‘Some Branch Against the Sky: The Practice and Principles of Marginal Gardening’ by Geoffrey Dutton (1997), David & Charles
In the autumn of 1996, some of the participants in Reforesting Scotland’s Meigle gathering were lucky enough to visit Geoffrey Dutton’s ‘marginal garden’ on the edge of the Forest of Alyth. His remarkable transformation of an exposed upland site through judicious planting of native and exotic tree and shrub species is an inspiration to anyone interested in creating and working with a reforested environment.
In his earlier book, Harvesting the Edge: Some Explorations from a Marginal Garden (The Menard Press, 1995), Dutton dealt with the scientific, environmental and spiritual interests and concerns which drew him towards marginal gardening. If that work addressed the why, this book is concerned primarily with the how. It contains a wealth of information on the practice of marginal gardening through the seasons, drawing on the experience of some forty years. An annex offers general principles for making and maintaining a wild marginal garden.
The book is full of valuable advice on matters such as site elevation, the creation of shelter, developing the character of a site, and the performance of tree, shrub and herbaceous species in the challenging climatic conditions of the eastern Highlands. It displays a keen aesthetic sensibility and is written with style and a dry, self-deprecating humour. ‘Essential reading for wild and marginal gardeners everywhere!
This review first appeared in Reforesting Scotland 18, Spring 1998.