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Garden Books

February 11, 2015

garden booksWith many feet of snow on the ground in New England, and much of it likely to be there until April, gardening outdoors is not an option at this time of year. In our long winters, we turn to indoor gardening (houseplants, seed starting) and to mental gardening. I am particularly fond of the latter activity, and garden books provide the inspiration for much of my mental gardening.

So, when I finally got the bookcases installed in my new study about a week ago, the first books I moved in were garden books. I have long dreamed of having my garden books readily at hand near my desk, so that I could just roll over to them in my desk chair and pluck the one I need off the shelf. And that is just what I now have – three shelves of garden books given pride of place in the spot most accessible to my desk.

And what did I do when those books were in place? I added to their number. For many months now, I have been keeping a list of garden reference books that I wanted to get as soon as I had a place to put them. One evening last week, I took out that list, counted the value of the Barnes & Noble gift certificates that I received both as retirement gifts from my colleagues and as Christmas gifts from family members, and placed an order. Yesterday, in the midst of yet another snowfall, my books were delivered to my door.

garden book delivery new garden books

Here are my new purchases:

  • The third edition of Allan Armitage’s Herbaceous Perennial Plants (Stipes, 2008). Armitage is my go-to reference for learning all the particulars about any perennial genus, and my 2nd edition is falling apart from long use. I have been coveting this new edition for years, but have been deterred by the price. But with all those gift certificates waiting to be used, the moment seemed ripe to satisfy this longing. And satisfying it is! This is an encyclopedic volume, with over 1000 pages and a wonderful new-book smell.
  • The Living Landscape by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy (Timber Press, 2014). I put this on my wish list as soon as Timber Press announced its publication last year. Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home was critical in my education as a gardener, and a volume that weds his ecological principles with an approach to garden design that models the layering of wild deciduous forests is very exciting to me.
  • Weeds of the Northeast by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal and Joseph M. DiTomaso (Cornell University Press, 1997) is a basic reference book and an identification key that can help me to learn more about many plants already growing on my property.
  • Science and the Garden, 2nd edition (Blackwell, 2008) is the Royal Horticultural Society’s guide to the scientific basis of horticultural practice. This is one of two books that I chose to  improve my scientific education in relation to gardening.
  • Teaming With Microbes by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis (Timber Press, 2010) is my second science selection, this one to help me understand soil science. This seems like a particularly important subject for me because so much of my experience of gardening involves dealing with the very sandy, nutrient poor soil on my property.

garden readingOnce I had unpacked my new books, I felt a bit like a kid on Christmas morning – unsure which new toy to play with first. After some deliberation, it was The Living Landscape that I moved to the table beside my reading chair in the living room. I am about to begin the process of designing my new front garden, with the first flower beds scheduled to be prepared and planted this spring and summer. Darke and Tallamy’s approach to garden design seems particularly helpful in thinking about the relationship of this new garden to the rest of my property, particularly the surrounding woodlands, and for making the best selection of plants and creating a lush, layered look with sound ecological principles in mind.

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21 Comments leave one →
  1. February 11, 2015 10:34 am

    Jean, that chair looks like the perfect spot to read. I’m in South Carolina and brought with me a pile of books… currently enjoying Tom Turner’s European Gardens: History Philosophy and Design. I received Living Landscape at Christmas but haven’t started it yet. I look forward to your thoughts and comments about it.

    • February 12, 2015 7:21 pm

      Pat, All the chair is missing is an ottoman so I can put my feet up while I read. (I will add one eventually, but I need to finish paying for my house addition first!) I am very much enjoying The Living Landscape. I’ll try to post a review of it when I’ve finished it.

  2. February 11, 2015 1:08 pm

    Happy reading Jean – will look forward to hearing about your front gardens plans after you’ve digested the book and reflected.

    • February 12, 2015 7:25 pm

      Cathy, I’ve gotten as far as delineating some general garden areas and flower beds and thinking a bit about what I want their characteristics to be (e.g., a big flower bed full of fragrant plants to go outside my big bedroom window). The next step will be to start compiling lists of plant possibilities and their characteristics. I won’t be able to choose plants and start laying them out in a design until May when I can do sun studies of the various areas. I’m figuring that the new front garden will be about a five-year project. This summer I hope to get the fragrant garden done as well as flower beds on either side of the front walkway.

      • February 15, 2015 1:40 pm

        Looking forward to hearing about it later … you are so rational (and yet passionate) Jean!

  3. February 11, 2015 2:11 pm

    There’s nothing quite like a good book, on a favorite topic, when you’re relegated to being indoors. Those all look like wonderful reads. Here’s hoping for a slow melt of the snow when the time comes. The last thing you folks need is a flood to go with it.

    • February 12, 2015 7:30 pm

      Anna, I’m hoping for a slow gradual thaw, too; but I’m less worried about flooding than about mud. Mud season is the season that follows winter here. It’s the period when the snow is melting, but the ground is still frozen underneath so the moisture can’t drain away. If the melting of all this snow is accompanied by rain, we can get weeks of mud that is a couple of feet deep. One year, I had to leave my car at the bottom of our dirt road for two weeks, slogging in and out on foot wearing high boots.

      • February 13, 2015 8:45 am

        I thought our mud season was bad. You win, hands down. Or boots up! How awful those two weeks must have been.

  4. February 11, 2015 2:20 pm

    I am with you….fill my shelves with garden books. I have a few of your new books. I actually am trying to get to reading Doug’s new book, but now that I have finished a few projects I can start on the book too. Love to hear your thoughts once you are finished reading it.

    • February 12, 2015 7:31 pm

      Donna, I’m reading about a chapter a day of The Living Landscape. So far, I’m finding it interesting, engrossing, and educational.

  5. February 11, 2015 3:51 pm

    So exciting – the plotting and planning, and picking and choosing from a host of possibilities – is indeed Christmas!

    • February 12, 2015 7:32 pm

      Diana, And add to that the time to curl up with a book almost any time I want!! It’s a book-lover’s dream. 🙂

  6. February 12, 2015 12:06 am

    What an absolutely wonderful way to treat yourself, Jean! And that’s my idea of the perfect way to spend the day when the weather is inhospitable. ‘Living Landscape” is on my wish list too.

    • February 12, 2015 7:35 pm

      Kris, I’m a master at treating myself. I love creating moments and events that I can savor. So far, I am loving The Living Landscape. The concept of thinking about landscape in terms of vertical, horizontal, and cultural layers is intriguing.

  7. February 12, 2015 6:10 pm

    How fun! I was inspired by Bringing Nature Home so I hope the new book will be just as good. Doug Tallamy and I have exchanged emails on various topics, and he is a great person in addition to being an inspirational scientist/entomologist.

    • February 12, 2015 7:37 pm

      Carolyn, I am reading about a chapter a day of The Living Landscape, and I’m already getting a lot out of it. I think it’s going to help me to think much more clearly about goals and strategies in garden design. I can’t think of a better way to spend snowy winter days!

  8. February 12, 2015 7:45 pm

    I am also lucky enough to have a gardening book case right next to my desk. I just need a few more hours in the day to catch up on my reading……maybe when our winter comes around. Let us know how you get on with these – I am always looking to add to my gardening book wish list.

    • February 15, 2015 11:15 am

      Janna, I agree that winter is the best time to indulge in garden reading (especially for those of us who live in places where the garden is buried under snow in winter). One of the things I’m trying to pay attention to with these books is how much their insights are limited to a specific region or climate type. I’ll let you know.

  9. February 13, 2015 2:47 pm

    one can never have too many!

    • February 15, 2015 11:18 am

      Amy, Agreed — especially this winter!!!

  10. February 15, 2015 11:32 am

    Hi Jean, that’s a wonderful-looking collection of books and a very comfortable, well-worn arm chair, all you need now is a teas-maid and endless supply of chocolate biscuits! I’m not sure how well I’d last without being able to garden until April, it’s mid-February now and I’m already outside, working hard on warm weekends, planning out the year’s work and trying to get started.

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