Dear Friend and Gardener

Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh

Natural History of Winnie-the-Pooh

Natural History of Winnie-the-Pooh

Winnie-the-Pooh and I did not become acquainted until I was an adult and read what had become literary classics, Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, to my young children. I had known of the books, of course, but only through an Eeyore-ish high school friend who was devoted to all the characters who lived in the 100 Acre Wood. I did not understand his devotion at the time, but as I read these gentle stories of friendship and adventure to my children I gained some understanding of what these characters might have meant to my friend.

Those memories of my friend and of the happy bedtime reading to my children came freshly back to me as I read The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A walk through the forest that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood by Kathryn Aalto (Timber Press $24.95). They also reminded me of my own childhood when I had the freedom to wander in the fields and woods of a family farm in Vermont, quite intent on “doing Nothing.”

By the time Winnie-the-Pooh was published in 1926 Alan Alexander Milne had already written 18 plays and three novels. He wrote screen plays, and humorous columns for Punch magazine and was a highly respected writer. It was while working at Punch that he met and became friends with Ernest Howard Shepard who was an illustrator of books, as well as working at Punch. A. A. Milne and E.H. Shepard shared the same sensibilities about nature which came together in a happy partnership when Milne wrote his famous children’s books.

Milne always said his writing was inspired by the life around him and in 1920 his son Christopher Robin was born. Then in 1925 he bought Cotchford Farm, in East Sussex, only an hour’s drive south of London. Milne and his wife Daphne shared their love of the natural world with their son, and watched him play with his stuffed toys – and so the books were born.

The One Hundred Acre Wood is actually inspired by the real AshdownForest. While the Forest has not capitalized on its being a model for Milne’s book, visitors will find a small sign directing them to PoohsticksBridge. Aalto has given us more landmarks to connect Winnie-the-Pooh to the actual landscape of Cotchford Farm and the Forest. She quotes substantially from the Pooh books and takes us right back to the time when we were children, or were reading to our children about the sweet and gentle adventures of Christopher Robin and his friends, Piglet, Owl, Kanga and Roo and Eeyore. I have to say I am moved to go back to the books themselves and savor them anew.

Milne’s prose is an evocative and charming view of childhood, but it is enhanced by E.H. Shepard’s exquisite illustrations. It is hard to imagine the one without the other. Aalto includes many of Shepard’s delightful illustrations.

Still, if we were to travel to Ashdown Forest today we will not spy a young child busy building a house for Eeyore or reading to a fat little bear who has been stuck in a door because he ate too much ‘hunny.’ What Aalto can give us in one section is a beautifully illustrated guide to the flora of the Forest and a geography of the streams and woodland.

The book is well researched and includes many photograph s of the Forest today but it is the charm of Aalto’s prose that carries us into this Enchanted Place. In this book she has given us some biography, geography, and botany, but most of all a trip back in time to a loving childhood.

Flowering Tobacco by

Flowering Tobacco by Richard Pocker

In the Illustrated Guide to Flowering Tobacco for Gardens, Richard Pocker takes us on an enthusiast’s tour of nicotianas. I have never grown nicotianas, and therefore have never gotten an appreciation for the delicious fragrance which makes them such a desirable flower. My friend Wendy sent me a photo of nicotiana taken at twilight when the fragrance begins to fill the summer garden air. Unfortunately, the fragrance cannot be transmitted digitally. I never fully realized that the nicotianas for the flower garden were sometimes the same kinds of tobacco plants that get made into cigarettes.

One variety of nicotiana is called Perfume, but Pocker lists dozens of heirloom varieties as well as nursery hybrids, complete with a photograph, description, information about growing and seed sources, as well as diseases and pests. He also gives a stern warning not to grow nicotianas in the vegetable garden because they are toxic. You may recall that nicotine is a poison sometimes used to kill garden pests.

One variety example  he gives is the heirloom Florida Sumatra which has been grown in Florida as far back as 1884. “Primarily raised as a cigar tobacco, the leaves are large, about 24 inches long by 15 inches wide and fast growing as it matures in 55 days. Topped with a cluster of pink flowers, the leaves emanate a delicious smell, described by some people as spicy. A unique nicotiana that is easy to grow and with abundant sources of seeds. It is a good beginner’s plant.”

Interwoven with the cultural information are brief stories of the part tobacco  played in American history and in the lives of characters like Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, Jr.

This book is available at Amazon for $39.99 for the paperback, but a Kindle version now only costs $4.99.

Between the Rows  October 24, 2015


We have a winner!

Beardless irises 7-21We have a winner for Beardless Irises: A plant for every garden situation by Kevin C. Vaughn. Congratulations to Cathy over at Rambling in the Garden.

Beardless Irises – and Giveaway

Beardless Irises: A plant for Every Garden Situation

Beardless Irises: A plant for Every Garden Situation

I recently reviewed Beardless Irises: A plant for every garden situation and now Schiffer publishing is offering a Giveaway of this beautiful, fascinating and useful book.

  I have been reading Beardless Irises: A Plant for Every Garden Situation by Keven C. Vaughn and published by Schiffer.  My own experience with beardless irises is with Siberian irises which are one of the most beautiful and easy care flowers in the world, and Japanese irises which often have a flatter flower and are truly spectacular. I never knew that beardless irises ranged from the sweet and petite, to the tall and stunning spurias.

            I never knew anything about Pacific coast native irises which we cannot really grow in our area because of the winters, but amazingly Louisiana irises, and spuria irises are definite possibilities. I will never take the iris family for granted again.

            Vaughn is a scholar, hybridizer and has a PhD in plant genetics. He gives us  common gardeners the information about whether a particular type of iris will thrive in our climate, as well as the usual cultural info about soil, fertilizer and sun requirements, but the book is also rich in the stories of hybridizers and their work. If you like to know how a stunning plant came to be, or even how to create your own hybrids, this is the book for you.

If you would like a chance to win a copy of this book with its stunning photographs of the many varieties and cultivars of beardless irises, all you have to do is leave a comment below. Perhaps you have a favorite iris to mention. I will have a drawing for this book on Wednesday, August 19.  Good luck!


Japanese iris

Japanese iris on display

Drainage Problems and Happy Irises

The day after we planted all our water tolerant shrubs Greenfield was inundated by torrential rains. I was told over three inches of rain fell the afternoon and evening of July 7. We knew that our Greenfield house had a wet backyard and after planting nine shrubs we were fully aware of the heavy clay soil. However we did not expect several inches of standing water in the back half of the yard.

Fortunately, our excellent plumber, Scott Zilinski, helped us out by helping to design and dig a drainage trench near the old sheds. The yard looks flat, but in fact there are subtle dips and hollows which were identifiable by looking at the worst areas of wet. The drainage trench may be extended in the corner next to our neighbor’s driveway.

It was also clear to see that the area next to the northern fence was equally under water. We are now considering the possibility of a rain garden in that area to catch heavy rainfall, and rain runoff. We now realize that our lot is slightly lower than the two lots next to us, and that those two pieces of property have a lot of paving causing some runoff onto our lot.

It was while attending events and programs at the Conway School of Design that I first learned about the importance of permeable surfaces that would allow rain to be absorbed and kept on site. It was also about that time that our son in Cambridge, Massachusetts told us that the city had regulations about how much of a lot could be covered, and how much had to be given to permeable surfaces. Cambridge’s concern was the capacity of their storm sewers. I now have a whole new appreciation of that concern and the importance of permeable surfaces.

Carrying out our Home Outside design plan has come to a brief halt while we consider various options to improving our drainage.

One new drainage idea surfaced when I joined a Greenfield Garden Club tour of Jono Neiger’s forest garden. Neiger is one of the founders of the Regenerative Design Group in Greenfield. Their mission is not only to create sustainable landscapes, but to make them better, to regenerate them. One of the topics that came up as we walked through the different sections of Neiger’s garden was hugelkulture (hoo-gel culture) which makes use of logs and woodland debris to improve the soil. There are many aspects of hugelkuture but one in particular caught my attention.

When I explained our situation to Neiger he said one could dig a trench, two feet wide and three feet deep and then fill it with logs and other compostable debris, sod and leaves and such like and top it with a layer of soil. The wood will slowly compost, adding nutrients and soaking up water, improving the soil. Not a quick fix, but fascinating nonetheless. Our soil could use improvement.

Beardless Irises

Beardless Irises

While we think about next steps I have been reading Beardless Irises: A Plant for Every Garden Situation by Keven C. Vaughn and published by Schiffer. My own experience with beardless irises is with Siberian irises which are one of the most beautiful and easy care flowers in the world, and Japanese irises which often have a flatter flower and are truly spectacular. I never knew that beardless irises ranged from the sweet and petite, to the tall and stunning spurias.

I never knew anything about Pacific coast native irises which we cannot really grow in our area because of the winters, but amazingly Louisiana irises, and spuria irises are definite possibilities. I will never take the iris family for granted again.

We have purple and white Siberian irises in Heath and I always planned to bring some of them down to Greenfield. They are not only beautiful they don’t mind being wet. In fact, one gorgeous clump of deep purple/blue Siberians somehow jumped into a swale in our field where they have lived very happily for several years.

A few years ago I bought a beautiful white Japanese iris from Andrew Wheeler at Foxbrook Iris Farm in Colrain. He told me that Japanese iris didn’t need to be growing in a wet site, but they did need to be planted where they could be watered regularly. I planted it in front of the house where there is excellent drainage, and where I do keep it watered, but I am hoping that it will be even happier when it is moved to Greenfield.

Spurias love water so much that Vaughn suggests taking a plastic kiddie pool, with holes cut in the bottom, and sinking it into the ground, then filling it with good soil for a planting site. Then that area can be watered heavily without causing a problem for surrounding plants which might not need quite so much water. Spurias are tall ranging from three to five feet although we are warned that in our colder climate they may be slightly shorter. In any event they promise to be a dramatic planting, the clump growing larger every year, but not demanding to be divided.

Vaughn is a scholar, hybridizer and has a PhD in plant genetics. He gives us common gardeners the information about whether a particular type of iris will thrive in our climate, as well as the usual cultural info about soil, fertilizer and sun requirements, but the book is also rich in the stories of hybridizers and their work. If you like to know how a stunning plant came to be, or even how to create your own hybrids, this is the book for you. The many beautiful color photographs showing the full range of color have inspired me. Expect more beardless irises in my garden.

Between the Rows   July 25, 2015

If you want to play around with your own garden designs on the free Home Outside Palette app for smart phones and tablets click here.

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 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( offers a large variety of tree and herbaceous peonies.

A very large collection of rhododendrons can be found at WhitneyGardens nursery in Washington state ( 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

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.