With 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.
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.
Once 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.