Books for the Gardener

  • Post published:12/28/2009
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Just about everyone knows that I am a reader. Therefore there is nothing (well, almost nothing) I like better as a gift than a book.  When I had regular paid employment I always prayed that the day after Christmas would be on a weekend so I could devote that day to reading my Christmas book. And I’ll confess, I often bought myself  a book – for just in case, but I never needed to worry.

Here are some reading suggestions for the reader and gardener on your list.

Right Rose Right Place: 359 Choices for Beds, Borders, Hedges and Screens, Containers, Fences, Trellises, and More by Peter Schneider  (Storey Publishing $19.95). If you’ve never grown a rose before, just browsing through this book with its glorious photographs of every kind of rose, you will decide you must have one. Or maybe ten. Not only will you be seduced by their loveliness, Peter Schneider, who has been growing roses for 30 years, will tell you how to do it easily and successfully. As the title says, all it takes is choosing the right rose for the right spot, and you are ninety percent there.

Schneider begins with a description of the versatility of the  rose family and what makes each rose family distinctive.

The main part of the book is divided by planting sites, in beds and borders, climbers, miniatures,  tree roses, etc. In each section are photographs of individual roses, with a description of their color, flower size, hardiness zone and hybridizer or family. This is a section you will ultimately want to read with a rose catalog by your side.

The final section is clear information about growing roses, from proper planting to dealing with  insect and disease problems and the odd ‘blind shoot.’

After spending an afternoon with Double Delight, Summer Dream, Souvenir de Malmaison, and Compassion you will be glad for the listing of reputable rose nurseries at the end of the book.

Bloom-Again Orchids: 50 Easy Care Orchids that Flower Again and Again and Again by Judy White (Timber Press $14.95)

An orchid plant in bloom makes a good holiday gift. It becomes a perfect gift when accompanied by this book. Actually, it would be best to refer to the book before buying an orchid in order to choose one that is most likely to live happily in the recipient’s house.

Judywhite  begins with general description of orchids and the care they need. Most orchids are epiphytes, growing on a tree in the tropics. There are terrestrial orchids that grow in the soil, but it has to be a ‘very loose, well drained soil.” Finally there are lithophytes that attach themselves to rocks.

For each orchid listed she has a 12 item check list that will detail their requirements and attributes including whether they have large flowers, sprays of multiple flowers, whether they have intense color and pattern, or fragrance.

For me, the most important things to know about any orchid I might buy is the light and temperature requirements. In general she says the orchids she has chosen can live on east, south or west windowsills..

She has established temperature ranges that she calls Warm. Which is days of 68 degrees or more, and temperatures no lower than 60 at night. The Intermediate temperature is 60 degrees during the day, and between 50 and 60 degrees at night. In my house I would need orchids that tolerate Cool temperatures of 55 degrees or higher during the day, and between 40 to 50 degrees at night.

Proper fertilization is also important. Judywhite remids us that orchids generally live in the jungle and get very little nourishment at a time. Her motto is “Water weekly weakly.”

Each orchid is photographed to give you a clear view of the differences in flower form. There are the cattelyas,  and phalaenopsis (moth orchids) which may be the most familiar, but there are many other others including those that resemble spiders, and octopuses, and those that smell like chocolate.

Books provide a lot of information and inspiration for the gardener, but other sources include horticultural societies. Membership ($35 for basic level)  in the American Horticultural Society includes 6 issues of the bi-monthly American Gardener magazine which has excellent articles about all aspects of gardening and plants, profiles of fascinating plant people, book reviews and more. Members also get discounts on books and programs, and entry fee to 240 garden shows and botanical gardens throughout the U.S. while supporting educational programs

Membership ($50 basic level)  in the Massachusetts Horticultural Society will give you a free ticket for the Boston Flower and Garden Show, back after last year’s hiatus, as well as subscriptions to Organic Gardening and Garden Design Magazines. Members also receive The Leaflet, the e-newsletter that comes by email. For a full listing of all the benefits and discounts, and a full description of the organization’s projects logon to the website.

Finally, right in our own backyard we have Nasami Nursery, a part of the New England Wildflower Society, the oldest conservation group in the country. Since we have all become so much more aware of the dangers of invasive plants and the benefits of native plants, we will find NEWFS an excellent resource. Basic membership is $50 and provides unlimited free admission to The Garden in the Woods, discounts at many nurseries including Nasami, discounts at many educational program, discounts in the gift shop, a regular e-newsletter, and access to the botanical library with more than 4,000 volumes.

The only drawback I can see to these organizations is the more you know, the more plants you will decide you need for your garden – but then Christmas will come again next year, too.

Between the Rows  December 19, 2009

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