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Succession Planting for Year Round Pleasure

succession plantingUnder the glossy surface of this handsome book there is a core of steel. As one first picks it up with its large photographs of beautiful flowers and many charming illustrations, one thinks “aha, another pretty coffee table book” but nothing could be further from the truth. Only the truly dedicated and knowledgeable plantsperson could cope with the advice dispensed by Lloyd in his insouciant fashion. All the horticultural information he gathered over his more than 80 years of life is on display here.

Christopher Lloyd had become the “Grand Old Man” of British horticulture, a status much admired in England if only one lives long enough. Remember W. Somerset Maugham’s Cakes and Ale, a novel in which a rather loathsome man of letters was invested with a golden nimbus simply because he lived to be 90. Lloyd was an indefatigable writer and teacher over the years but those close to him were aware of aspects of his personality which could be summed up as an enfant terrible enclosed in a monstre sacré.

Lloyd was born at Great Dixter in Sussex, lived in the same house all his life and died there. Everything he knew about gardens and plants came from observing the seasons and plant growth on his property. The garden had been built from the ground up by his father, a successful businessman who moved to the country in early middle life. Added to that was a strong-willed and autocratic mother who brooked no disagreement in garden matters.

As soon as he inherited Great Dixter he began to dismantle his parents’ structure and re-create the garden in his own style. What he had also inherited, apart from property and wealth, was the idea that a garden is a serious occupation for an intelligent man. His almost weekly contributions to “Country Life” and the numerous books he wrote all lead to the same conclusion. For him Great Dixter was like Gilbert White’s Selborne, a complete world unto itself. He neither wanted nor needed anything else.

Lloyd could never rest on his laurels. As soon as he had made a change, he wanted to change it again. He found nothing so soul-destroying as routine and rote. That is probably why Succession Planting comes as the culmination of a long and complex life in plants. He could not bear to have an empty space in the border even for a week or two. Change became permanent.

The way in which to carry this out demands a minute knowledge of each plant’s specific characteristics, together with a strong awareness of how it will do surrounded by the other plants in its vicinity. Shrubs and small trees act as anchors and the yew hedges are indispensable as backdrop to the gorgeous hues he adored. For example, the caption to one modest sized picture on page 14 contains references to 17 different cultivars and varieties of flower. This book should be treated as a reference, to be consulted from time to time for inspiration. It is marvelous.

Copyright © Judith M. Taylor MD 2008

Succession Planting for Year Round Pleasure
Lloyd, Christopher
Portland, Oregon Timber Press 2005

Review by Judith M. Taylor, M. D.
The San Francisco Garden Club
Member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

About the Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Mass Hort logo newFounded in 1829, the Massachusetts Horticultural Society is dedicated to encouraging the science and practice of horticulture and developing the public's enjoyment, appreciation, and understanding of plants and the environment.

2018 Calendar & Courses

2018 Masshort Courses

Mass Hort Classes & Events

Thu Apr 26 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Landscaping and Planting Design
Tue May 01 @ 9:00AM - 12:00PM
Improve Your Watercolor Skills - Morning Course
Tue May 01 @12:30PM - 03:30PM
Improve Your Watercolor Skills - Afternoon Course
Thu May 03 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Sun May 06 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
Early Season Gardening Workshop
Thu May 17 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Greenhouse Growing
Tue May 22 @ 1:00PM - 05:00PM
Landscaping for Watershed Health
Wed May 30 @ 9:00AM - 03:00PM
Spring Landscape Tour
Wed Jun 06 @ 7:00PM - 09:00PM
Hands-On Floral Design
Thu Jun 07 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Bio-control of Lily Leaf Beetles
Tue Jun 12 @ 1:00PM - 04:30PM
Eco Printing: Fiber art workshop
Tue Jun 26 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
Explore the Teaching Herb Garden
Wed Jul 11 @10:00AM - 02:00PM
The Art of Planting Design
Wed Jul 18 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
Summer Stroll: Garden tour
Sun Jul 22 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
What's Buggin' Me?
Sat Aug 04 @10:30AM - 12:00PM
Fall Planting Workshop
Thu Aug 09 @ 7:00PM - 08:30PM
A Summer Stroll: Garden Tour
Sun Aug 12 @10:00AM - 04:00PM
Meditations in Ink with Bruce Iverson