Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Part IV - Charlotte Germane Shares Great Garden Books

Books in the garden. Photo by spakattacks on Flickr
After visiting Seattle, Toronto, Philadelphia and Nova Scotia, this multi-part series has landed in Nevada City, California to hear more about how great garden books inspire writers.

Charlotte Germane gardens in California, but it's not all tender succulents for her. In fact, her garden in Nevada City has four seasons and snow in Zone 7b. In this scenic area, Charlotte says her plant choices are limited by two requirements: "deer-resistance and drought-tolerance."

When she's not gardening, she's blogging for Dirt du jour: Northern California and Daffodil Planter. Or tweeting as @DaffodilPlanter.

One of Charlotte's favorite garden books is based on a love that started when she was a 22-year-old transplant to Washington, D.C.

The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell

Charlotte first became a fan of Henry Mitchell's writing after reading his Earthman garden columns in The Washington Post religiously each Sunday. "After a few readings he convinced me I would never find happiness in life unless I had a water lily pool, some climbing roses, and a grapevine."

Charlotte admits, "I have none of those things today (they'd be favorites of my neighbors, the mule deer), but I re-read his collected columns every winter."

Courtesy of David Neumeyer

In his writing, the author called tall bearded irises, "princes of the vegetable kingdom," explains Charlotte. "Well, he's my king."

You can learn more about the late Henry Mitchell, the distinguished garden columist for The Washington Post, here.   

Another one of Charlotte's favorite books comes from another gardening role model ... this time from the world of fashion.

Dirt: The Lowdown on Growing a Garden With Style by Dianne Benson

Courtesy of Dianne B.
"Dianne B writes with brio about tackling a garden and making it your own," says Charlotte. "Re-reading Dirt each winter always makes me feel like I can do just about anything come spring. After all, in just a few years Dianne took her Hamptons garden from a wilderness to a stop on the same garden tour with Martha Stewart."
Dianne B. was "a big name in fashion and her well-developed taste shines through," she says. "Of course, a fashion maven had to include a chapter on what to wear while gardening."

According to Charlotte, this book is "worth the price just for the detailed plant lists."

Now that spring is approaching, it's time to get outside and get planting. Look for more gardening-related tips soon.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Part III - Robin Haglund Shares Great Garden Books

Garden reference books are popular, but so are garden-related
fiction and biographies. Photo by BrewBooks on Flickr.
In an ongoing search for great garden books, this multi-part series has traveled everywhere from the city lights of Toronto (Part II) to remote Nova Scotia and historic Philadelphia (Part I).  This time, we're heading to the Northwest, specifically the scenic city of Seattle.

Robin Haglund is a professional garden coach and award-winning garden designer, who is passionate about cultivating beautiful and sustainable outdoor spaces. Although she has gardened, ranched and farmed in Virginia and all over California, Robin is now settled in Seattle (Zone 8).

For more than a decade, Robin has created gardens everywhere from the parking strip in front of her house to the driveway in the back. She says, "As with every garden, mine is a labor of love, always in progress."

As passionate about reading as she is about gardening, Robin admits, "I always have a mountain of books piled on my bedside table, by the sofa and loaded into my iPhone book apps. I gravitate to literature for a good read, while reference books are used for just that ... reference."

Although Robin agrees with Helen Battersby that Michael A. Dirr's books are excellent, adding that Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs should be a "must-have book for any serious hort-head," she selected a biography as one of her favorite garden books.

The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and The Business of Breeding Plants by Jane Smith

This mix of history, botany and biography was the recipient of the Caroline Bancroft History Prize for the best book in Western American history.  It tells the story of plant breeding legend Luther Burbank of Santa Rosa, California, who was the world's most famous gardener a century ago.

"This biography of intrepid plant breeder Luther Burbank is a can't-put-it-down tale of Burbank's amazing life story," reports Robin. "I have a hard time agreeing with the idea of plant patents and ownership of nature. But reading this book gave me a stronger appreciation for the work that goes into developing new plants."

She adds, "I understand now why a breeder deserves credit and money for their developments. They can take decades and can transform what we eat for generations."

After reading this book, Robin now believes that "transforming food, through plant cultivation, isn't always a bad thing. Each time I bake a russet potato (the most widely grown cultivar in U.S.) or yank out yet another self-seeded Shasta Daisy, I think back on this fun read ... whether I'm enjoying a delicious meal or cursing Burbank for those darn stinky daisies."

Another favorite is The Ultimate Guide to Backyard Bugs: Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw

Robin hosts a couple of honeybee hives with Corky Luster of Ballard Bee Company, so she certainly knows more than most about pollinators and insects.

Still she admits, "It's taken me years to find an insect guide that really works for me. Many guides let you look up insects by names to determine whether they are good or bad, and how to deal with them."

This book does that too, according to Robin, but what really differentiates the guide is the "fantastic set of photos showing insects in all stages of life."

"You can match a photo in the book to the critter you just pulled off the shrub," explains Robin. "You'll easily find your way to useful details on insect life cycles, controls, host plants, predators and more. If that isn't enough, the index gets down to the nitty-gritty."

Last fall, she found a shiny, gold beetle, so she looked up "golden bugs." Voila! Within minutes, she had identified her insect as "a bindweed-eatin' Golden Tortoise Beetle. Fantastic!"

Find Robin:

Stay Tuned: Seasonal Wisdom is off to Northern California to share more great garden books.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Part II - Helen Battersby Shares Great Garden Books

With so many good gardening books, it's hard to pick just one.
Photo by ulle.b on Flickr

Spring is right around the corner, so it's the perfect time to reach for a garden book. In Part I of this series, I traveled from the remote shores of Nova Scotia to a hundred-year-old Philadelphia neighborhood to learn about great garden books. This time, I turn to the cosmopolitan city of Toronto to get more tips.

Helen Battersby is one-half of the popular Toronto Gardens blog, which she created with her sister Sarah. An avid reader, this blogger says her bookshelves rival the size of her small city garden in Toronto's east end. 

Also known as the "microgarden," Helen's city plot is USDA Zone 5 or Canadian Zone 6. Garden books keep her inspired, as she waits for a long, cold winter to turn into spring.

A self-proclaimed "treehugger," Helen says one of her all-time favorite resources is Michael A. Dirr's Manual of Woody Landscape Plants.

"This book has comprehensive descriptions of just about every tree, shrub or vine in cultivation," says Helen. "That includes the relative merits of different cultivars. Dirr's writing is both authoritative and refreshingly opinionated."

Helen's dog-eared 1990 software copy lacks the color photos of more recent editions. But she finds the detailed line drawings handy for plant identification.

"Imagine my pleasure when I discovered Dirr's book is now an iPhone app from Timber Press," she explains. "At $12.99, it's my priciest app to date. But it's worth every cent, because it contains the entire book contents, plus color photos as well as handy search, favoriting and emailing capabilities."

The iPhone app is more portable than her phone book-sized print copy. But the print version still retains "a place of honor" on Helen's bookshelf.

Another favorite is Lee Schneller's The Ever-Blooming Flower Garden: A Blueprint for Continuous Color.  According to Helen, "Whether you're starting from scratch or filling gaps in an existing garden, the author's five-step system for planning continuous garden interest is simple and do-able."

The author also includes information on 200 easy-care plants. But with cultivars multiplying rapidly, as well as zone challenges in different regions, Helen says it is "the planning techniques that are of greatest value in this book. I expect to use them frequently."

Find Helen:

What's Next? Tune in next time for great garden book tips from an award-winning landscape designer in Seattle.