his own personal favourites, it was a matter of tracking it down! Christopher Brickell’s Garden Plants is an expert guide to over 500 personally chosen favourite plants! Drawing upon more than 40 years of gardening experience ( notably as Director-General of the RHS) Christopher presents a personal insight into what he considers to be his special favourites! The plant material chosen varies greatly, from the exotic Chilean Bellflower to the exquisite spring alpine Gentians, and includes selections from every possible classification: Annuals, Perennials, Trees and Shrubs, Climbers, Alpines, Bulbs and yes, even Warm Climate and Greenhouse Plants – so yes, there is something valuable here for every gardener. His engaging anecdotal style is infectious, and he offers up a wealth of planting assistance, as well as useful tips on honing a gardener’s skill.

William Robinson was considered a bit of a rebellious renegade in 1870 when he first proposed creating 'wild gardens' what immediately smacked of irreverence when placed next to the rigidly designed and laid out plans prevalent in England at the time. How fitting that now in its 7th revised edition, it has become one of the most sought after style of environmentally conscious gardeners today. The text combines Robinson's fifth edition, and is prefaced with new chapters and photographs by Rick Darke. An absolute must for those who yearn for a 'wee bit of the chaos' amongst the structure!

With a growing love of the genus Cypripedium, I searched high and low to locate a book that would offer a comprehensive study of this intoxicating genus. As with other monographs, it is somewhat technical in its presentation, but there is a world to learn about these majestic beauties, and where better to start than with this book. It is rather elusive to find, and one might shirk at the price, but it is so worth the investment!

I fell in love with Dan Pearson's second book: Spirit- Garden Inspiration, so was thrilled to discover he'd published this personal account of the creation of his own garden. Filled with passionate prose, and to die for photography, this is a wonderful example of the marriage between expert plant knowledge and passionate garden design!

Dan Pearson's second book, SPIRIT:Garden Inspiration is difficult to pin down as far as genre is concerned. It begs the simple question of what evokes spirit in the garden, and what after all is a garden? Stunning photographs and a wonderful preface by fellow English gardening doyenne Beth Chatto ensure that this is a book that over the years will be well read and appreciated!

 Roy Lancaster is an astute plantsman in his own right, and this is a perfect tome to introduce gardeners to his obsession with plants - specifically those originating in China - my favourite locale for flora! Follow him as he retraces the footsteps of famously intrepid plant hunters who came before, as well as revel in some of his own startling discoveries. Massive in size, it is a wonderful tome to include in your ever expanding garden book library repertoire!

 While on the subject of plant hunting and hunters, Seamus O'Brien's recent publication, 'In The Footsteps of Augustine Henry' is the perfect bookend to Lancaster's 'Plantsman's Paradise.' This astute Irish plantsman retraces the footsteps of fellow Irish hunter Augustine Henry, as he retraces the often perilous footsteps that were ultimately responsible for some of gardening's most well loved and recognized plant genera!

 At the forefront of the New Perennial movement is garden designer and plantsman Piet Oudolf. This Dutch designer has single handedly revolutionized the way we garden. One need only visit New York's Highline to witness his stunning work. This book as well is revolutionary as it offers a magazine format [centrefolds] and an overall presentation that focuses on the beauty of his garden creations rather than relying on the printed word. For this I was somewhat hesitant when deciding if it would adorn my bookshelves, but after studying in intricate detail one of his planting schemes....... if only the so called 'garden designers' of the world could spend a day in his presence.....

 With over 70 000 plant listings, the annual RHS Plant Finder is a must have for the avid plant collector. While it only lists availabilities in the United Kingdom, it offers collectors a chance to build upon their collections, as well as ensuring that they remain abreast of any taxonomical changes that may occur!

One of Canada's premiere display gardens can be found in Quebec and answers to the name 'The Gardens of Les Quatre Vents.' I have spent the better part of three years tracking down this elusive text, written by Francis H Cabot, grandson of the original gardeners, who, through engaging text and sumptuous photography tells the magnificent story of this must see garden's creation and upkeep! If you're looking for a copy, start with Hortus Press []

 For fellow plant enthusiasts [collectors] like myself who have a proclivity for Asian flora, this compendium on the flowers of Western China is a must have for their gardening library collection. Tipping the scales at 642 pages, it is touted to be the largest of its kind. Written by horticultural experts Christopher Grey-Wilson and Phillip Cribb, this tome contains descriptions and illustrations of over 2700 species, from the common to the endemic, to the extremely rare!


Like any curious person, the web is a great resource for information, and as a gardener, I have come across some wonderful sites that have offered invaluable information in my quest to become a woodland gardener. While I would love to focus on Canadian sites – and even narrow the scope further to include Ontario – this would be like wearing a pair of blinders when shopping for new and interesting plants. Wherever possible I will denote Canadian sites with the letters CAN appearing after the link. This is but a sliver of wonderful gardening sites that are available, and ones that have helped steer me along the sometimes dark and confusing path of becoming a ‘Shade Vampire.’ You’ll soon find that it’s contagious and will soon have your own personal favourites. I’d appreciate a comment so that I can check it out myself, but more importantly, so that I can add it to the list! is the homepage of plant hunter extrordinaire and former owner of Heronswood Nursery! His candid and engaging style, as well as the thoroughness of his expertise make this one of my first stops when surfing for garden information. His ‘travelogue’ section is a wonderful commentary on recent plant hunting expeditions and is well worth subscribing to! is the base of Bleddyn Wynn-Jones, who is often seen accompanying Daniel Hinkley on his plant expeditions. This site has one of the most spectacularly comprehensive listings of new and exciting plant materials that are available to garden connoisseurs! Be prepared to discover plants that will literally charm the money right out of the wallet or purse! Located in Wales, it’s a wee bit of a jaunt for most, but is definitely worth a visit or two, or three! is a site that places its focus on shade loving plants! What more can a ’shade wampire’ ask for? Located in the UK, this site is filled with plants that have successfully transitioned themselves to my Canadian climates quite successfully. is the online nursery of garden author and plantswoman extraordinaire Beth Chatto. Her site offers something for every gardener, but places special emphasis on plants that sheherself successfully grows and offers to her legion of fans is a wonderful site whose name speaks for itself! All things gardening are covered under this generous canopied site! is the companion site to what I consider to be gardening’s best magazine! ( Leave it to the Brit’s to show the rest of us how to do it properly!) (CAN) is my favourite Canadian mail-order nursery, and this site has been visited more times this year than any other! I placed an order for some hard to find pink flowering Erythronium revolutum and E. hendersonii, not to mention the long coveted Helleborus thibetanus, and was thrilled with the results. Located on Salt Springs Island, in British Columbia, this is one garden mecca that I must visit! (CAN) is a wonderful set of gardens on the mighty St Lawrence, that specializes in, of all things, Meconopsis betonicifolia and M. grandis – the blue Himalayan poppy – considered by this gardener to be the true ‘Holy Grail’ perennial plant. The site is filled with gorgeous photography and an endearing history of one of Canada’s most underexposed garden sanctuaries! Stop by and be dazzled by the blue poppies! (CAN) was one of the very first plant nurseries that I discovered once I ventured outside of my own back yard. Specializing in native plants that are cold hardy to Zone 4, it soon became one of those 'I can close my eyes an still find my way!' [Okay, so the first time I went I ended up in Orangeville instead of Minto!] is a recent discovery whose tag line sums it up most succinctly: A Fine Madness for Plants - Propagators and Growers of Unusual Ornamentals! has been a helpful site in my growing obsession with the genus Cypripedium! is the homepage of one of my favourite plantsmen, not to mention award winning garden designers. is home to Frosch Cypripediums, grown and hybridized by plantsman Michael Weinert. A comprehensive site with an abundance of information as well as stunning photographs of these demure beauties in cultivation.  

http:// is a page within a website that focuses on Hydrangea serrata, and has been most useful in helping my to identify a single specimen in the garden that for years went mislabeled! It turns out I am the proud owner of H. serrata 'Shikobai' is the Ontario chapter of the North American Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society. Visit for upcoming speaker events, their annual Plant Sale as well as the 'Plant of the Month' page which offers something rare and unusual for the most discriminating of gardeners! is yet another site on the wonderful genus Cypripedium! [CAN] is a wonderful site for those interested in rare and unusual conifers! It is also home to what will hopefully be the largest arboretum of coniferous trees in North America, which is slated to open in 2012! is a brilliant section specifically engendered to China within the larger site If you're looking for botany books, this site offers one of the most comprehensive listings I have yet stumbled across. Lots of rare, out of print titles available. Britain's Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is also home to a publishing house, that while limited in breadth of selection, does house some of the best genera specific monographs available.