This small book looks simple on the outside, but it goes far beyond most field guides. Each entry is a small biography of the plant including its "lifestyle, associates and lore?. The complex web of habitat, insects, birds, fungus and plants is described in fascinating ways by an author who loves and understands the natural world. Attractive and detailed drawings help describe each group of plants. While not exhaustive, this volume provides an up-close look at the ecology of eastern freshwater wetlands with an emphasis on the plants.
Also recommended are 2 others in the series: The Book of Forest and Thicket (1992) and The Book of Field and Roadside (2003).
Although the plants covered in this volume are from across North America, much of Cullina's propagation work was with the New England Flower Society and so his germination and growing techniques are suited to Eastern North America. While advocating for conservation and the understanding of natural habitats, the book is squarely aimed at the practical gardener with advice on soils, habitat, planting combinations and most importantly, germination and propagation techniques. Beautiful colour photos accompany the text. Cullina's prose is sometimes a bit flowery, but his observations and advice are sound and built from long experience. The book covers 153 genera with multiple species discussed from each. Most can be grown in Ontario.
Similar in style and format to Wildflowers: A Guide to Growing and Propagating Native Flowers of North America, this book is also very useful for the gardener who wants to extend his or her knowledge of native plant material. It includes a timely discussion about preservation of biodiversity and the implications of climate change. The section on ferns includes clubmoss (Lycopodium) and horsetail (Equisetum) while the section on grasses also embraces sedges and rushes. There are many beautiful pictures of excellent quality, but not every species is illustrated. The profiles do a good job of introducing a genus (e.g., 112 grasses from 40 genera are described). The book closes with specialized propagation advice for collecting and growing spores, establishing moss beds and caring for young plants. Scattered throughout the book are helpful, short discussions of issues such as the ethics of wild collecting, the use of local plant material, ways of establishing a native grass lawn, polyploidy in ferns, and reproductive biology within each category. The author's love of plants and fascination with native flora are obvious and inspiring.
This book is much more than another "how-to" book for growing plants from seed. Henry Kock, who worked as an interpretive horticulturalist at the University of Guelph's Arboretum, spends the first quarter of the book discussing plant identification in the wild, the value of understanding forest ecology and the importance to gardeners of the variation within a species (and its seed) over geographical regions. He then details general methods for collecting, cleaning, storing and planting seeds from trees and shrubs of the Great Lake region. Caring for seedlings for the years until they are established is also addressed, a feature often missing from germination guides. Completing this section is an essay, "Restoring the Landscape", that tackles climate change, ways to think about exotic/invasive species, and a plea for conserving genetic diversity.