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An interview I did with the extraordinary Margaret Roach for The New York Times

Plants are social creatures. Image by Mark Baldwin

Here's an interview I did with Margaret Roach for The New York Times about putting plants together. I love Margaret's concept of reading a plant's "body language." Such a simple translation of my jargon. Why we need amazing communicators like her.


Understanding What Makes Plants Happy

Thomas Rainer’s work is a revelation: It turns out that plans are social, and have a body language that explains what they need.


Thomas Rainer and I have both been doing the botanical thing for decades; we know, and use, many of the same plants — and even much of the same horticultural vocabulary. But what he and I see when we look at a butterfly weed or a coneflower, or what we mean when we say familiar words like “layering” or “ground cover,” is surprisingly not synonymous.

It turns out I’ve been missing what the plants were trying to tell me, failing to read botanical body language and behavior that could help me put plants together in combinations that would solve challenges that many of us have: Beds that aren’t quite working visually, and garden areas that don’t function without lots of maintenance.

As we gardeners shop the catalogs or the just-opening local garden centers with an eye to finally “fixing” that bed out front that has never quite cooperated, I asked Mr. Rainer, a landscape architect based in Washington, D.C., to lend us his 3-D vision.

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