Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ken Druse's latest Book, Natural Companions, offers Glamorous Plant Inspiration for every Garden

Author, gardener, and garden designer: Ken Druse, is a rare garden muse.

His latest book Natural Companions is a jewel. 
Looking for all the world like baubles from Tiffany’s or Cartier – whose jewelry designers take inspiration from the botanical world, by the way -- Druse and Ellen Hoverkamp, the book’s photographer cum botanical artist, present the plants as close-ups, glowing from within, against a rich, deep black background.
Not unlike pearls or diamonds on a black velvet jewel box.

It is a stunning, take-your-breath-away, glamorous visual gift at every turn of the page.

If you do nothing more than gaze rapturously at the botanical art you will be richly rewarded.
Druse’s book is a sensual experience.
It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s beautiful. 
I love the elegant black background of the cover and the plant-part morphology beauty shots (see my Garden Glamour blog page background J
Like pearls on that little black dress, the black backdrop makes a visually stunning canvas for the dazzling horticultural gems as presented by Ken and artist Hoverkamp.

In fact, Druse’s latest book, Natural Companions is a masterful, brilliant garden design concept.

The book is sumptuously and intuitively charted by the themes within seasons, with topics that include color, texture, fragrance, foliage, edible flowers, places, water gardens, and grasses.

The fact is this is a “Look Book” for the garden designer and garden lover. 
It’s a how-to guide. 
Confused by the myriad plant choices? 
Does the thought of daylilies leave you dumbfounded? 
The sight of winter Salix leave you sagging?

This book is a garden design aid for those who are flummoxed by the world of plant choices available for a good garden design. 
Likewise, it is an inspiration and a new way to look at plant combinations for those who pride themselves on knowing their Lady Slipper from their Lilac.

At a recent MetroHort meeting, Druse charmed the horticulturists in attendance with his overview of the book and his making of the book.

Ken always manages to make the never-ending world of plants snap back to the personal – and here he shows gardens in situ, such as the Green Gardens of Short Hills in the Garden State

His talk also mixed in his own garden tribulations – he lost his beloved Garden State garden in the climate trifecta last year that wielded a three-punch knock out following Hurricane Irene, a fall snowstorm and a Nor’easter, tropical storm Lee.
But hope springs eternal, especially in a garden and most especially as narrated by Druse at the lecture. 
What would have rendered most gardeners to throw in the shovel; he is humbled but not daunted.  He had the audience laughing with him.

His knowledge of plants is extensive and genuine – I have just about all 17 of his garden books -- most of which are autographed too, I’m proud to say.  This is a man who creates a horticultural language. 
His to  “Botanize” is one I will steal!

It’s his garden mirth along with his creativity and hort smarts that makes all the difference. 
Heck, there are lots of people who know a lot about botany, horticulture, and gardens.
But it’s the way that Druse approaches the subject that makes his art so coveted. 
His worldview and his eye focuses or sheds sunshine on a place that we wouldn’t have ever thought about.  Druse takes us on a botanical journey and inspires us. 
He works mightily to present a book that we know we must have.
To use – not just sit o the coffee table -- although just placing the book on it would all the more accessorize any table.

At the conclusion of the MetroHort talk, the award-winning New York garden designer, Lynn Torgerson signaled, “This was a ‘Killer Presentation’ that set off resounding applause.
This is a MetroHort equivalent of a standing ovation.
The audience was gob smacked!

My notes from the evening are filled with plant combinations. 

For the Color Combinations, I see I wrote: Monochromatic, and to much laughter, to buy “I’m here for you yellow and green.”

Analogous, showed colors that are right next to one another in color wheel, pointing out the Betty Compton and Clematis in roses.

Complementary -- across the color wheel, or split complementary there are foliage colors such as the silver gardens at Old Westbury Gardens
Druse talked about Water Gardens, which is like poking a stick in the eye of Neptune.  Remember, this is a gardener who lost his 2-acre gardens to the river and rain…

Regardless, he told the audience about his early love affair with pitcher plants.  He said he got samples from a private collection and tried and tried.  “Three strikes, you’re out!” he said to much laugher. 

He finally got the Jack in the Pulpits to grow from seed, telling how he propagated by cleaning and storing but they always seemed to dry up, until he devised a duct tape style process that he rigged up.
He put the seeds in in bag, in a toilet’s tank to keep them moist!  “Sure enough, this time, the seeds came up when planted,” he said.  “Just be sure to use the tank, not the bowl,” he admonished while grinning.

He showed Shakespeare gardens and Victorian gardens – that no one does anymore but he showed off the carpet gardens at Mohank Mountain House adding, “This is one of few places to do great job this type of garden design.”

Druse also showed incredible Containers gardens using tender perennials and sexy edible gardens. I love that checkerboard lettuce.

And he encouraged gardening with kids.  “Please plant a tree with a kid” he encouraged the audience.   

While his Garden State gardens are no more, he noted, “I will never sell my house.”
And the book, Natural Companions also serves as a memoir. A botanical homage and tribute to his love of plants and gardens.

You must get this book.


  1. Thanks for the head's up, Leeann.
    I'm looking forward to perusing with my husband!

    1. You will LOVE, Love, love this gorgeous book. it is a work of art. Thank you! And I see you are in Gotham for the Blogfest. Have fun. I am going to go back and look into your Tiffany post from the Met Museum. I need to get up there myself. Maybe I will see you at the Lumens/Elle Decor party tomorrow.