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Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  406 ratings  ·  64 reviews
“As practical as it is poetic. . . . an optimistic call to action.” —Chicago Tribune

Over time, with industrialization and urban sprawl, we have driven nature out of our neighborhoods and cities. But we can invite it back by designing landscapes that look and function more like they do in the wild: robust, diverse, and visually harmonious. Planting in a Post-Wild World by
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published October 7th 2015 by Timber Press
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Aug 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting enough in concept (and pretty pictures), but unclear exactly who the audience is here. Home gardener with TONS of money and an estate, I guess? But some interesting take aways re: planting/landscaping with wilderness in mind. However: minus 10 points from Slytherin for sentences like "Imagine for a moment what it must have been like for the first European colonists arriving on the shores of America" and then waxing white-washed nostalgic for the "virgin" land "we" arrived to. Ugh. ...more
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Those random little manufactured planting beds outside of Target, the grocery store, lining the pedestrian walkways in your city... Pansies, petunias, and maybe a random boxwood or juniper, right?

This book, while about plants and land use, is also about humans and society. Professional landscape designers, as well as the common gardener can take something away from this beautiful book. Yes, we want wild spaces to remain wild and untouched, but how can we bring this aesthetic, this biome into ou
Mark Hartzer
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is really for landscape designers moreso that the average homeowner. Nevertheless, some ideas are really good. As someone who has bought dozens of cubic yards of mulch over the years, I really like their idea of "green mulch", or having layers of plants covering the ground instead of mulch.

Really nice photos too.
Matt Kruse
Jan 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gardening
First, the cons: This book is targeted more at landscape designers than the home gardener, which is especially clear when you get to the practical considerations section. The consistent use of only scientific names for plants throughout the text also makes it more burdensome than it really needs to be (yes, common names vary, but a combo of common and scientific names would make for an easier read and give many readers touchpoints to better understand the examples).

The pros are that this is a be
Dec 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lifestyle
This book clarified my thinking about garden design while keeping one foot firmly in the ecological realm of gardening. The archetypes section was especially helpful, as well as the examination of plant behavior to determine what role they should perform in garden design.

(The only disappointment for me was that, save for maybe three mentions of pollinators, it glossed over the fact that thousands of species literally need native plants to survive. The book promoted using native plants, but for t
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: eco
Aside from a few Michael Pollan books, I don't know the first thing about gardening and landscaping, so you may want to take this enthusiastic response to Thomas Rainer and Claudia West's Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes with a grain of salt.

Rainer and West argue that we should design landscapes that are both functional and aesthetic. We can see the functional in plants that thrive naturally in wild spaces, or just in parts of a town that have s
Feb 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I wish there was a *little* more actionable content, but the essays are still very interesting and don't take away from it. Kind of caters to high-level thinking on this stuff, and on design at a level for more hard-core professionals than mere hobbyists or enthusiasts (like me). Found the case-study format of the actual plans the best part of this book; showed what can be done with a kind of space and how to do it. ...more
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gardening
Outstanding. I've been struggling with how to "mass" plants without looking strange in the landscape. I want big impact and keep weeds down, drought tolerance, and native if it is appropriate for the space. This book outlines the strategy I've been struggling to figure out on my own. Designing a "plant community" in layers makes all the sense in the world to me... this book is especially for new gardeners but all gardeners can learn a lot from the methods presented here. ...more
Nov 23, 2020 rated it liked it
I really liked this book for the conceptual and philosophical overview of plant communities. I need additional resources to help translate these to my own space and region. It does seem this book is aimed at experienced gardeners and landscape designers, but I got a lot out of it in an overview/sense of purpose/finding a direction way.
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, gardening
This book was a little out of my league but I still really liked it. The photos are so beautiful. The "Monitoring Guide" is really helpful, as is the general advice about deciding on a planting theme based on existing elements in your yard. I liked that it wasn't too strict about natives or exotics and advocated using both. Great book! ...more
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Unless you are really into design this is book is a bit in the weeds (LOL).
If you are a budding landscape designer or in school to be one, this would be a very good book to read.
It was more than I really wanted to know, but that does not take away from the book. It was just not for me.
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Revolutionary concept! The book is very well written with excellent pictures and illustrations, without a single word wasted. Thank you, Thomas and Claudia, for the ground breaking work, that brings ideas and practical actionable methods to create an ecological, resilient, naturalistic, harmonious and aesthetic pleasing planting style that I have always been wishing for.
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book eloquently picks up on a number of trends in landscape design that have been gaining steam over the past few years, directed towards more resilient and enduring place-making. I appreciate the authors’ open framework which takes a more wholistic and creative approach to planting design and breaks free from the puritanical exclusively native camp instead foregrounding community and system thinking.

I’d be interested in an exploration of additional archtypes, while grasslands, woodlands a
George Christie
Jan 31, 2020 rated it liked it
As a lanscape designer with a degree in landscspe architecture I applaud this book's goal of creating more-natural types of planting deseigns. In this sense it feels refreshing and new.

Full stop.

It completely fails to discuss plants and their relationships with their native environment, including any interactions with native soil organisms or larger animals. Native bees? Who cares? Native caterpillars for native birds? Irrelevant. In this sense it feels as dated as a rotary phone.

Design-wise it'
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
I don't entirely agree with the author's premises as I am much more of a purist when it comes to planting natives, but there were some valuable concepts in here, such as planting to reflect real natural habitats, creating landscape layers all the way to the ground. Plus "how to" info on ratio of structural layer plants to middle and ground layers, and how to go about preparing the site and installing. I think the text is more geared to landscapers than home gardeners such as I, but still valuabl ...more
Oct 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a pretty technical book, targeted at the professional gardener. That said, it contains a lot of information about design, planting and maintenance of semi-wild spaces. If you're wondering why your prairie meadow looks bad or seems to require a lot of maintenance even though you're doing exactly what other people told you to do, this book will tell you how to fix it but perhaps not in the way you expect. Be prepared to have your assumptions about natural landscapes challenged. ...more
Nov 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
All of my intuitions and approach to horticulture and landscape design validated - loved it!
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First of all, gorgeous! Secondly, thoughtful planning and preparation guide for sustainable landscaping. Highly recommend to novices and enthusiasts; definitely a good pick for a public library.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, 2020
Good book. Lots to think about both in thinking about your own yard and also community spaces.
Apr 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I first became aware of Planting in a Post-Wild World a few years back when attending a professional conference of landscape architects and hearing the authors speak. It prompted me to buy, read and even incorporate some of their novel ideas into my work. The best success I have had with approach has been with green roofs, but I have also applied it to the ground plane.

Because there few reviews, I thought I would write one here on Goodreads. These days, I read more novels than non-fiction, so my
Sarah Guldenbrein
Mar 27, 2020 rated it liked it
This is definitely more geared toward landscape designers than home gardeners, but I still got a lot out of it. I appreciated their flexible philosophy that suggests that you should probably plant a lot of natives, but that not all exotics are inherently problematic. They advocate for thinking about plant communities, which is very permaculture, without ever using the word. As designers, they acknowledge that gardens/designed landscapes are about creating a pleasing design for humans, and have l ...more
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'll definitely revisit this book when I have garden/lawn space of my own. Unfortunately, apartment living isn't very conducive to the practices described here. But when I have access to my own land, this book will be an essential resource.
Designed plant communities emphasize function, yes, but what we ultimately need are plantings that are relatable to humans. For us, it is their aesthetic and evocative qualities, perhaps even more than their utility, that makes them relevant and timely. Desig
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book opened my mind like no other “gardening” book I’ve ever read. Landscape design is so much more than you think it is, and if you have the smallest interest in learning why then this very thoughtfully written book with perfect charts and photos and descriptions is exactly what you’re looking for. I can open the book to any random page and be instantly engrossed.. in a landscape design book. “As extreme and unnatural as urban conditions may seem, there is likely a native plant community i ...more
Trish Remley
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
A big fan of the landscape ideas of Piet Oudolf, Rick Darke, Noel Kingsbury and now Thomas Rainer & Claudia West. When talking to clients, I tell them my landscape esthetic is Organized Chaos but I see now can also be called Designed Plant Communities. Of the three layers discussed, (Structural, Seasonal Themed, and Base),discussion of the ground or base layer was eye opening and very intriguing. I use ground covers, but not to the extent in this book and have probably relied too much on mulch. ...more
Cathy Jaskiewicz
Oct 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I must start by saying that this book is clearly aimed at an audience of professional landscape designers as opposed to home gardeners like me -- I considered giving it 4 stars because it was tremendously complex for me (I took notes, and kept my phone nearby to Google species - only referenced with Latin names - as I read; and there was plenty of rereading & very slow, careful reading involved). But it definitely earned the 5 stars with its lovely photos showing examples of the kinds of plant c ...more
Catherine Weaver
Feb 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
I bought this book after hearing the author speak several years back. Ever since then I’ve tried (with only modest success) to use plants instead of mulch to cover the ground. The book includes some interesting design advice. Although much of it seems geared to professional designers, a savvy home gardener could definitely absorb most points. (Not me 😉) The archetype section was especially helpful and there were good tips on building layers. While designing resilient plant communities is the sta ...more
Mar 25, 2017 rated it liked it
This book takes a look at landscaping as an art form with a focus on sustainability. It emphasizes planting the community and not each individual plant. While I agree with most of the concepts in this book, I can't agree that aggressive exotics fit into their overall concept. The authors do suggest using native plants in many instances, but more from an aesthetic point of view. I think it would enhance their ideas to describe why natives are important, not leave it at how pretty they are in the ...more
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
This had a lot of information and plenty of beautiful pictures. My biggest issue was that they nearly always (but not consistently) reference plants by their scientific names. I understand why, but unfortunately it makes the book a little less accessible to the lay reader like myself who only knows a handful of scientific names. It definitely slowed down my reading and made it harder to connect with the specific plants that were mentioned. I don't think it would have been hard to use both common ...more
Sep 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book explains how to embrace, rather than constantly battle, landscape elements that are typically thought of as challenges, such as clay soils, acidic/alkaline soils, and shade. By working with the conditions that you have, you can create a durable, beautiful landscape that feels uniquely-authentic and provides actual ecological benefits.

It also made me realize how prevalent bare ground (aka wasted space, aka weed sanctuary) and far-spaced plantings are in our designed landscapes...

4.5 Sta
Jennifer P
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting! Intended for professional landscapers, so some of it was quite technical and a bit beyond my understanding as a beginning gardener. Useful takeaways include an emphasis on using ground covers instead of mulch, not making the soil overly rich via composting and mulching so that you can use plants actually suited to the site as it is, and the idea that we don’t have to try to replicate native plant communities exclusively in order to create an ecologically productive plant community - ...more
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