The Dry Garden: The Frenchman’s guide to (not) watering

Posted on | September 4, 2009 | No Comments

The Dry Gardening Handbook by Olivier FilippiCOFFEE table books on gardening are generally so useless that it has been tempting to ask publishers to send review copies straight to the dump. Yet when Joan DeFato, retired librarian of the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, came to lunch bearing a big specimen that was not so much glossy as positively lacquered, I sat down and read it. Disbelief mounted with every turn of the page of the Thames & Hudson offering, “The Dry Gardening Handbook: Plants and Practices for a Changing Climate.”

This was a beauty queen with brains.

The author is nurseryman Olivier Filippi. A Frenchman, Filippi betrays an understandable fondness for the dry plants of his native garrigue, the French version of our chaparral. His writing is most poetic when touching on the “thick and sticky smell” of rockroses and the like. Yet as he pushes out beyond the south of France and beyond the Mediterranean basin to countries around the world with similar climate zones (most of California included), it becomes clear that this Frenchman’s true regard is for dryness. Drought, Filippi begins, is not a limitation, but the source of untold diversity from regions in the Mediterranean, South Africa, South America, Australia and California.

To keep reading this week’s Los Angeles Times Dry Garden column, click here.

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