I had occasion recently to re-read Lauren Springer's (now Springer-Ogden) first text, The Undaunted Garden. What a treasure trove it is of gardening information for the Kansas gardener beset by wind and storm and ice.
Subtitled "Planting for Weather Resilient Beauty," it remains one of the most readable and beautifully illustrated garden-related books I've ever read. First published in 1994, the text and photographs were all created by Ms. Springer in an obvious labor of love and belief in what she was producing. It has become a classic garden read, first, I believe, because the writing is aimed not at the highbrow level of garden designers, but at the dirt's-eye level of the struggling gardener. Second, the lessons for plant selection and plant survival on the Great Plains are well thought out and presented in logical order and in language easily understood by all levels of gardening experience. Lastly, Springer's Undaunted Garden heralded her embrace of native plants, and further yet, her recognition of "adapted" plants as a means to transform gardens in the prairies and Colorado foothills, beginning her reputation as the premier garden designer and writer she has become. Until this book, I don't think that I had ever seen the concept that one can create a garden that smiles through the worst of a climate by not planting just with natives, but by extending a home to plants that are adapted to similar climate conditions, whether those plants were found bordering the Mediterranean or in Australia.
I've always sympathized with her opening thought "I don't understand the concept of the low-maintenance garden...to desire a garden that requires no time spent except the occasional stroll in well-laundered clothes is like having the most beautiful and appetizing food laid out on a table before you and not wanting to take a bite." Ms. Springer invites us in, and then teaches us, with named examples, to select plants that survive the extremes of drought, hail, wind, and driving rain, all while keeping an eye on the design of a bed or garden. My favorite chapter, Roses for Realists, increased my own interest in Old Garden and hardy roses, to which I was especially susceptible after only a few short years of beginning gardening where I learned that Hybrid Teas were perhaps not the best choice for the Flint Hills climate. And the last section, Portraits of Indispensably Undaunted Plants, which is a glossary of Plains-adapted plants, provided us all the tools we needed to reform our own gardens. In reviewing that section, I found that I have tried most of the plants highlighted for sunny exposures. It was the first time, for instance, that I ever heard of Knautia macedonia, which is now a mainstay of my front border.
I see from the Amazon.com site that a revised second edition is coming out soon, expanding both the photographs with new additions and increasing the number of highlighted plants from 65 to 100. Although the bibliophile in me will always prefer my first edition hardcover, I may have to fork out the money from my gardening budget to get the revised edition as well. I can always consider another 35 recommendations for my garden from an established expert, particularly one writing, it seems, especially for my Flint Hills weather.