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Books for Gardeners


Books are an ideal gift, especially for gardeners. If you aren’t sure what title the recipient would like, why not buy a gift card or gift certificate from local bookstores? So far as gardening titles are concerned, you’ll ones to suit every gardener’s taste. Here are some of the most useful gardening books. Let’s start with orchids.

Many gardeners are prone to orchid fever. For gardeners in cold
climates, “Orchids” by Greg Allikas et al from Thunder Bay Press presents the world’s most beautiful kinds. This is the ultimate guide to orchids. With ravishing, full color photos, this will help gardeners survive the bleak months of winter. The authors present a thoroughly interesting introduction to orchids, and provide readers with all the how-to they need to succeed with these unusual plants. The plant encyclopedia features a complete description, history, breeding, and care for each kind.

For those gardening in the South, there are many suitable gardening titles. Among my favorites are the following. “The Peachtree Garden Book” by the Peachtree Garden Club of Atlanta was released by Peachtree Publishers. Especially suitable for novices and those new to the Southeast, this was edited by Olive Robinson, and has lovely line drawings by Meg Dreyer. This features inspiring literary garden quotes. Covering the entire Southeast, this no-nonsense guide explains what to do when for the lawn and garden, what will be blooming, what to expect weather-wise, and tips on planning ahead. In addition, an entire section is devoted to planning, planting, and maintaining the garden. Another helpful section discusses the best plants for the area and how to plant them. There is also a useful gardener’s glossary of terms.

“Southern Gardening-An Environmentally Sensitive Approach” by Marie Harrison is from Pineapple Press. It is illustrated with color photos and line drawings. Though this book was written for the South, the principles of designing earth-friendly landscapes, managing pests organically, and building good relationships with wildlife apply everywhere. The same is true for the chapter on exotic or invasive plants. The author shares her many years of gardening experience in the South, which is especially valuable to newcomers. She provides a gardening calendar of what to do each month and what is in bloom. She includes profiles of the best plants for eco-friendly landscapes, including cold-tolerant annuals.

“Plants in the Getty’s Central Garden” by Jim Duggan with exquisite photos by Becky Cohen was published by Getty Publications. This garden has attracted a lot of attention since the museum opened. Rather than using traditional design approaches, Robert Irwin, the garden’s creator, created a living sculpture of plants. The author helped Irwin select over 400 kinds of plants. This enlightening book presents the story of the garden, the author’s working relationship with Irwin, and the plants. There are even tips on plant care as well. The appendix features a color-coded map and a list of all the plants in the garden. The extensive plant directory takes up most of the book. For each plant, there is a full description with details on its cultural requirements and origins.

“Yard Full of Sun-The Story of a Gardener’s Obsession That Got a Little Out of Hand” by Scott Calhoun was published by Rio Nuevo, a regional publisher in Arizona. As a how-to guide and an inspirational treatise, this book belongs in every gardener’s library. Never mind that the author lives in Arizona. The story of his garden and life in the desert is so memorable that it is sure to influence readers. The garden principles he uses apply everywhere. The author casts aside the usual idea of the garden design process and instead listens to what the land and place have to tell him. From that point it is basically a collaborative effort in which all benefit. The result is an environmentally and wildlife friendly, naturalistic garden that seems very much at home in its surroundings. The author lets the local growing conditions determine what is suitable rather than using plants that require high inputs of water, fertilizer, and care.

Elizabeth Lawrence was a leading landscape architect and garden writer of the 20th century. A number of her garden books have been re-issued in recent years. Now there’s a thoroughly engaging, authoritative biography of this remarkable, influential woman. “No One Gardens Alone-a Life of Elizabeth Lawrence” is by Emily Herring Wilson. This was published by Beacon Press, an independent publisher now celebrating its 150th year. The author deftly weaves together the threads of Lawrence’s life, her work, and her relationships. The result is a full picture of her personality. Based on in-depth interviews and painstaking research, this book serves as an example of what a good biography should be. It is illustrated with line drawings and historical photos. The author edited “Two Gardeners-Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence-A Friendship in Letters,” also released by Beacon.

Gardening isn’t pie in the sky. It’s making tough decisions, and facing up to the fact that landscapes change over time. We’ve all seen houses where the windows were covered up by overgrown foundation shrubs. I know mine was once that way. Happily, there is now a gardening book that deals with this subject and explains what to do. “The Garden Reborn-Bringing New Life to Your Aging Landscape” is by Ruby Weinberg, and published by Green Valley Press.

Illustrated with color photos by the author’s husband and delightful line drawings, this is a godsend for those who feel discontented with their overgrown landscapes but can’t figure out what to do about it. Based on the author’s personal and professional experiences as a gardener, garden designer/contractor, and garden writer, she walks the reader through the evaluation process to decide what should be kept and what is so overgrown that it should be discarded. She takes each area of the landscape, and carefully explains each element from plantings to walls, and how it can be given a new look. Her emphasis is always on easy care, low maintenance plants that are suited to local growing conditions. An entire chapter is devoted to walls and raised beds. She addresses the issue of garden pests with particular attention on white-tailed deer and the Canada geese, and why wildlife is usually plentiful enough that gardeners need make no special efforts to attract them.

The final chapter contains a very important message. If carefully read, it can keep gardeners from making impetuous mistakes, such as using garden designs that may not fit their specific needs. Throughout the book there are lots of how-to details along with lists of recommended plants.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Connie Krochmal. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Connie Krochmal. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Connie Krochmal for details.

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