Fearless Gardening by Loree Bohl: Book Review

 "There is no right way to garden" - Loree Bohl



Sparks fly when someone with whom you share a passion announces they are writing a book about that very same passion. How exciting it is that I enjoyed an early chance to read my friend and fellow garden-blogger Loree Bohl's first book Fearless Gardening. Published by Timber Press, it will be released today, January 5. Before anyone brushes it off as "another book on gardening" (can there really be too many? Nonsense, I say!), let me declare this one special.

Loree's spirit captured in a statement.

What this book is not makes it exceptional: It is not a book about how to garden. It is not a book covering particular genera of plants. It is not a book waxing poetic about drought-tolerant gardens. It is not even a book about spiky plants, even though that is what the author is most famous for from her garden blog Danger Garden. While all of those topics are relevant, Loree's message of boldness, breaking the rules and growing what you love may be the core point this book, and may represent the core of why we garden. Why I garden, for that matter. 

In fact, the first chapter is titled There is No Right Way to Garden. Right. I'm in.



Fearless Gardening will speak to novice and experienced gardeners alike. Novice gardeners will be given real-life advice - not so much about how to garden but how to imagine your ultimate garden filled with plants that you love. Loree inspires freedom and adventure in us all, to have fun with gardening, the point when gardening is distilled. Do you wish to plant agaves next to water-loving plants? The rules tell us that's not a good idea - two totally different water requirements. But what if you explored the world of container gardening and placed the agave in a container in that sunny spot next to the stock tank full of aquatic plants? Solved. In that spirit, the book can be picked up time and time again and still be applicable and allow for constant re-imagining of outdoor spaces that we gardeners are prone to fantasize about. That's the genius of it - its applicability. Its applicability means it can be read by anyone interested in gardening and translate to the perfect blueprint for how to proceed. It reaches across mental barriers, giving a green light and avenues to approach your gardening goals at any stage. 


Even successful gardeners kill plants!

The message of doing it your way is carried across all of the chapters while still offering practical advice, again with applicability. Advice, I should say, is more accurately described as permission with a goal of accomplishment. What a gift it is, i.e., permission to follow my intuition when so often we are told to follow the rules. 


CHAPTERS

  • There Is No Right Way to Garden - Believe in your vision and stay true to your dream. Use your "garden future" glasses - imagine what that 4" plant will look like in five years and proceed with confidence.
  • Create a Garden You Love  - The core message - garden for yourself, create joy.
  • Explore the Possibilities - Perhaps consider pollarding if you love the plant but it gets too large for your small space. What about bringing the garden indoors? Ever practical, Loree delves into making the most of plant material. An avid appreciator of foliage and all its forms, she applies her no-rules ethos to gorgeous and unique bouquets, wreaths and indoor d├ęcor. No leaf goes wasted in Loree's world.
  • Expand Your Options with Containers - As gardens become increasingly smaller, container gardening offers solutions for a changing dynamic. Loree cites many examples of how to expand your options with containers.
  • Grow the Unexpected - Highlights include how she demonstrates her own experience of breaking away from uniformity in typical neighborhood garden style and how she cares for tender plants over winter and exploring zonal denial, for example.
  • Hardy Plant Choices & Fool-The-Eye Alternatives - Can't grow tropical palms? You can grow hardy ones (at least in zone 7 and above you can) and many look-alikes. Loree provides an excellent selection of tantalizing ideas.
  • Inspiring Garden Profiles - Stories and advice from a wide range of gardeners for both private and public gardens such as McMenamins Gardens (throughout the Pacific Northwest) and The Amazon Spheres. We are also lucky that Loree includes her own garden, Danger Garden, a stunning and unexpected mix of tropical style, desert flair, contemporary lines and abundant foliage. It's eye-opening and inspiring to learn how these accomplished gardeners approach their art - all with very individual, fearless styles. I took away useful ideas from these diverse profiles. 

Loree's own Danger Garden

Tropical-looking examples of hardy plants

More tropical looking hardy plants with fabulous foliage

Fearless Gardening offers a plethora of exciting ideas such as vertical gardening and crevice gardening, two relatively new gardening concepts. Do you love the idea but think it can't be pulled off? Loree gives concrete examples of how to make it happen in most any situation, opening up possibility files in your mind you didn't know existed. There are, after all, many ways of achieving goals. 

The message is to not be intimidated by rules, rather to embrace possibility. Throughout the book Loree profiles an array of amazing and diverse gardeners and their gardens that she has been fortunate enough to visit. In doing so, she shares generous amounts of images, ideas and examples of how each gardener has, in their own way, gardened fearlessly.

Fearless Gardening makes me rethink some of my plantings and even though I consider myself a pretty settled gardener, it has given me fresh ideas, particularly when it comes to container gardening. The ideas percolating are exciting, and isn't that supposed to be the case? A little oxygen pumped into this old gardener is a welcome thing. I can't wait to get started!

Final thoughts: The photography is stunning. After photographing gardens for decades Loree spots the heart of a composition quickly. Tips are generous - ranging from unusual tools (cleaning out those spiky agaves) to how to build a pvc frame for winter protection for tender plants. She has years of practical experience (and mistakes) under her belt to be able to turn a problem into a solution. It is also a secret look into how she has created one of the most popular private gardens, Danger Garden. In true Loree Bohl style, it is unique, useful, bold and breaks the rules. It's a keeper. 

Yes, you can have agaves in Portland!

Would you enjoy a free copy of Fearless Gardening? Timber Press is generously offering a copy as well as a copy of The Bold Dry Garden (Ruth Bancroft) to one lucky reader of this blog. Simply write a comment on this blog post about what fearless gardening means to you and I will draw and announce a winner on January 16. The winner will be sent copies of both books by Timber Press. You must live in the U.S. to win, sorry international friends.

That's a wrap for this week at Chickadee Gardens. As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting. Happy New Year! Happy Fearless Gardening!

wise words from a troublemaker

Disclaimer: Loree included a photo of our drought-tolerant garden on p. 34 - and I was given a complimentary review copy by Timber Press in December.

Comments

  1. I couldn't agree more with what you said. Fearless Gardening has the makings of an instant classic!

    P.S. That quote by Luvvie Ajayi is priceless. What a perfect match for Loree's book.

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    1. Oh that quote is the best. Love your review, by the way, Gerhard!

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  2. Jeanne M DeBenedetti Keyes3:43 PM PST

    Wow, what a great review of Loree's book, "Fearless Gardening"! Great, concise, preview into each portion and chapter of the book. I like your photos of the open pages, as if I had the book open right in front of me on own my coffee table!

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    1. Thank you Jeanne! Yes, it's a good one, worthy of any coffee table ;)

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  3. Just what I need! I moved into a house with a bulldozed-bare yard, and your marvelous review tells me this book will give me what I want - a yard that's all mine. I've never started from scratch before and it's exciting and intimidating all at once. Wish me luck.
    PS I'm loving your winter shots of Joy Creek.

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    1. I wish you lots of luck, Kathy! Starting from scratch is SO exciting! What an opportunity. Thanks for the comments about the book and Joy Creek Nursery, too. I'll keep 'em coming every day!

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  4. I really enjoyed your take on the book Tamara! I am relieved to see others respond to what I hoped to convey. Yay! And you're right, it isn't a book about spiky plants... although I know that's what some people were expecting. Hopefully those folks will find something in it to love too.

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    1. Yay! You did it, Loree, it's an AMAZING book full of so much gold material. I think there is something for everyone in Fearless Gardening, even for non-gardeners. For real.

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  5. This is a wonderful and comprehensive review, Tamara. And I wholeheartedly agree with your perceptions of Loree's book!

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    1. Thank you Kris! I agree with your assessment that Loree's writing style is straightforward and friendly, a pleasant read. That is very true. Here's to more garden books in our future! Yay!

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  6. Tamara! I love your review of Loree's book! I think what resonated with me the most, was your comments about the book making you rethink some of the aspects about your own garden....adding containers for example. Any garden book that gives seasoned gardeners inspiration is special! I knew Loree would create a masterpiece. I hope to be able to read too :)

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    1. Thank you Jenni! Oh, this book is full of mind-tingling ideas - it's pretty cool. I hope you get to read it soon (after all those seed catalogues?? Mine are piling up too!). Cheers and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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    2. This sounds like a fantastic book, one I could really make use of at the moment, as we are in a new home and looking to create a suburban garden in a fairly compact lot that will inspire our neighbors to garden and promote community on our street. Books such as these are much needed, and since I am a rather newish and also timid gardener, I could use the psychological boost and inspiration this book seems to provide. Thank you for sharing this, I can certainly see why you'd want to get the word out.

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    3. Valorie, thank you for commenting! What a wonderful goal to have while thinking about inspiring your neighbors. That's fantastic. You won't be newish for long! Gardening has a way of opening us up in a wonderful way. So glad you are gardening - we need more gardeners in the world! This book seems tailor-made for you. Cheers.

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    4. Hi Valorie, Congratulations - you are the winner of Loree Bohl's new book Fearless Garden from my blog, Chickadee Gardens! Woo hoo! Congratulations! Please email me your address and I'll have Timber Press send you both her book and a copy of The Bold Dry Garden (Ruth Bancroft's amazing garden in California).

      Cheers and here's to building bridges with our neighbors and promoting community one plant at a time.

      All best,
      Tamara

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  7. I'm the owner of a garden that some stop their cars to compliment, and I've also heard loudly critical pedestrians, so I'd be very interested in this book. I don't have the confidence to go "all in." Thanks for bringing the book to my attention!

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    1. Ooh, I'd love to see your garden Barb! You are welcome, it's a great book to gain confidence. As Loree says, There is no wrong way to garden. Do it for yourself. Cheers!

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  8. Loree must be very excited and proud to have published this book. It sounds like a gold mine of information.

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    1. She is super excited! And yes, it is a gold mine of information as well as a fun read! Thanks for commenting!

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  9. Thank you for the review of the book and the blog. Please keep the great posts coming. To me, fearless gardening means building resiliency through autonomy, challenge, community, nature and physical activity. I think that is a fancy way of saying 'play' but I'm suppose to be an adult.

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    1. Thank you, Dan! As long as I have gardens to photograph I'll keep the posts coming.

      Great description of how to garden fearlessly - I love it! Playing in the dirt as adults, that's the fun of it all!

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    2. Somehow my post left the scene of my typing. I was commenting that Loree is a good no great observer .

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  10. I have sent other reviews of Loree's book to my garden club( she will be our March speaker) but think this is so all encompassing..definitely not a book on spiky plants but a gift for all gardeners to enjoy the journey of being a gardener with sage advice from a good teacher and o server
    This year my fearless gardening mantra sent me outside so many times to enjoy mindfulness in my garden.
    And some nice eye candy on these pages

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    1. Great observations and I'm glad she will be speaking with your garden club, you are lucky to have her! A gift for all gardeners indeed. Cheers!

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  11. Fearless gardening: worrying less about what the neighbors think

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  12. What a wonderful, in-depth review of Loree's new book! Like you, I found it refreshing and full of good ideas and inspiration. (Don't enter me in the giveaway because I'm giving away a copy at Digging too.)

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    1. Thank you Pam! I love your review, too - thanks for commenting!

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  13. Just what I need - to be fearless in the garden. Time to change it up and replace areas not working in my garden in 2021!

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    1. Woo hoo! That's how I feel - ready to go and change up some areas not working. That's the spirit!

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  14. This book looks amazing! I'm fairly new to gardening myself and this past summer I finally had a garden that I was reasonably proud of. Your blog has been such an inspiration over the past couple of years! I am definitely still a fearful gardener but fearless gardening to me means less worrying about what "goes together" and what "theme" the garden should have and more about what plants do I find most beautiful and how can I keep most of them happy.
    Thanks so much for having such lovely and inspiring pics from the PNW!

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    1. Thank you for your kind words, Monica! That's the spirit, embracing what you find beautiful and keeping them happy. It's a wonderful feeling to be a part of nature and to garden for yourself - to plant what you love. Cheers!

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  15. Knowing I can't persuade Loree to follow me around to answer gardening questions, being able to refer to her book would help. Now if I could just it to smile the way she does...

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    1. Ha ha...good one, Vicki! Wouldn't we all love to have our own personal Loree! (OPL?) Her book is definitely a help and a suitable replacement for an OPL, it's so well laid-out with sentence after sentence of gems to keep referring back to.

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  16. I have lurked on your blog for years and I loooove your garden. This book also looks amazing!! I'm a newby gardener, making lots of mistakes, but i feel stuck, I need some inspiration and I'd like to be fearless and make my garden what I love, not what I think it "should" be.

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    1. Oh, thank you Tatiana! Thank you for commenting, too! Glad to "meet" you! We all feel VERY stuck from time to time, especially in the beginning. I sure did and still do sometimes. This is definitely an inspirational book. Do definitely grow what you love, not what anyone thinks your garden "should" be. Loree has a voice of authority to give that extra bit of push to inspire you to do it and be happy. She's on our side!

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  17. Melissa C4:34 PM PST

    I love your blog and cannot wait to check out this book! Just over four years ago my husband and I bought a house with a huge untamed yard, which I really wanted. Within a year, I realized that I must have been crazy thinking that I could tame it. But in the meantime I was reading any gardening/landscaping book I could get my hands on and doing research online (and found your blog!). Succulents were my first love but then I realized that drought tolerant Australian and California native plants (I am in the Bay Area) were probably a better fit. Living on the top of a hill has proved challenging with the plethora of seeds and weeds. Then there is the huge city-owned eucalyptus tree that hovers over the backyard that deprives even the heartiest. But I keep pulling weeds and chipping away at my patchwork garden, determined to make it a haven for birds, bees, and beneficial insects. I love seeing the hummers battle over their favorite Grevilleas and Salvias and some bizarre albino praying mantids that come around in the summer. I found that Aloes and Agaves are just fine in nutrient-deprived soil. Once filled with weeds, we can now sit in our front patio and breathe in the fragrances of flowers and herbs. To me, fearless gardening is just getting in there and trying things. If plants don't work out, I say a little prayer for them as they go into the compost bin so that they may go on to play a role in someone else's fearless garden!

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    1. Ah, that's a wonderful philosophy regarding gardening and if plants don't work out - say a prayer and into the compost bin they go! I love it. Your neck of the woods is one of my favorites, I think many of us Oregon gardeners are a bit jealous of just what you can grow! What a wonderful project you seem to be on and picking the right plants that will thrive for you with the added benefit of wildlife.

      Thanks for sharing, Melissa! Happy gardening! Oh, and if you don't win the book, Timber Press is having a 30% off sale through the 18th of January - use the code FEARLESS. Cheers!

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  18. 1/16/21 TODAY IS DRAWING DAY FOR A FREE COPY OF LOREE'S BOOK! The winner, from a drawing of everyone's names in a hat by my Facilities Manager is ....drumroll please, Valorie Grace Hallinan! Congratulations! Thank you everyone for participating. If you are wanting to get your hands on a copy of Loree's book, Timber Press is offering 30% off through the 18th. Use the code FEARLESS and happy reading!

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