Organic gardener growing food and flowers, lovin' pollinators and birds.

Book Review: 'Chaos' creates beautiful results

Book Review

Cultivating Chaos: How to Enrich Landscapes with Self-Seeding Plants
By Jonas Reif, Christian Kress & Jurgen Becker

I've known gardeners who valued every plant in its place, and while I can respect that mentality, I always found there were gaps between the plants that resembled a museum gallery more than a garden. But encouraging the growth of self-seeding plants doesn't mean the garden has to look disheveled - Cultivating Chaos shows that garden design doesn't have to always be formal to be beautiful.

The authors describe the process as "letting go" before the reader dives into the book: "... when gardening with self-seeders, you may begin with just a notion of how the garden might look. Instead of planting numerous plants at precise, final locations according to a plan, you introduce the plants to the garden in the form of seeds or plug plants" (p. 11). In Cultivating Chaos, plants rule the landscape, finding the best spots to grow themselves with the power of self-seeding. With the help of the gardener - so things don't get out of hand - the authors demonstrate through the gorgeous photography how a naturalistic, wild style of gardening can look breathtaking.  If the idea of self-seeding sounds scary, one chapter features Waltham Place, where naturalism is showcased in a formal setting. 

The book labels almost all the plants in the photos, which helps the aspiring naturalistic gardener to recreate a scene in his or her own garden. There is a good use of interspersing ornamental grasses in the landscape, a plant that can sometimes be undervalued in the gardens of novice gardeners. What else will you find through the pages? Images of plants such as bronze fennel mingling with verbascum and verbena, or Mexican feather grass complementing red-hot poker and Verbena bonariensis.

I found Cultivating Chaos to be inspiring and a book that should be kept on the shelf for ready access. Tips for creating a suitable site as well as a thorough section on suitable and suggested plants for self-seeding gardens, is also included int his book. It's a great resource to remind us all that nature shouldn't be controlled in our garden plots.

Cultivating Chaos retails for $40.00 and is published by Timber Press.

Timber Press supplied me with a review copy of this book.


  1. Makes a lot of sense for this world! Great stuff!

    1. Thanks! I really like this gardening style. I'm usually a cottage-style gardener, but I can see myself going this way as well! ;-) Thanks for reading!


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