The authors take the reader down a specific path of design: that of plant guilds, and polycultures. Guiding the reader from observation of natural guilds to designing them, with specific tools as spacing and most of all companionship observation. We often speak in the permaculture movement of polycultures but how much have we actually grasped of the complexity of something that naturally occurs? this book can help us understand what we should keep in mind when designing stable, perennial systems.
The book has shed some light on the subject, its up to the reader to move along the path they trace, and take our knowledge to the next milestone.
First things first. The title: “the complete guide to polycultures and plant guilds in permaculture systems”. Really, the complete guide? Come on. Yes I know three things the authors don’t have a saying on are: price, cover and title. But come on we’re speaking of publishing with an editor that’s not a mega corporation that doesn’t listen.
I’ve read through it and I must say I brought it nearly a year ago, when I was starting to read about the subject. I guess I was as a youngster caught by the title, and sort of felt left down by it later, having read through the book, and not having found what was written on the cover. But could I find the complete guide? No I was naïve to think I could.
What did I get from the book? Well not as much as one would expect from a study on polycultures and plant guilds. Their description and explanation are quite quick and simple, not that it had to be deep and difficult, but given the experience of the authors, the reader could expect to find something more.
Polycultures are something we try to understand and think of a lot, that’s our starting point against monocultures and for building sustainable systems. So I guess we should go a bit more to the bedrock of the subject.
The book is well written and edited. It’s a good read for a beginner. Probably if you’ve never taken a PDC it can be a starting point. It gives a quick view of design and the importance of climate and all the pallet we use for designing permaculture systems, but even here it doesn’t go deep on the subject. And neither should have, because the book is on a specific aspect of design, polycultures and plant guilds in forest gardens, so we’ll go deep in that, one assumes, but no. The reader gets a lot of good information, nothing new really, and this is what disappoints.
I always try to see every book, even on same subjects as handing on something new, a different perspective, a glimpse on a variation. This I didn’t find.
Even in the last section where the authors share fifteen type of plant guilds, as case studies, we miss something. There are no photos just drawings of the design phase, ok its interesting but are these guilds theory or have they been grown? The last section reminds me of the free e-booklet written by one of the authors for Midwest Permaculture on plant guilds. Yes that was a free e-book, guess we would think something more could have been done by now and in a more thorough work as this is.
All in all I give the book 8 acorns, even though I’m not fully convinced. I’d like to hear from others maybe I lost my path here.
I think that Lorenzo does a pretty good job above explaining why this book just doesn't quite seem to deliver. One could probably fill an entire book the size of Integrated Forest Gardening dedicated to one specific guild so it should have been obvious that the title was perhaps a little exaggerated. Nevertheless, the book is talking about permaculture and it does have nice illustrations and photos and what can I say, I'm a sucker for permaculture who had an extra $15. Did I mention I bought it used?
This book would have done better in my eyes if it had been billed as an introductory book that touches on the basic permaculture concepts and includes some examples of guilds, something for the beginner that really just wants to get out and plant something. While the information in the book is sound, I found myself wanting more detail than the book presented.
With the beautiful illustrations and the specific "plant this with that here" style this would be a good book to add to your collection with its purpose to be lent out to people that might be on the fence about permaculture but are expressing an interest.
"Instead of Pay It Forward I prefer Plant It Forward" ~Howard Story / "God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools." ~John Muir