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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

Let’s Go: Into the Nest in the Right Size Flower Garden

 

Right Size Flower Garden

Right Size Flower Garden by Kerry Ann Mendez

There comes a time when a gardener just throws up her hands and says “I can’t do this anymore!”  She doesn’t really mean she can’t do it at all, she just can’t do it all the way she has been. That moment came for Kerry Ann Mendez when her husband was in a terrible accident, broke his neck and had to retire. Mendez then needed to work full time and could no longer spend long hours tending her extensive gardens.

There are other reasons for throwing up our hands, full time employment while taking care of young children, or waking up one morning and realizing you are no long 30 years old, or even 60 years old. The time has come, as Mendez says, to create The Right Size Flower Garden.

Mendez’s book, The Right Size Flower Garden  (St. Lynn’s Press$19.95) is chatty, a real gardener to gardener conversation about the ways that our outdoor spaces can be simplified. The book is filled with photographs, before and after right-sizing, of her own gardens.

Gardens change over the years. There is no way to stop them changing. All of us have stories about plants we used to have, and about how we have moved a plant all around the garden until we found the perfect spot. By the time Mendez gets to Chapter 3 she says, “We are approaching the elimination round . . . which gardens will remain as they are, which can be revamped, and which will be removed.” Then she steps forward to find ways to reduce work and expense 50% – while keeping the garden as beautiful as it ever was.

Mendez is the Queen of Lists. I find myself often turning to her earlier book The Ultimate Flower Gardener’s Top Ten Lists: 70 Garden-Transforming Lists, Money Saving Shortcuts, Design Tips & Smart Plant Picks for Zones 3 Through 7. That title says it all, and she includes many lists in The Right Size Garden. These lists separate plants by category, plants for sun or shade, lists of long lived perennials, long lived bulbs, tidy evergreens, flowering shrubs, plants for containers and many more. She knows that one of the easiest ways to cut down labor in the garden is to put the right plant and in the right spot and these wonderful lists with many enticing photographs will help you make good choices.

The sections that were of particular interest to me were those focusing on ground covers like sedums, creeping thyme and pink sundrops for sunny areas, and shade loving groundcovers like epimediums, ajuga, tiarella, and sweet woodruff, as well as shrubs that don’t require complicated pruning like fothergilla, viburnams, and daphnes. And trees, of  course, redbuds, fringe tree, and stewartia. Can you tell I like springtime bloom?

Annuals are not forgotten. If you want color and flowers all season you must have annuals. The RightSizeGarden is not a big book, but you will find yourself turning to it as long as you are searching for the right size for your garden.

Into the Nest by and Maria Read

Into the Nest by Laura Erickson and Maria Read

While I am not a bird watcher (I can barely tell big birds from little birds) I do love to have birds in the garden. I enjoy their mostly unidentified songs, and their occasional antics. Now that we no longer have cats there is a bird feeder or two in my future.

Still even with a bird feeder sited where I can watch activities unseen, I will never see the activity shown in the beautifully photographed book Into the Nest: Intimate views of the courting, parenting, and family lives of familiar birds by Laura Erickson and Marie Read. (Storey $16.95).

Erickson and Read have compiled an extraordinary array of photographs of the nests, courtship displays, eggs hatching, and the feeding of nestlings of 25 bird species from blue jays to yellow warblers. I will never see a group of naked baby flickers sleeping inside their log home and nest, or see a hummingbird gather up the necessary spider silk as she builds a nest that is stretchy and can expand as her nestlings grow.

And who knew that baby birds actually need lessons to get on in the world. I thought they were born knowing what to do, but they need to learn their distinctive songs, and young birds in some species like cranes remain with their parents through the first winter in order to absorb all the necessary life lessons.

Those raucous American crows are very devoted, mating for life and maintaining a relationship with their young, and their neighbors, throughout their lives. The brood of one year even help raise the brood of the next year. Blue jays also mate for life and kissing is a part of their courtship. Each chapter is short and information is arranged so that it is easy to compare the habits of one species with another.

Laura Erickson has written seven books about birds, won the American Birding Association’s Roger Tory Peterson Lifetime Achievement Award, and contributes to Cornell Ornithology Lab’s All About Birds website, www.allaboutbirds.org. Marie Read has written three books and her photographs and articles have appeared in many magazines including  Bird Watcher’s Digest, Birds and Blooms and National Geographic. Together they have created a book that is a delight for the novice and experienced bird watcher and bird lover.

Between the Rows   May 23, 2015

Herbs for the Kitchen and for the Soul

Homegrown Herb Garden

Homegrown Herb Garden

Herbs. Some people like herb gardens because they are so practical, others like the romance of herbs. All new herb gardeners will find that they are about the easiest gardens to tend. Herbs are not fussy plants.

Lisa Baker Morgan and Ann McCormick belong to the practical school. Their book Homegrown Herb Garden: A Guide to Growing and Culinary Uses (Quarry Books $24.99) gives information about growing 15 flavorful herbs, and then delicious recipes using each of the 15.

These 15 herbs range from the familiar basil and Italian parsley to the more exotic bay laurel and lemongrass. They include fashionable herbs like cilantro and chervil which were never in any cookbook I owned in1960.

Morgan and McCormick give basic growing information for all herbs which is basically a site in the sun, and soil with good drainage. Herbs will not need much in the way of fertilizer if you give them ordinarily fertile garden soil, but you will need to fertilize herbs planted in containers. You will also need to give potted plants sufficient water.

Growing culinary herbs is only half the job. Once you have these plants producing prolifically you will need to know how to harvest and preserve them. We are all familiar with jars of dried herbs in the store, or bunches tied prettily with ribbon hanging from the rafters in a colonial home. But how do you know which of the many varieties to grow, when to harvest, how best to dry, how best to store. The Homegrown Herb Garden has all the answers which vary with each herb.

Drying herbs is one way method of preservation. Freezing is another. Morgan and McCormick suggest one way of freezing basil or cilantro or other herbs that you plan to use in a sauce or soup is to puree the fresh leaves with a bit of water and then put the puree in ice cube trays and freeze. You can then put these frozen herb cubes in plastic freezer bags and pull out one or two when you need them.

I have my own method for preserving parsley which is often called for in soup or sauce recipes. I grow a lot of Italian, flat leaf, parsley. It makes a nice border for the herb garden in front of my house and saves me a lot of money when I consider how many $1.99 bunches of parsley I would buy over the season. With the arrival of September I start to harvest bunches of parsley and remove the heavier stems, then I lay a good amount on a piece of waxed paper and roll it up like a cigarette. I will put three or four parsley rolls in a freezer bag and freeze them When a recipe calls for parsley I just cut off as much of a parsley roll as needed.

A look at the recipes included will make this valuable as a cookbook as well. Kabocha and Coconut Soup with Thai basil, and Venetian Seafood en Papillote with garlic, shallots, basil, chives, bay leaves and dill sound particularly yummy.

Herb Lovers Spa Book

Herb Lovers Spa Book

In The Herb Lover’s Spa Book: Create a Luxury Spa Experience at Home With Fragrant Herbs from Your Garden Sue Goetz comes at herbs from a different direction. She takes 19 common herbs from Aloe vera to witch hazel and with the help of beeswax, alcohol, salt and vinegar turns their sap, foliage, and flowers into facial steam, bathing potions, herbal teas, herbal scrubs, healing ointments and more. What do you need? Invigoration? Soothing? Healing? Your herb garden can provide all of these.

Goetz begins with the design of your garden which will very well include more than herbs. How do you want to arrange plants and spaces to give you a retreat where you can refresh yourself? We gardeners know that our time in the garden is about more than the plants. There is sun and shade, fragrance, birdsong, and maybe the sound of trickling water.

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, as well as mints, are not only culinary herbs (and a popular song) they are also the basis, singly and in combination, for tub teas, foot scrubs, aftershave, and other spa potions.

For Goetz the rose is an herb and it certainly is used in many lotions and balms. The rose water that is used in some recipes is not difficult to make. Count on me to make my own this summer. My rugosa roses are fragrant and perfect for this project.

I’ve sometimes looked longingly in stores at clear spray bottles with fancy labels for water to spray on linens when you iron them. To me they speak of an organized life with old fashioned amenities. I have never bought them of course, but with Goetz’s help I realized I can make these myself very easily. Sometimes I am amazed that I don’t instantly see the obvious.

I have had an herb garden for many years. I always laugh when I see photos of neat geometric herb gardens that look nothing like mine. My herbs have been more rowdy than neat and I love them for their energy and their willingness to be undemanding while giving me savor in my kitchen, fresh fragrance in my linen closet, and lots and lots of pollinators in the garden.

If you are a new gardener an herb garden will satisfy you with the success the common herbs will give you, and if you are an experienced gardener Goetz, Morgan and McCormick will show how to grow more exotics like lemongrass and new delicious and soothing ways to use them.

Herb garden in front of our house

My herb garden in front of the house

Between the Rows   March 21, 2015

Roses Without Chemicals by Peter Kukielski

 

Peter Kukielski, author of Roses Without Chemicals

Peter Kukielski, author of Roses Without Chemicals

Peter Kukielski knows how to grow roses without chemicals and I have learned a little about disease resistant roses over the past 30 years. One thing I love about our Annual Rose Viewing is the chance to tell visitors that you do not need an arsenal of chemicals to grow healthy, beautiful roses. I did not always know this. My rose education began when we moved to Heath in 1979. In my admiration for Katherine White, wife of the brilliant writer E.B. White, and her book Onward and Upward in the Garden, I determined that I too would grow romantic old-fashioned roses in my country garden from the Roses of Yesterday and Today nursery in California.

The very first rose I planted was Passionate Nymph’s Thigh, sometimes called Cuisse de Nymph, La Seduisante or Maiden’s Blush.  This is an old alba rose, a fragrant blush pink rose with slightly blue green foliage and much hardier than you might expect from her name. I came to think that Passionate Nymphs must have a lot of stamina.

The Passionate Nymph is nearly buried right now, but I think she likes the snow and prefers to be blanketed and thus protected from the terrible frigid temperatures of February.

Other hardy alba roses line the Rose Walk, Celestial, Felicite Parmentier, Queen of Denmark, Madame Plantier, and Semi-plena, as well as damasks, rugosas, hardy Griffith Buck roses and nameless farm girl roses. Many of these are fragrant and all have healthy foliage without any help from me. Early hybridizers put fragrance and disease resistance high on their list of vital attributes. What those roses don’t have is a long bloom season. Thus the Annual Rose Viewing is scheduled for the last Sunday in June when, for a brief period, all the roses are in bloom.

Happily for rose lovers, and organic gardeners who never considered growing roses, dozens of new disease resistant roses have been hybridized that also have a long bloom period. It was Peter Kukielski, former Curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New YorkBotanical Garden, who first introduced me to the lush First Crush and Cinderella and other hybrids created by the German Kordes company. It was over 20 years ago that the German government outlawed the kinds of poisons that rose growers routinely used. This set the Kordes hybridizers to creating beautiful disease resistant roses with a long bloom season.

Now other hybridizers have hopped on the band wagon. I was a little dubious about roses groups with names like Oso Easy, but these are also roses bred with disease resistance. Drift roses are another family of small shrubby disease resistant rose in shades of peach, pink, coral and red.

Kukielski also introduced me to Earth Kind roses. Again I thought the name was a marketing gimmick, but no, these are old roses tested and classified by Texas A&M to be disease resistant. Red Knock Out, New Dawn and The Fairy are familiar roses that claim the Earth Kind label.

When I spoke to Kukielski recently I asked why the list of Earth Kind roses hadn’t grown any longer. He assured me I shouldn’t have to wait too much longer. In the meantime I can watch the rose trial gardens set up at NaugatuckValleyCommunity College in Connecticut, Cornell University, and at the Deering Oaks Park in Portland, Maine where Kukielski lives and is now leading the northeast rose trials as part of the Earth Kind Team. He is also Executive Director of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability (ARTS) which will soon have a website up and running. He has his own new website the millennial rose garden.

Roses Without Chemicals by Peter Kukiuelski

Roses Without Chemicals

Right now you can get Kukielski’s new book, Roses Without Chemicals: 150 Disease Free Varieties That Will Change the Way You Grow Roses (Timber Press $19.95)

Kukielski wants unhappy or potential rose gardeners to know that failure in the rose garden is not their fault, it is (often) the fault of the rose’s genes. However, he does say that there are things you are responsible for.

Roses need a good site that has at least six hours of sun a day.

Roses need a good soil, with a pH  between  5.5-7, enriched with compost and a layer of mulch.

Roses need consistent water especially for the first year or two after planting. However the soil must drain well or the roots will rot.

Roses need annual helpings of compost and an organic fertilizer like Rose-Tone, as well as a renewed layer of mulch.

Gardeners are familiar with hybrid vegetable seeds with disease resistance. New varieties are always being developed to resist various rots, mildews, fusarium and blights. This makes success more sure for the vegetable gardener. Now rose lovers can look for roses with genetic disease resistance and a long bloom period. Red Knock Out Roses have gotten a lot of publicity but some of  Kukielski’s favorites are Drift landscape roses in Pink, Peach and Coral, Oso Easy Cherry Pie, Julia Child yellow rose and three Kordes hybrids: KOSMOS (pale creamy peach), Cinderella (pink) and Brothers Grimm (orange). That is just the beginning. More easy care, disease resistant roses are on their way.

***********************************************************************

I will be giving a talk about the sustainable rose at the Western Mass Master Gardener Spring Symposium on Saturday, March 21 at Frontier Regional High School in South Deerfield. I will also be selling my book The Roses at the End of the Road. For full information about the Symposium go to www.wmmga.org. Hope to see you there.

The Fairy, an Earth Kind rose

The Fairy, an Earth Kind rose

Between the Rows   March 14, 2015

Houseplants and Peeks at Specialty Nurseries

Growing Healthy Houseplants

Growing Healthy Houseplants

Some of us may have gotten  gift houseplants during the holidays. If we are not experienced indoor gardeners this can cause some anxiety. “Now what do I do?” the recipient may wonder when the gift givers have left the premises. I personally think it is perfectly acceptable to treat any gift plant as a living bouquet, which will last longer than cut flowers, but still a bouquet that will have a limited life span.

At the same time, I know that a little information can help keep a gift houseplant alive for many months, and possibly years. Just as in the outdoor garden, if you want an indoor garden you must choose the right plant for the right place. Does your plant need sun, or does it require a northern light? Does it need frequent waterings?

Storey Publishing has put together a series of useful little books called Storey Basics. Ellen Zachos is the author of Growing Healthy Houseplants: Choose the Right Plant, Water Wisely and Control Pests ($8.95) which has exactly the basic information needed to provide proper care to a gift plant, or the plant you give yourself. Beverly Duncan, of Ashfield has provided the black and white drawings throughout the book.

Growing Healthy Houseplants is organized to give you basic information about lighting, watering, potting soils and fertilizing in general and then goes on to talk about maintaining plants which includes a section on making more plants and managing pests.

The final section talks about ways to display houseplants, and provides specific information about an array of flowering and foliage plants from ferns and begonias to ficus trees and mistletoe cactus. Orchids, too.

The days are growing longer and brighter. If you didn’t get a gift plant, enjoy a minor splurge and choose one for yourself. Flowers are cheerful, and foliage plants are an optimistic addition to a room in winter. This book will set you on the road to months and years of pleasure. A plant or two (given appropriate light) will add a note of vibrant life and welcome to any room.

Whether you have houseplants or not, most of us gardeners are starting to leaf through the catalogs that arrived even before Christmas. What new directions will our garden take this year?

Guan Yin Tree Peony

Guan Yin Mian tree peony

I love to shop for perennials locally, but local garden centers are necessarily limited in their choices. They can only carry so many varieties of rhododendron or iris or rose. I recommend a look at mostly local specialty nurseries like the ones I’ve listed below – in alphabetical order by plant.

Silver Garden Daylilies (www.silvergardendaylilies.com) run by Richard Willard has over 400 daylilies now located on Pickett Avenue in Greenfield. It is often possible to choose your daylilies while they are in bloom so you can get exactly the colors you want.

Noted plant hunter Darrell Probst has been finding rare epimediums in China for many years. This beautiful shade loving ground cover with delicate flowers is also known by the name fairy wings. The nursery, Garden Visions Epimediums (www.epimediums.com) in Templeton sells other shade loving perennials like iris cristata. It is open to the public only on select weekends in May.

Foxbrook Iris Farm in Colrain is operated by Deborah Wheeler and her son Andrew Wheeler. Their specialty is Japanese iris which bloom in July. They usually have open digging days that are announced. When I bought my white Japanese iris from Andrew he said it didn’t need to be planted where it was wet, but it should be planted where it could be watered regularly. Good advice.

Joe Pye Weed’s Garden (http://www.jpwflowers.com) in Carlisle specializes in Siberian irises, but also grows versicolor, crested and species irises as well as primroses. There is an online catalog with photos, or you can request a print catalog for $2, refundable with your order.

Nasami Farm (www.newenglandwild.org) in Whately is the propagation arm of the New England Wildflower Society which has its main office and the famed Garden in the Woods in Framingham. Nasami sells an array of native plants, perennials, groundcovers, shrubs and trees on weekends in the spring and fall. With all the interest in the importance of supporting our local food web, more and more people are making a special effort to make sure at least some of their plantings are natives.

Not quite so local is Fox Hill Lilac (www.lilacs.com/) in Brunswick, Maine, but it offers scores of lilac varieties and the catalog gives information about fragrance as well as color and size. I cannot imagine my own garden without a lilac or two.

A luxurious plant in the garden is the tree peony. Unlike the familiar herbaceous peonies, these have a shrubby structure that does not die down in the fall. Although the large blossoms look fragile, the plant is very hardy and blooms earlier than herbaceous varieties. Klehm’s Song Sparrow nursery (www.songsparrow.com) offers a large variety of tree and herbaceous peonies.

A very large collection of rhododendrons can be found at WhitneyGardens nursery in Washington state (www.whitneygardens.com). They also offer azaleas, mountain laurels and other plants. PJM rhodies are very pretty and very hardy, but there are so many other varieties and colors, it is a shame to limit yourself.

Whatever new plants you add to your garden this year, take the time to find something that might be a little unusual – and yet no more difficult to care for.  ###

Between the Rows  January 10, 2015

Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening

Digging Deep by Fran Sorin

Digging Deep by Fran Sorin

In her book Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening ($14.95) Fran Sorin makes the point that we are all creative creatures. Every baby ever born learns something new every day, laughs at something new every day. That creative urge can be tamped down in dozens of ways from an early age. Remember the coloring book and the stricture not to color outside the lines? Remember the frown when you couldn’t help it, or just wanted to color outside the lines?

Digging Deep is about garden design and planning and planting. Sorin shows us ways to create a healthy and beautiful garden that is unique and our very own. She also shows us that digging in the dirt and connecting with nature in a very physical way releases the other creative impulses that may have been discouraged.

Digging Deep is a perfect book to use as a guide as a new year begins. What do any of us want as we look ahead? A lot. We want to enjoy the love of family and friends. We want adventures. We want to make things better at home or work and we want to learn more and have fun. All those things will take imagination and resourcefulness, the elements of creativity. All it takes is a little confidence.

When we are lacking confidence in the garden Sorin takes us through the stages of creativity: awakening, imagining, envisioning, planning, planting, enjoying and completing. I think awakening may be the biggest first step. I know a number of people who have turned down the invitation to ice skate, bake bread, knit, build a trellis because when they tried any of those things it wasn’t perfect. They fell on the ice, the bread didn’t rise, the knitting got knotted and the trellis collapsed. It can be hard to live in spite of the fear of seeming foolish or incompetent. It takes time and patience to learn something new.

Sorin takes her time in teaching us how to begin visualizing our own garden, trusting our own instincts, and owning our own style. She suggests different styles from funky to romantic to minimalist. The question is what style or combination appeals to you? How do you see yourself in your garden, with friends and alone?

Then we come to the more practical advice about actually building soil, choosing plants, waiting while they grow, and making necessary changes. Nature will bring change, and you will see the need for change. At the conclusion of each chapter there are things To Try, or lists of equipment ongoing chores.

The final chapters are for enjoyment and celebration. You would not think gardeners would need to be reminded to enjoy and celebrate, but sometimes we cannot turn off the busy button.

I’m older now, and more apt to sit in my garden chair and appreciate what Mother Nature and I, and my husband, have accomplished, but I am not beyond needing a reminder to stop, breathe and enjoy. Sorin’s conversational style is also a joy to read, and re-read, in quiet moments.

Greenhouse Gardener's Manual

Greenhouse Gardener’s Manual by Roger Marshall

For those whose creative juices are still bubbling away Roger Marshall brings us The Greenhouse Gardener’s Manual ($24.95). This readable and encyclopedic manual begins with a review of the different types of greenhouses, warm and cool, and their pros and cons. It is obvious that many gardeners are not satisfied with two or even three season gardens because I have seen more and more greenhouses, modest and grand, going up in our region.

Growing in a greenhouse requires more than your outdoor skills. No longer are you limited to planting in soil. Hydroponics and aquaponics require new skills and techniques.

Many local greenhouses or hoophouses are used for raising vegetables through the winter. Marshall gives full information about growing 70 vegetables, but he opens up who new worlds of plants that are more easily grown in a warm greenhouse than a sunny windowsill. Chapters on growing fruit, ornamentals like flowers and foliage plants, specialty plants like cactus, bromeliads and orchids all suggest new opportunities for experiment and fun.

The colorful photographs of all the systems and beautiful plants are inspiring. Many photos give clear information about how to manage certain techniques.

In case you need a little extra encouragement to get a greenhouse Marshall even suggests ways it might make you some money.

Any garden venture requires maintenance, cleanups, management of bugs and disease. Marshall gives clear, brief instructions how to manage all the every day aspects of greenhouse ownership.

If you are dreaming of the delights of having a greenhouse, read this book first. It will help you make decisions about every aspect of greenhouse ownership.

Now that 2015 is here, what are you seeing as you gaze at the blank calendar pages? What opportunities do you imagine will present themselves? Will you grab them?

Of course, you will! You are a gardener! ###

Between the Rows  January 3, 2015

All Kinds of Books for the Reading Season on Wordless Wednesday

Books in the Great Room

Books in the Great Room

Where do you keep your books for the reading season that follows the delightful chaos of the holidays? I will show you my bookshelves – or at least portions of the ranks of bookshelves in my house. There are about 44 feet of bookshelves in the Great Room. This section includes nature refernce books, mysteries, essays and cookbooks and books on cooking.

Cookbooks by the dining table

Cookbooks by the dining table

This array of cookbooks is next to the dining table that also serves as a worktable. This is probably the most used collection of cookbooks in the house.

more cookbooks with an emphasis on baking

More cookbooks, with an emphasis on baking

When we remodeled the kitchen a couple of years ago I gained shelf space for more cookbooks (and the dictionary which must always be at the ready for family ‘discussions’) with an emphasis on baking.

books in the downstairs sitting room

Books in the downstairs sitting room

This is just one section of bookshelves in the sitting room – and you can see it hold more than books. Culinary liquers that can’t fit in the kitchen and Christmas is not quite over at our house which accounts for gifts waiting for more chaos.

books in the bedroom

Bookshelves in the bedroom

A motley collection of books lives in the bedroom – fiction, essays, mysteries, and non-fiction.

garden books in the office

Garden books in the office

My husband and I share a tiny ‘office’ under the eaves, but the books are all ‘mine.’The garden books in this section of office bookshelves have to share with reams of paper, envelopes, toner, etc.

Ever since I learned to read, winter has been a welcomed Reading Season. Where do you keep your books for the reading season? For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Last Minute Trio of Gift Books for You or a Friend

We are not slaves to the calendar at our house. If you cannot buy any of these gift books for delivery before Christmas, who cares? I still want to remind you of three different types of books that would make great gifts.

Groundbreaking Food Gardens by Nicki Jabbour

Groundbreaking Food Gardens by Nicki Jabbour

Groundbreaking Food Gardens (Storey $19.95) by Niki Jabbour will indeed give you 73 plans that will change the way you garden. If you have limited space or no land at all you can grow a container garden, or you can think about the ways to limit your garden ambitions. I’ve  always said no matter how small my plot of land I would need to have a salad garden, and an herb garden. Niki collects advice and designs from a range of skilled gardeners all across the country. I was intrigued by Amy Stewart’s cocktail garden. Amy’s earlier book, the Drunken Botantist gave information about all the different plants that have been used to make a whole barroom of supplies.This book certainly looks at gardens from every angle.  Do you live in a town or city? Check out Theresa Loe’s Urban Homestead. Do you have land for a garden like Jennifer Bartley’s American potager, or is your garden space limited and containers are your only planting plots? See what Renee Shepherd and Beth Benjamin can grow in containers. Do you want to preserve your harvest? Daniel Gasteiger has a plan for a canner’s garden.

The 20-30 Something Garden Guide by Dee Nash

The 20-30 Something Garden Guide by Dee Nash

The 20-30 Something Garden Guide (St. Lynn’s Press $17.95) by Dee Nash is divided into three main sections that first take the gardener into a container garden, and all the basic information about potting soil, garden soil, fertilizers, watering, and bugs. Let it be known that Nash’s own garden is organic. In addition to providing herself with healthy food and beautiful flowers, she is determined to do her part in supporting the natural world with its pollinators and other bugs, good and bad. She also takes the gardener into the second and third years of gardening, as knowledge and experience grow. Learning to be a gardener is no different from learning math – you learn to count, then add, then multiply. Knowledge and interest build on each other and pretty soon you are learning the difference between open pollinated plants or hybrids or GMOs. We may start out thinking utilitarian thoughts about fresh food, but soon, we are appreciating the beauty of our vegetable plants and thinking about making the vegetable garden prettier. With Nash as our guide our perspective of the values of the garden are always shifting and enlarging. Are you a new(ish) gardener? Is there a new gardener in your family? This book is full of information and inspiration. You can also get more of that information and inspiration on Dee’s blog reddirtramblings.com

Sometimes we want to leave the garden, wash up and sit in the shade with a book that concentrates on the romance of the garden. In

Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside

Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside

my case that would be the romance of the rose. Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venitian Countryside (Knopf 26.95) is Andrea di Robilant’s quest for the name of a rose that grew on his family’s former estate near Venice. His journey took him from the wild overgrown park on the estate that had left his family decades before, to Eleanora Garlant and her rose garden, the largest in Italy with 1500 roses, as well as tales of his great-great-great-great grandmother Lucia with her love and knowledge of roses, the Empress Josephine and the histories of many individual roses. My own reaction to roses, especially those on my Rose Walk  is very similar to di Robilant’s in Signora Galant’s garden. “When I saw the ‘Empress Josephine’ spread out against Eleanora’s corner pergola, I inevitably conjured up the real Josephine. And so it was with the other roses arrayed around it. I was no longer simply walking along a path looking at the roses on display, I had stepped into a crowded, lively room filled with roses that were looking at me.”

Books are one of my favorites gifts. I love to get them and I love to give them.  I am never alone or lonely when I have a book, and this has been true my whole life.  And a garden book can take me into someone else’s garden for a pleasureable and informative visit. It can even take me adventuring across  the Venetian countryside to admire the roses.

And for those who want to have more roses, I can suggest a bonus of The Roses at the End of the Road, our story of life in the countryside among the roses. The December Sale continues. For more information click here.

Indoor Kitchen Gardening by Elizabeth Millard

Indoor Kitchen Gardening by Elizabeth Millard

Indoor Kitchen Gardening by Elizabeth Millard

When I first started reading Elizabeth Millard’s new book, Indoor Kitchen Gardening: Turn Your Home Into a Year-Round Vegetable Garden, ($24.99) I had some idea about growing herbs and sprouts indoors during the winter, but I wasn’t so sure about tomatoes.

For that reason I dashed right past all the basic information about getting started to the back of the book, past microgreens and herbs, past the potatoes! and straight to  tomatoes. Millard acknowledges that growing tomatoes, which we all know love sun and warmth, indoors is a challenge, but she shows that it can be done. The first trick is to choose cherry tomatoes or other small tomato varieties. The second trick is to prepare yourself to imitate a bee ready to pollinate your tomatoes. This is a great project and would have a super payoff when you serve family or friends a salad in February and say, ” Aren’t these tomatoes good? I grew them myself.”

Having satisfied myself that I am not ready to grow tomatoes this year, I went back and read the book from the beginning. It is always wise to learn about basics first. I didn’t mean to scare you off with tales of tomato – and potato – harvests in the house, because Millard gives great advice for those more familiar indoor crops. Sprouts and microgreens and herbs are simpler ways to begin gardening indoors because those crops give you a lot of nutrition in tiny packages, and flavor. I liked the list of possible sprouts beyond mung bean and alfalfa. Broccoli, fenugreek, dill, daikon radish  and kale. Growing pea shoots, sunflower and corn shoots would put you right up there in the high echelons of foodies.

Millard’s style is chatty and she shares her own experiences and preferences. She also includes  troubleshooting tips in each section so you can diagnose droopiness, discoloring, and mold. The photographs are clear, appealing and instructive. Millard’s own garden and CSA farm, Bossy Acres, is in Minnesota.

The New York Times interviewed Millard and the Chicago Tribune named this one of the best garden books of 2014. Many of us are looking for local food, and it doesn’t get any more local than the kitchen counter. The book is available at bookstores, and at Amazon.com  where there is also a kindle edition for $11.99. This is a useful book for a novice gardener, but also for an experienced gardener who is ready to branch out in new direction.

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer and Other Gifts

 

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

It’s a truism that every garden is different. Gardeners don’t begin by asking “how can I make my garden unique” they begin by looking for ways to bring their passions and preferences into the garden. This search will include choosing plants and planning pathways, but it will also include finding chairs and a table for conviviality, a birdbath for attracting the birds, possibly even a protecting summerhouse. In her new book, Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired ideas and practical advice to unleash your garden personality ($35. Timber Press), Rochelle Greayer provides inspiring ideas and information about different garden designs and accessories.

Nearly encyclopedic this is not a book that requires beginning at page one and marching on to page 304. The bright illustrations inspired me to browse through the book first, trying to find myself within a category or two. Is my garden Cottage Au Courant with its controlled chaos? Possibly. But what about Sacred Meadow? I am surrounded by meadows. Definitely not Wabi Sabi Industrial, but still, I do long to be able to recycle odd and rusty junk into useful and beautiful garden details.

Greayer herself does not worry about purity of style. Though she lives in eastern Massachusetts now, she was born in Colorado, and describes her garden as “Handsome Prairie, with healthy dashes of Sacred Meadow, ForestTemple, and Homegrown Rock’n’Roll thrown in.” Clearly unique gardens are not created by locking yourself into a theme, even if it is your own.

Cultivating Garden Style - Wabi Sabi Industrial

Cultivating Garden Style – Wabi Sabi Industrial

The various themes are beautifully photographed and provide that initial inspiration, but the sections on Learning, Doing, Growing give you practical information about how to achieve the garden in your mind. These sections cross over the various themes. You will need advice about deck essentials, buying plants, choosing a tree, understanding and using microclimates, making paths, or creating visual illusions no matter what kind of garden you are creating. She also provides directions for a number of DIY projects like making planter sconces, oilcloth placemats, a fountain, and lighting fixtures.

Pith & Vigor garden newspaper

Pith & Vigor garden newspaper

Greayer’s prose style is chatty and informative. She loves talking to gardeners, learning from them and teaching them. For years she has written a garden blog, www.studiogblog.com which is currently taking a new form but remains a pleasure to read. She is also the editor of a new quarterly garden newspaper, Pith&Vigor, of which I am a charter subscriber. The first issue includes an interview with Ken Marten and his directions for making an exquisite terrarium, how to make a mushroom garden, a bouquet gathered on the Massachusetts coast in mid-September, an autumnal container arrangement and an article on how to grow giant pumpkins – and compete! Lots more in this issue and to come. Subscribe for $32 a year, for a paper and online subscription by ordering at www.pithandvigor.com. A subscription to Pith&Vigor would make a great gift for gardeners on your list.

There are other subscriptions that will feed a gardener’s interests in more specific ways. Recently I was given a subscription to the quarterly Heirloom Gardener, published by Rare Seeds Publishing, an arm of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. The lushly illustrated current issue contains articles about poisonous plants, indoor gardening with herbs and bulb forcing, crops and seeds of the Incas, and rare fruits. And more. $15 for one year (four issues). Call 417-924-8917 or order online at heirloomgardener.com.

For many years I have been a member of the American Horticultural Society. One of the perks of membership is the bi-monthly magazine The American Gardener with regular articles about plants from ornamentals to poison ivy. Did I know there was anything good to say about poison ivy? No. But it seems it seems that it has the “potential for use in a variety of commercial applications, including an environmentally smart replacement for the petrochemicals used to make paints and industrial coatings.” There are also interviews with fascinating gardeners, book reviews, news about AHS programs  – and more. You can join online. The basic membership at $35 will get you The American Gardener, free or discounted entry into many gardens and arboreta and plant shows around the country as well as the member seed exchange.

I am also a member of the New England Wildflower Society where a year’s membership at the $55 level gives me free access to the famous Garden in the Woods in Framingham, and a discount at Nasami Farm in Whately where the NEWFS propagates many thousands of native plants. I am a regular shopper at Nasami Farm. There are many workshops available at a discount. Membership will also give you a subscription to their newly overhauled magazine, reciprocal admission to 270 public gardens, and borrowing privileges at their 4500 volume library. You can join online at www.newenglandwild.org You don’t even need to be a member of NEWFS to read their blog about native plants, or use their great Go Botany database to help you identify plants. All this is yours for free.

Gardeners are always learning; and a gift of books or memberships in a horticultural society are good ways to keep feeding their hunger for new information, and new pleasure.  Happy shopping.

Between the Rows   December 6, 2013

Timber Press and Rochelle Greayer are helping me celebrate 7 years of blogging here at the commonweeder.com. You still have another day to leave a comment here by midnight Saturday, December 13, and have a chance to win a copy of Cultivating Garden Style AND a copy of my own book The Roses at the End of the Road. I will announce the winner on Sunday, December 14.

Blogoversary – and Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer

My first blog post went up on December 6, 2007, which means I have seven happy years to celebrate on this blogoversary. In that first post I wondered whether 67 was too old to begin blogging. I  guess I didn’t need to worry. I don’t have statistics until 2010, but since then I have written 1582 posts and received over 6000 comments. I don’t feel a day older and there are many new ideas and plants, and gardeners out in the world to meet and learn from. And many wonderful books.  In that first post I mentioned Eleanor Perenyi’s book Green Thoughts and I have written about many more garden books since then.

On this Seventh Blogoversary Timber Press and I are giving away a copy of Rochelle Greayer’s new book Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired ideas and practical advice to unleash your garden personality. This bright and cheerful book contains hundreds of ideas for creating a beautiful and personal garden. Browse through the wonderfully illustrated page and consider – is your garden Wabi Sabi Industrial? Hollywood Frou Frou? or a Pretty Potager?  Do you long for a Forest Temple? A Sacred Meadow? Or are you Organic Modern?  Of course, as you browse you might think you cannot pigeonhole yourself like that, and why should you. Rochelle herself describes her garden as being influenced by her childhood in Colorado but she’s a little bit Rock ‘n’ Roll as well as Handsome Prairie.

We all deserve to let our best selves shine, but sometimes we need information about how to make that happen. What do you know about decking or outdoor fabrics? Rochelle has answers and ideas.

Roses at the End of the Road

Roses at the End of the Road

I will also be giving away a copy of my own book, The Roses at the End of the Road, with charming illustrations by my husband. I do give some basic information about growing roses, but when people ask me what my secret of success is I always say it is choosing the right rose. I don’t fuss with my roses or use any poisons. I was a beekeeper and I treasure all the pollinators who come into the garden. I do talk about neighbors, the history of roses, and my own adventures among the roses. I had no long held desire for a rose garden until I planted the Passionate Nymph’s Thigh rose and thus began my own love affair. There is no explaining passion.

To win both of these books all you have to do is leave a comment here by Midnight on December 13 here I will draw a winner at random on Sunday, December 14. Once I have the winner’s address, I will send the books right out.12-2 me illustration

You’ve got to love a man who thinks you look like this. And I do!