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Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes

By Thomas Rainer and Claudia West

A groundbreaking guide ... As practical as it is poetic, theirs is an optimistic call to action.

Chicago Tribune

Over time, with industrialization and urban sprawl, we have driven nature out of our neighborhoods and cities. But we can invite it back by designing landscapes that look and function more like they do in the wild: robust, diverse, and visually harmonious. Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West is an inspiring call to action dedicated to the idea of a new nature—a hybrid of both the wild and the cultivated—that can flourish in our cities and suburbs. This is both a post-wild manifesto and practical guide that describes how to incorporate and layer plants into plant communities to create an environment that is reflective of natural systems and thrives within our built world.

Media reviews

"A groundbreaking guide that lays out an alternative to traditional horticulture: designed plantings that function like naturally occurring plant communities. As practical as it is poetic, theirs is an optimistic call to action."

Chicago Tribune

"Going beyond explaining how to use plant communities as the basic building blocks of design, Rainer’s lyrical, passionate and persuasive writing could convince even the most skeptical that it’s the right thing to do."

Gardens Illustrated

"Inspires us to design plantings that function like naturally occurring plant communities. It also instructs how to manage them, not doing painstaking and often impractical garden maintenance, plant by plant, as in traditional horticulture."

—Margaret Roach, A Way to Garden

"A useful and thorough guide to ecologically oriented designers."


"This lavishly illustrated manifesto…applies broadly to everything from water features to rooftops and vast acreages to urban backyards. Using detailed examples and simple graphics, Rainer and West make a convincing case for rethinking our relationship to plant design."

Architectural Digest Online

"A beautifully written and illustrated guide to how we should be designing our landscapes from now on out.…Thank heavens someone has finally written this book."

Root Simple

"Offers strategies for more resilient, self-sustaining landscapes, especially welcome after our drought-plagued summer.…The gardens in the book are compelling in a more naturalistic, wilder way than typical beds and borders…the advice on creating harmonious communities of plants suited to the conditions where you live transcends style."

Seattle Times

About the authors

Thomas Rainer

Thomas Rainer is a landscape architect, teacher, and writer who lives in Arlington, Virginia. He has designed landscapes for the United States Capitol grounds, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the New York Botanical Garden. He has been featured in a range of publications including the New York Times, Landscape Architecture Magazine, and Home & Design.

Read more about Thomas Rainer

Claudia West

Claudia West has an extensive background in horticulture, ecology, and environmental restoration. She is a consultant for North Creek Nurseries and has also worked for landscape architects Wolfgang Oehme and Carol Oppenheimer and for Sylva Native Nursery.

Read more about Claudia West

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