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Christmas books for garden buffs

Stuck for a gift idea for a gardening friend? A choice that has lots of approval and long-term staying power is a book.  Books for improving your gardening techniques, books for inspiring your recipient with bold new ideas for the coming Spring or books to join the list of people who just like to share gardening experiences.

Once again we were allowed free access to the neatly organized shelves of one of Picton’s treasured assets — Books & Company on Main street — to pick and choose a small selection of their stock to review books that would appeal to a broad section of gardeners and also purchaser’s pocket books.

Here is a sampling of books we found:

The Plant Finder: The Right Plants for Every Garden, Firefly Books, 992 pages, $25.00

Hard on the heels of their monumental Flora Series, this innovative publisher had senior consultants Tony Rodd and Geoff Bryant produce a more condensed directory aimed mostly at  gardeners who work in temperate climates (like us).

While the Flora volume came with its own carrying handle and made an oak table groan with all its 20,000 listings and stunning pictures, the Plant Finder has selected only 5000 — but plants that represent the most popular in our climate conditions.

Book is divided into 10 sections covering trees and shrubs; annuals, perennials; bulbs, corms and tubers; grasses, sedges and bamboos; nut trees and other fruits; vegetables and herbs;
climbers and creepers; cacti and succulents; orchids and ferns; palms an cycads.
Great organization and quality detail to last a lifetime (and then some).

Country Home Garden Planner, Country Home Books, 194 pages.   Used book, $12.00

Produced out of DesMoines Iowa this slick book is alive with ideas for designing, planning and planting your country (read County) dream garden.  Cultivars shown present a wide range of hardiness regions and much of the material should work in our area.

Highlight of the book is the excellent use of suggested  garden layouts combined with pictures of the plants to be used.
I loved the scented garden. This is a used book — looks like new–and lists for $12.00.  You may have to beat me to the shelf…

The Sibley Guide to Trees, written by David Allan Sibley Alfred Knopf, New York, softcover 427 pages,  new $45.00.

Over the years I have reviewed many books on trees, but this volume stands out in its organization and illustration.  The forward notes say it all.  “Monumental in scope but small enough to take into the field.”

The book is involved with the North American Ecosystem — but its direct focus is the continental United States.   Because of the great amount of cross-over between the two jurisdictions I don‘t think it poses an impediment to learning a lot about our own trees — plus it is handy for taking on Stateside excursions to the south and west.  Have a look.  Think it will impress.

Gardening Grief and Glory:  Ed Lawrence answers your gardening questions;  332 pages;  $26.00

Anyone who has been a listener to Ed’s noon hour radio program on the CBC is aware of this man’s encyclopedic knowledge of plants and gardening.  Any topic raised by his host of fans, he answers with expertise and sage advice. After all Ed has been the chief horticultural advisor to a host of Governors’ General at Rideau Hall in Ottawa.  Ed is an absolute font of advice for successful results in horticulture practiced indoor or outdoors.

In reviewing this book I drifted off in his explanation of how to prepare black walnuts for planting (and how deep to plant them–not more than an inch or two he advises).  Now all I have to do is beat the black squirrels and the future grove is mine.  A good read on a cold winter day.

Lilacs  – A gardener’s encyclopedia by John L. Fiala & Freek Vrugtman.  Timber Press Publications 416 pages,  $68.58

If the information on lilacs is not in this book,  it likely is not worth knowing anyway.  This is the information summit for lilac enthusiasts.  Liberally illustrated with 550 coloured photos, there is amazing detail on propagation techniques and practices.

You likely didn’t realize that there were so many species (21), natural hybrids (10) and over 2000 named cultivars.  The colour range is astounding.   If you are into lilacs,  this book also looks nice on the coffee table and is loaded with information and inspiration.

Organic Gardening in Canada, Laura Peters LonePine Publishing. Edmonton.  Price @$21.95

Laura Peters in a Master Gardener with over 30 books to her credit. In this handy manual she shares her 20 years of gardening experience in Canada.   Important is her discussion about the special needs of the Canadian seasons, the importance of good soil, how to plan, plant and maintain your garden organically to produce healthy, nourishing chemical free food crops.

Fall Scaping:  Extending your gardening season into Autumn;  Nancy J. Andra and Stephanie Cohen; Story Pubishing; 240 pages,  $28.95

One of the most unfortunate aspects of many of our gardens is often how decrepit they look near the end of the season when the beds simply run out of steam.   All the stars have stopped dancing and faded away.  But hold on.  With a little planning and selection you can end up with a beautiful and colourful display employing not only flowers, but foliage, dramatic seed heads and colour.  Lots of good ideas here if you want to extend your own season.

Fearless Colour Gardens:  by Keeyla Meadows author of Making Gardens a work of art; 182 pages; $34.95
Here is the gardener’s guide to jumping off the colour wheel.  Keeyla’s book has blasts of colour, vigorous design an an unique art approach to make this an really motivating read.  We all cannot be as arty as Keeyla but we all can tag onto her enthusiasm and vitality to create new and exciting environments.
Oh yes, she is a professional sculpture who completed her graduate studies  at Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. For over 30 years she has operated a successful landscape company — so she has earned her stripes and knows her plants.  Could be a great booster for generating a dashing new look for your property in the coming season.

And finally:

The Gardeners: A friendship of letters;  Katherine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence. Paperlacer Publishing; Soft cover; Used  $8.00

You can almost imagine the great English gardener Gertrude Jekyll (1843-1932) no mean letter writer herself, wishing she could join in this lengthy discourse by mail between these two staunch American gardening friends.

As one observer said the correspondence between these two is a touching testament to a friendship sparked by shared devotion to gardening.  You have the privilege of sharing their private thoughts and discoveries.  Katherine White left us in 1977 and Elizabeth in 1985.  Most reviewers give the book 5 stars.

Filed Under: Donald McClureUncategorized


About the Author: He can tickle your funny bone or tug at your heart strings. County people may know him as a chronicler of everything that happens (or should happen) in the garden, but his interests stretch across the natural world. His unique sense of observation takes in a wide expanse of living and may even point out some truths about our own condition as managers of the world around us. With Loyalist antecedents in his family tree his roots go deep into the Ontario countryside.

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  1. Donald says:

    Thank you Dawn, We had a number of people comment favourably on the choices of books — plus one reader from the County who beat me to the book store for one of the great used volumes. Keep planning for the new season!

  2. Dawn says:

    Thanks Donald for the concise and interesting book reviews! I miss tending my gardens so catching up on the books will keep me busy – spring after all – is just around the corner and new bulbs are waiting in the dark of the basement!

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