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Tovah Martin and John Bagnasco on Garden Pleasures

The Garden in Every Sense and Season

The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin

When we returned from our trip to Texas we found that all of a sudden the garden had bloomed. The shy primroses were glowing, there were elegant white bloodroots, dainty yellow Fairy Bells, and sunny wood poppies lighting up the shade. The winter had been long and now the beginning of a season filled with blooms and fragrance had arrived.

In The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin sings about the perfumes in a spring flower garden, and the sensory joys that exist throughout the year. This book reminds us that we need to stop weeding and racing through long to-do lists and take the time to engage all our senses.

Martin begins her book with the spring season, which she admits is “a relay race, and we act like sprinters.” Springtime excites all our senses.” I can attest to excitement in our neighborhood as we marveled at the radiant gold of a mysterious shrub and finally identified it as witch hazel. Martin reminds us of all the very early spring bloomers that cheer us, with and without fragrance.

She takes us on a cruise through the seasons that inspire us to extend our plant choices, and our gardening year. I think my garden year begin with walks through the garden when I am searching for tiny shoots, and the thawing soil gives its own subtle fragrance. It does not end until only the winterberries red and gold provide color.

And so it goes through the seasons. The changes in the palette of the flower garden, the arrival and departure of birds and butterflies, the pungency of autumnal aromas, the brightness of the flavor of freshly picked vegetables – and the aches that we might face after an afternoon of planting bulbs.

Tovah Martin does not tell us about the work to do in the garden, or the plants that we must have. She walks us through her garden, as she would a visitor. While we might learn about new plants, and arrangements with vegetables along the way, her goal is to show us a way of being mindful in the garden and focus on the beauties and sensations that our gardens give us in every season.

Martin relates her visit to a Japanese garden where she first “saw how syncopation could alter the pursuit of happiness.” Syncopation is not a usual word to describe a garden walk but she goes on to say that she had been tearing through “when I noticed the raised stepping stones rather than one continuous paved progression. Had I been more keyed in, I would have sensed that the path was asking me to slow down.”

I enjoyed slowing to down to drink in her rich prose and her view of the garden. The Garden in Every Sense and Season ($24.95) by Tovah Martin has beautiful photographs by Kindra Clineff and is published Timber Press books.

Success with Succulents

Success with Succulents by John Bagnasco and Robert Reidmuller

I am not really a houseplant person, but almost all the houseplants I do have are succulents. Outside I have sedum groundcovers, but my view of succulents has been limited. John Bagnasco   and Bob Reidmuller have written Success with Succulents: Choosing, Growing and Caring for Cactuses and Other Succulents (Cool Springs Press $24.99) that opens up an extensive world of indoor and outdoor plants.

Bagnasco and Reidmuller begin by differentiating between succulents and cactuses. They say “All cactuses are succulents, but not all succulents are cactuses.” Cactuses have a special organ called an areole that allows for the creation of branches, flowers, fruits, spines, and even leaves, but areoles do not have the sap that flows throughout the cactus. Unlike the cactus, succulents might have spines, or thorns, but these are a part of the plant and do have juice or sap inside which you can see if you snip that thorn in half. And to make life even a little more complicated, for those who note that a rose thorn is not juicy, the proper name of a rose thorn is a ‘prickle.’ Having gotten all this straight in my mind, I feel quite erudite.

There is a brief chapter about the four Cactaceae families, and the uses of certain cactus. For example, “The stems of Stenocereus gummosus, were crushed and thrown in lakes and ponds by natives. Substances in the cactus would paralyze the fish and once they floated to the top, they would be gathered up by the locals.” Wow!

The list and descriptions of non-cactus succulents is much longer and includes the more familiar agave, aloe, crassula, dracaena, echeveria, sedum and yucca.

Part 2 is devoted to the ways and climates that cactuses and succulents can be used outdoors. Attention is paid to the ways to caring for these plants in colder climates. Directions are given for watering (perhaps the trickiest issue) light, temperature, fertilizer pest problems and propagation techniques.

Part 3 takes us to the world of indoor cactus and succulents which also need light, special potting soil, proper watering and a proper container that will allow for good drainage.

The final section is a useful catalog of 100 top choices of succulents and cactus, their needs and care. Readers will be tempted  and inspired to enjoy more of these plants indoors and out.

Between the Rows  June 1, 2018

Tovah Martin – Terrarium Expert Comes to Town

Tovah Martin

Tovah Martin, Author of The New Terrarium

The Greenfield Garden Club brought Tovah Martin, author of The New Terrarium, and many other books, to town to not only talk about terrariums, but to hold a workshop. The site was the elegant Brandt House B&B, the weather was rainy, but the spirit was one of excitement and creativity.

audience for terrarium talk at The Brandt House B&B

Audience for terrarium talk at The Brandt House B&B

Many members of the Greenfield Garden Club, and other gardeners in the community filled all the Brandt House space to get  some preliminary instruction  about terrariums, and jolts of inspiration.

Terrarium supplies

Terrarium supplies

The Kestrel Shop in Northampton was on hand with some of the needed plants and supplies, but attendees brought a variety of glass containers for their creations.

Terrarium workshop attendees

Terrarium workshop attendees

It didn’t take long for workshop attendees to get to work.

Unique terrarium tools

Unique terrarium tools

One of the tricks of the trade is a cork on a skewer to make a soil tamper. Less awkward to fit in  the container than fingers.

While we are still working on our house I can’t imagine a space for a terrarium, but after seeing all these inspiring terrariums, I did think of some friends who might like a terrarium  even if they don’t like weeding and pruning outside.

Tovah Martin and Terrariums

Tovah Martin

Tovah Martin photo by Kindra Clineff

Tovah Martin, gardener and author, has devoted a good part of her life to houseplants. Most of us have a limited view of what houseplants we might put on our windowsills, but when she found herself working at the wonderful Logee’s Greenhouse in Connecticut she fell in love with the hundreds of houseplant varieties put into her care.

Over the years Martin has written books like Well-Clad Windowsills: Houseplants for Four Exposures, The Unexpected Houseplant: 220 Extraordinary Choices for Every Spot in Your Home; The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants That Everyone Can Grow; and The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Displays for Plants and Nature. Her knowledge about the needs and benefits of various houseplants, as well as their beauty, sometimes sculptural and sometimes romantic, is encyclopedic, and her prose is a delight touched with humor.

As a part of the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Greenfield Garden Club, the Club is bringing the notable and charming Tovah Martin to Greenfield on Sunday afternoon, June 5 to give a lecture on terrariums, followed by a book signing, and then a terrarium making workshop. This event will be held at the gracious Brandt House on Highland Avenue.

Martin looks at terrariums as a practical way to have a whimsical or calming snippet of nature at hand, no matter what kind of houseplant space you might have. When I spoke to Martin I asked when she became an expert on terrariums. “I’ve made terrariums my whole adult life. Actually even before that. And now I give workshops for every age group from Brownie troops to senior citizens,” she said.

Terrariums are always a popular type of garden from the charming berry bowls filled with a bit of American teaberry with its shiny petite foliage and red berries, to fish tanks turned into a woodland scene. “Terrariums are the smallest landscape you’ll ever have to design,” Martin said. Participants in her workshop should bring their own container but other terrarium materials will be provided. “Almost any glass can be used for a terrarium,” she said. She added that she has a pretty good eye and is frugal so she is a regular at Goodwill stores. No glass container is too humble, large wide mouth mason jars work just as well.

The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin

The New Terrarium by Tovah Martin

“Everyone should have nature by their side and terrariums make it easier. Terrariums are self watering, they almost grow on auto-pilot. Terrarium plants get the humidity they need, especially in the winter when our houses are so dry from the heating systems,” she said.

In her workshop she will demonstrate, and guide participants in the making of a terrarium that includes soil and plants, using surprising tools and giving useful tips. She will cover the basics of construction, and care from every angle including watering and light sources. Terrariums should not be placed in the sun, which is one reason they are such a good solution for the house that does not have much in the way of sunny windows, or possibly an office with limited light.

Beyond the closed terrarium that I am familiar with Martin points out that a terrarium is also an ideal environment for handling cuttings and making new plants, or for starting seeds. She said not all terrariums need to be closed and that even an open terrarium environment can help conserve moisture and will keep a plant happy with less work.

Extra pleasures on June 5: Michael Nix will be providing music, Kestrel of Northampton will be selling terrarium plants and supplies, and the World Eye will be selling books. Tickets are available at World Eye Books or can be ordered by calling Jean Wall at 773-9069. The cost of the lecture is $25 and $50 for the lecture and the workshop. Garden Club members get a discount of $20 and $40. For more information log on to the Greenfield Garden Club’s website

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It is Plant Sale Season. Today the Bridge of Flowers is having their annual plant sale that will include shrubs, annuals and perennials; many are divisions of plants on the Bridge. There will be a great variety from asters to peonies to violets. Master Gardeners will be on hand to do soil testing. The sale will be held on the TrinityChurch’s Baptist Lot on Main Street in ShelburneFalls from 9 am to noon, rain or shine. All profits benefit the Bridge.

Next Saturday, May 21 is the Garden Club of Amherst’s plant sale under the tent on the Common next to the Farmer’s Market from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm. Profits benefit conservation efforts and a scholarship fund.

On Saturday, May 28 The Greenfield Garden Club will hold its annual Extravagaza on the lawn of St James Episcopal Church on Federal Street from 9 am to 2 pm. In addition to plants donated by club members there will be a tag/book sale, a bake sale and face painting for the kids. Rain or shine. Profits benefit the grant program for area schools.

Between the Rows   May 14, 2016


The Unexpected Houseplant by Tovah Martin

The Unexpected Houseplant by Tovah Martin

We’ve had frost and feel the outdoor growing season closing. Tovah Martin, author of The Unexpected Houseplant: 220 Extraordinary Choices for Every Spot in Your Home reminds us that we can now concentrate on the indoor growing season.

I confess that I have never been much of a houseplant person. In the past I have grown spider plants, asparagus fern and grape ivy in pots hanging by holders I macramé-ed myself, supermarket cyclamen, avocado pit seedlings and occasional begonias. Currently, in the house, I only have a 25 year old jade plant, two Christmas cactuses and a huge orchid cactus that I pay so little attention to that it blooms inexplicably on some schedule that makes sense only to itself.

Earlier this year I became newly fascinated by succulents and planted a succulent bowl, and two hypertufa troughs. These spent the summer outside on our Welcoming Platform, but will come in to spend the winter in our unheated, but very sunny, Great Room. Succulents are great plants for those who fear they have brown thumbs or who know they are not always attentive to the living creatures on their windowsill.

Though my passion for houseplants has always been limited, The Unexpected Houseplant may change all that. Martin has enough passion to convert the whole country to houseplants and she makes suggestions that will tempt the new, as well as the experienced indoor gardener.

Martin’s prose is a delight and she paints a gloriously verdant picture of her own home. “Basically, if you don’t like plants, don’t bother to enter. . . within that unassuming exterior resides a wonderful world of roaming vines and hairy stems. Leaves of all shapes, sizes textures, scents and combinations of colors are given free rein. . . Watch how you angle the groceries around the kalanchoe, because clumsily maneuvered baggage will bring it down. Only dogs with short tails are allowed in.”

Martin divides her book into seasons, beginning with autumn which is when many often start thinking about houseplants. In her charming style she touches briefly on basic concerns like temperature, light, pot and saucer size, location with regard to heat sources, watering, and aesthetic arrangements, but goes into all these important issues with more comprehensive chapters towards the end of the book.

I was a bit alarmed to see that the table of contents lists many plants by their genus name, cissus (grape ivy), plectranthus (Mexican mint), selaginellas (Irish moss), etcetera, but each genus section does give the species names, common names and specific cultivar names. Martin describes the appearance and needs of several species and cultivars that are desirable as houseplants along with directions for their care.

Many of the plants she describes are familiar, hens and chicks, orchids, a whole variety of herbs, as well as bulbs that can be forced in the winter. Others are not plants I would have considered as houseplants. Calla lilies! I checked and found that I can buy bulbs for calla lilies from Van Engelen now even though it will take them 14 weeks or so to bloom. They can then be carried over from year to year.

Neither would I have imagined primroses as a houseplant, but the cover photo of Primula denticulatas ‘Confetti Blue’ and ‘Rubins’ is truly unexpected and equally irresistible.

The name Anigozanthos favidus would have scared me off but it is another of Martin’s special enthusiasms. Even its common name. kangaroo paws. wouldn’t have excited me. Do I know what a kangaroo paw looks like? No.

Martin says Anigozathos flowers in fall and sporadically all year, with “flowers that are long, fuzzy tubular affairs groping out in elongated clusters. Each flower is only the size of a tootsie roll, but the tip opens up into something that resembles groping animal claws (without the barbs). The interior is green; the exterior might be golden, orange or pink . . . The blossoms are brandished on strong foliar spikes, which do not need staking, held above clumps of leathery pointed leaves that resemble fuzzy grass. . . . Who doesn’t love an oddball, especially in spring?” Surely, all of us.

The photographs  by Kindra Clineff, all of Martin’s own plants in her own house, are gorgeous and as seductive as Martin’s prose. An element of that seduction is in the choice of plant containers. As Martin says, you don’t need to look far for wonderful plants. Think of the supermarket cyclamen. Our task is to “jazz it up.” Certainly the photos of plants in antique pots, bowls, urns, jars, tubs and vases are enough to send us on a hunt through our own cabinets for some long forgotten item, or a ramble through an antique shop or even a second hand shop.

This book is just a lovely long conversation with a knowledgeable, but candid friend who doesn’t want you to get into something you can’t handle. She shares her enthusiasm for certain plants, like the calla lilies, but also warns you about the particular problems she sees in abutilon, bougainvillea, heliotrope and hibiscus.  I know I finally gave up my abutilon which is a beautiful ever-blooming plant, but the bugs finally did me in, even though the abutilon limped along.

This is a book to use now, and a book to put away in the gift drawer. The gift giving season is drawing

My orchid cactus April 2012


Vertical Vegetables and Houseplant Care

Vertical Vegetables

Vertical Vegetables: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space by AmyAndrychowicz

Vertical Vegetables: Simple Projects that Deliver More Yield in Less Space by Amy Andrychowicz ($24.95 Cool Springs Press) is a new book that will be valuable for all vegetable gardeners who never have enough room. As I read the book I saw ways space could be saved at the same time that creative techniques would also add new beauty to the garden. This book would be a great holiday gift for those who garden in limited space.

Most of us have some experience with the various supports that are used in the garden. What are the ways to support vertical vegetables? Trellises are great for vining plants and staking is used for vegetables that don’t twine. Nowadays there are also cages that circle and support a plant like tomatoes. Andrychowicz also talks about the ways plants can be trained on vertical supports. She goes beyond and describes the ways that the many varieties of container gardening can be used vertically.

The list continues with vertical vegetable plantings on teepees, pergolas, arches, obelisks, A-frames and lean-tos, words not always used for supporting floppy plants. One of the latest ideas in limited space gardening is the hanging garden. The kind of vertical supports you need will depend on the plants you want to grow with regard to strength, height, and access to the harvest. Happily, vertical supports can be made of many materials, wood, wire, and pipes, depending on the strength needed and your budget.

The next section of the book expands on the kind of supports that specific vegetables need from peas and beans, to grapes and hardy kiwis, to melons and then non-climbing plants like lettuce! I was surprised to see that strawberries could be grown in a hanging garden.

Of course, gardeners must always consider how to fertilize, control weeds, disease and insects and Andychowicz has advice on those issues as well.

Amy Andrychowicz has been busy at her desk as well as in her garden. She created the Get Busy Gardening website where she has been blogging for nearly10 years. The website is full of information about plant propagation, houseplant care, projects for the garden and more.

Complete Houseplant Survival Manual

Complete Houseplant Survival Manual by Barbara Pleasant

While some gardeners struggle with limited space, some gardeners, and some of our friends who have never gardened, have no outdoor space at all. The gift of a flowering plant is especially delightful and welcome at this time of the year when the days are so short. The problem is that while welcoming a blooming orchid, or cyclamen or poinsettia the recipient might enjoy it, and then weep when it shrivels up and dies. I have always thought that a book about houseplants should accompany the gift of a plant.

There are many reasons that a houseplant might wilt and fail. Perhaps the amount of light was wrong, too much or too little. Perhaps the plant received too much or too little water. Perhaps the temperature was too high or too low. These are all problems that can be easily corrected if the plant recipient is given some basic information.

In fact, I think giving plants to a relative or friend you should to take into consideration the type of living space, how much heat there is at night and during the day. Also think about window alignment; will there be south or north light, or east or west.

There are many books that could accompany the gift of a plant. I like the encyclopedic Complete Houseplant Survival Manual: Essential Know-how for Keeping (Not Killing!) more than 160 Indoor Plants by Barbara Pleasant (Storey $24.95.) Not all houseplants bloom, even part of the year, but a bit of grape ivy, a fern, or a variegated creeping fig can also bring a whiff of the natural world into the house.

In addition to a photo and a page of specific information about the needs of a plant, Pleasant has a section on general houseplant care. She gives great information about containers, pruning, repotting and dealing with specific pests that are likely to make a try at your beautiful plant.

Pleasant has written other books for the novice and is an experienced gardener. Check out The Home Grown Pantry.  

Indestructible Houseplant

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin

          If a big book like Pleasant’s is Too Much, for the recipient Tovah Martin’s The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants That Everyone Can Grow (Timber Press $22.95) might be the perfect alternative. Martin takes us on a tour of tough plants from African violets to the ZZ (Zamioculocas zamiifolia) plant.

This book has wonderful photographs of plants and containers. Martin’s advice about care includes light needs, temperature tolerations and growth rate. She also gives good advice about creative and beautiful ways to pot up a plant.

Tovah Martin has written other prize winning books about houseplants including The Unexpected Houseplant

I don’t know about you, but I have to confess that when I am buying gifts for my nearest and dearest, I often have trouble keeping my own desires under control. Perhaps you’ll find a houseplant for yourself while choosing one for a friend or relative. Perhaps you’ll want to splurge on a little book for yourself, too.  Happy holidays!

Between the Rows  November 24, 2018

L is for Literature – Literature about Gardening

L is for Literature.  In the A to Z Challenge I am referring specifically to Garden Literature which covers a lot of ground. I cannot garden or do much of anything without books. There are general garden books and specific garden books. I’ll mention just a few of my favorites with links to earlier columns that will have more information about each of them.
Kiss my Aster

Kiss My Aster by Amanda Thomsen

            One of my oldest and most useful vegetable garden books is How to Grow More Vegetables Eighth Edition: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine… (And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains) by John Jeavons. I have the 1979 edition and it is well worn. There is all the basic information you need to grow vegetables from tools, fertilizing, composting, efficient planting, and companion planting.
The 20-30 Something Garden Guide

The 20-30 Something Garden Guide by Dee Nash

    If you are a new gardener you will find The 20-30 Something Garden Guide: A no fuss, down and dirty Gardening 101 for anyone who wants to grow stuff by Dee Nash, professional writer, gardeners and speaker. The 20-30 Something Garden Guide 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.
            For a humorous and sassy introduction to gardening try Kiss My Aster by Amanda Thomsen. This is a ‘graphic guide to creating a fantastic yard totally tailored to you, Thomsen has real insight into the mind and psyche of the new gardener. You can tell because on Page 14 she asks, “Overwhelmed? Don’t be. You’re just reading a book. Wait until you’re knee deep in quick set concrete before you freak out.” Does that tell you what kind of gardener she is?
            For all her smart aleck frivolity and word play, Thomsen walks you through figuring out what can grow in your area, including taking a camera tour through your neighborhood to see what other people are growing This tour will give you inspiration and information Then you can show the photos of the plants you like to the people at the garden center, get them identified and buy them. She is full of slick tips like this.
Roses Without Chemicals

Roses Without Chemicals by Peter Kukielski

  I am passionate about non- fussy roses. A book with the most information about these roses is in Peter Kukielski’s book Roses Without Chemicals: 150 disease free varieties that will change the way you grow roses. He is the former curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New York Botanical Garden and is now Executive Director of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability. He is also working with Earth Kind Roses.
            In my new house I am trying to eliminate lawn. A book I have found extremely useful and inspiring is Lawn Gone! Low Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for your Yard by Pam Penick. Whatever your reason, Penick has practical advice and instructions about ways to create beautiful spaces without a lawn. Groundcovers are an easy answer. In fact, many perennials and small shrubs cover the ground and add great interest when planted over a generous area. Some of Penick’s chapter titles will tempt you to imagine a new yard of your own. For example: Ponds, pavilions, play spaces and other fun features. The designing and installing your hardscape chapter will immediately set your mind buzzing.
The Indestructible Houseplant

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin

     For those who love houseplants, or wish they had houseplants there is Tovah Martin. The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants That Everyone Can Grow by Tovah Martin ($23 Timber Press) As far as I am concerned Tovah Martin is certainly the Queen of Houseplants. Readers who drooled over her earlier book The Unexpected Houseplant with special attention to gorgeous or surprising containers will be happy to see The Indestructible Houseplant.
            One of my favorite books focuses on bugs and birds. Douglas Tallamy, in his book Bringing Nature Home explains why bugs are good, and why having bugs in your garden will attract the birds. Many bugs are beneficial. This is a call to avoiding broad spectrum pesticides. And a delightful read! Talk about Literature! This is the real thing.


Lawn Gone!

Lawn Gone! by Pam Penick

            To see who else is writing a post every day in April lick here.

Gift Books for the Gardener

At my house every gift giving occasion should include a book, or three. Every year there is a new crop of books to help new and experienced gardeners keep up with new trends and techniques, and find new ways to make their gardens, indoors and out, more beautiful and/or productive. Here is a sampling of new books for the gardener.

Fruit Gardener's Bible

Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry

Fruit Gardener’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit and Nuts in the Home Garden by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry ($25 Storey Publishing)

Lewis Hill’s books have been with me almost ever since we moved to Heath and planned to start producing a lot of our food. I constantly referred to his book Cold Climate Gardening, Fruits and Berries for the HomeGarden, and Pruning Simplified. Lewis Hill was a Vermonter who did his best to help gardeners in their endeavors. He passed away in 2008, but his good friend and colleague Leonard Perry took on the job of revising Hill’s book on growing berries and fruits.

The Fruit Gardener’s Bible is a truly encyclopedic work. In revising the book Perry has updated and included new information about sustainable practices including biological pest and disease control. He also discusses the ways gardeners want to incorporate fruits and nuts into their ornamental landscapes to make use of their beauty as well as their harvests. In addition there are many new varieties of common fruits and more interest in less familiar fruits like loganberries and hardy kiwis.

Hill was a lifelong Vermonter and his writings tended to concentrate on gardens for the New England climates. Perry has expanded the scope of crops and the needs of gardeners who live where the climate posses different challenges.

This book has a focus on organic techniques and provides information from propagating to harvesting. The photographs are beautiful and instructive.

Grow a Little Fruit Tree

Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph

Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph ($17 Storey Publishing)

Ann Ralph’s book is dedicated to the idea that fruit trees can be kept small, no taller than you are, while remaining healthy and productive. What it takes is careful pruning. Her focus is on rootstocks instead of the semi-dwarf label which she criticizes as giving a false idea of how big a tree will grow.

I appreciated her attitude towards growing fruit – which is a good attitude for life. “When you garden, good results depend on three things: what you expect the plant to do, what the plant is capable of in the environment where you put it, and your willingness to contribute.”

Ralph’s prose has a charm and wisdom that would be enjoyable if you never dreamed of planting even a small tree.

Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass by Maria Colletti

Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass by Maria Colletti

Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass by Maria Colletti ($25 Cool Springs Press)

You may not aspire to creating a terrarium in an elegant Wardian case as shown on the cover of this book, but Maria Colletti will show you how to choose containers and plants that can be used to create the landscape of your choice, desert or woodland or tropical.

Colletti is the terrarium designer for the Shop in the Garden at the New YorkBotanical Garden and she loves experimenting with carnivorous plants, cacti, succulents, ferns and tropical plants. She gives us step by step projects with advice and sources for terrarium necessities. She shares traditional, standard and classic building steps but always invites experimentation.

Of course it is one thing to set up and plant a beautiful terrarium, but then maintenance is required to mange moisture. The goal is to reach a state of equilibrium so that you can get to a level of “hands off and enjoy.”

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin

The Indestructible Houseplant: 200 Beautiful Plants That Everyone Can Grow by Tovah Martin ($23 Timber Press)

As far as I am concerned Tovah Martin is certainly the Queen of Houseplants. Readers who drooled over her earlier book The Unexpected Houseplant with special attention to gorgeous or surprising containers will be happy to see The Indestructible Houseplant.

Martin is a captivating writer and the layout of the book gives her plenty of scope. Along with a photograph of one of her own houseplants she gives an extended description of the plant including the different cultivars, and her own experiences with the plant. In addition there is a sidebar for each that lays out specific information about size, foliage, exposure, water requirements, soil type, fertilization schedule and companions that will live with it happily in the same container. She also includes a line for “other attributes” where she comments “famously indomitable” for aspidistra, “succulent, wonderfully bizarre and varied” for kalanchoe.

We often think the houseplant category is pretty limited, often because we see so few varieties in local garden centers, but Martin blasts that idea and gives us a pageful of sources for the indestructibles she has in her own collection. She begins with African violets and ends with Zamioculas samiifolia (ZZ to its friends) which has “no flowers but bulletproof.”

When to do what is often a big question for gardeners as we go through the year and the UMass Extension Garden Calendar for 2016 is available for $12 each plus $3.50 for mailing, and $2 for each additional calendar up to nine.  It includes one stunning and inspiring plant image for the month, daily gardening tips for our climate, sunrise and sunset times and more.

Between the Rows  December 11, 2015

Book Reviews

Ever since the commonweeder was born in 2007 I have had the honor and pleasure of reviewing many books. I am putting those book reviews on this page so that when you are in need of a certain kind of information, or looking for a gift book, these might be helpful to you. It will take a while to get all the reviews listed  with a link to the full review. Be patient.

Weeds of the Northeast by Richard Uva, Joseph Neal and Joseph DiTomaso 

Roses: A Celebration edited by Wayne Winterrowd.

Native Ferns, Moss and Grasses by William Cullina

A Child’s Garden: 60 ideas to make any garden come alive for children by Molly Dannenmaier.

The Little Bulbs: A Tale of Two Gardens by Elizabeth Lawrence

Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways by Debra Prinzing

Gardener’s Latin: Discovering the Origins, Lore & Meanings of Botanical Names by Bill Neal with an introduction by Barbara Damrosch

Fallscaping: Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn by Nancy J. Ondra and Stephanie Cohen with photographs by Rob Cardillo

Don’t Throw It, Grow It: 68 Windowsill Plants from Kitchen Scraps by Deborah Peterson and Millicent Selsam

Covering Ground: Unexpected Ideas for Landscaping and Colorful Low-Maintenance Ground Covers by Barbara Ellis

 Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love by Julie Moir Messervy 

The Perennial Care Manual:  A Plant by Plant Guide – What to Do and When to Do It. by Nancy J. Ondra 

WICKED PLANTS: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart

 The Short History of the Honey Bee by E. Readicker-Henderson,  

The Brother Gardeners: Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession by Andrea Wulf 

Right Rose Right Place: 359 Choices for Beds, Borders, Hedges and Screens, Containers, Fences, Trellises, and More by Peter Schneider

Bloom-Again Orchids: 50 Easy Care Orchids that Flower Again and Again and Again by Judy White

The Gardener’s Color Palette: Paint Your Garden with 100Extraordinary Flower Choices by Tom Fischer

Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars: Grandma’s Bag of Tricks by Sharon Lovejoy

Lives of the Trees: An Uncommon History  by Diana Wells

The Perfect Fruit: Good Breeding, Bad Seeds, and the Hunt for the Elusive Pluot  by Chip Brantley

 Windowsill Art: Creating one-of-a-kind natural arrangements to celebrate the seasons  by Nancy Ross Hugo

 Gardens in Detail: 100 Contemporary Designs by Emma Reuss

 Hellstrip Gardening: Create a paradise between the sidewalk  and the  curb by Evelyn Hadden.

 Heaven is a Garden: Designing Serene Outdoor Spaces for Inspiration and Reflection  by Jan Johnsen

Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside by  Andrea di Robilant

How Carrots Won the Trojan War by Rebecca Rupp

Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin

The Year Round Vegetable Gardener by Nikki Jabour

 Month by Month Gardening – New England by Charlie Nardozzi

Growing the Northeast Garden by Andrew Keys

Blue Ribbon Vegetable Gardening by Jodi Torpey

Planting in a Post-Wild World by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West

 The Fruit Gardener’s Bible by Lewis Hill and Leonard Perry

Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Ann Ralph

Terrariums: Gardens Under Glass by Maria Colletti

The Indestructible Houseplant by Tovah Martin

 The Unexpected Houseplant by Tovah Martin

My Berry Bowl

Yesterday Elizabeth Licata at Garden Rant wrote about Tovah Martin’s new book, The New Terrarium. I haven’t ever made a terrarium but at least three and possibly four years ago a dear friend gave me a berry bowl for Christmas.  Elizabeth’s post reminded me that I hadn’t seen it for a while.  I went to look.

The berry bowl, planted with moss and partridgeberry (?) has always lived in our Great Room. It is usually not heated in the winter. Last  winter, because of new insulation, it actually got below freezing. At one point I must have moved the berry bowl from the shelves where it could be seen and enjoyed, to a corner of the shelf, hidden by pitchers and forgotten. The plastic wrap ‘lid’ was seriously dusty, but the plants thrived.

I’ve never opened the berry bowl, and never watered it. Having found it in the shadows, I set it on the kitchen table where it could get some sun and feel a little love. It was not long before I could see moisture condensing on the inside of the bowl, so I moved it out of the sun where it  could feel loved, but not so hot.

My berry bowl shows that it doesn’t take much, or maybe nothing but benign neglect, to keep a terrarium going. Still, I am going to get The New Terrarium Book because Tovah Martin says terrariums are a perfect place to grow orchids. I’d like to try that.