Gardening along the shore

Elizabeth Cran
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Unique among gardening books, Denise Adams’ Atlantic Coastal Gardening is a book all Island gardeners need.

Published by Nimbus at $29.95, its many beautiful photographs almost make of it an art book. However it’s the most practical gardening book for anyone who lives in the Atlantic provinces since most of us are near the shore.

And its a great book for gardeners who don’t aspire to a large fancy garden full of exotic plants, and for those who have little money to spend on horticultural pursuits.

Adams is an Acadian from the north shore of New Brunswick, who has studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She’s married to a Newfoundlander and has worked and gardened in five places in Nova Scotia. She now resides right by the ocean in the St. Margaret’s Bay area of that province. All these biographical facts are relevant.

The first two chapters of this book are largely devoted to background. Why do we like to live near the sea and aspire to do so when we can’t? Part of the answer, of course, is the expressions “the sea is in my blood.” But there’s more. Adams reminds us the ocean is fragile and that only recently have any steps been taken to prevent its further pollution. This theme of ecological care and making do with what’s available recurs throughout the book.

Closely related to this theme is that of incorporating wildflowers in a garden. Although this is not a brand-new idea, it seldom has appeared in a gardening book. Adams also gives sensible — and rather rare — advice about choosing, transplanting and promoting the survival of the plants. In addition, she tells why local smaller nurseries are better to buy from than big box garden centres.

Other chapters deal with soil and compost, seaweed — she gives some unusual ways to serve dulse — vegetable gardening, herb gardening (more recipes) and micro climates. In the latter, she profiles five properties near the sea, where house and gardens are carefully and beautifully integrated.

One of the charms of using Atlantic Coastal Gardening as a guide or simply paging through it is that it covers so many subjects not usually touched on in gardening books.

As well as the ones mentioned above, there are, for instance, how to build a small portable greenhouse, three different ways to make “walkways, boardwalks and paths” and how and when to plant seeds directly outdoors, including vital information about climate zones.

In short, the book contains something for beginners and experts. Every coastal gardener should have a copy.

Elizabeth Cran is a freelance writer who writes a book review column for The Guardian. To comment or to send her books to review, write her at her new address: 95 Orange St., Apt. 101, Saint John N.B., E2L 1M5, or call her at 506-693-5498.

Organizations: Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, The Guardian

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saint John

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