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Books For Gardeners

Published: March 25, 2005

CURT CLARK

    Books For Gardeners

    This spring brings a great new crop of gardening books for those looking for inspiration and new ideas to try out in this year’s garden.

    One of the best selling books this year, especially in New England where digging up rocky soil breaks the enthusiasm and will of many a gardener, is Square Foot Gardening, by Mel Bartholomew (Rodale Books, Reissue Edition, 347 pages). Mr Bartholmew’s square-foot method uses square gardening plots, some as small as four feet square, designed to make the most of the available soil. The book draws on the old traditional method of planting vegetables – plant thick and thin later – and French Intensive gardening practices to help reap a bountiful harvest in sometimes challenging conditions.

    Overcoming insect and disease control problems does not have to involve chemical warfare. The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control edited by Barbara W. Ellis and Fern Marchall Bradley (Rodale, Revised Edition, 544 pages) is a great guidebook for identifying and diagnosing problems, and then helping plants make the most of their natural defenses to survive and thrive. It includes an encyclopedia of 200 common garden plants, offering cultivation and care instructions. It also has guides for insect identification disease symptoms. There is a lot of common sense packed into this essential volume.

    Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting For Successful Gardening by Louise Riotte (Storey Publishing, 224 pages) is a recently updated edition of the gardening classic first published in 1975. Succeeding generations of gardeners are learning through this book how plants can support and protect each other from pests. It also tells which plants just do not get along. It is filled with diagrams and charts that will help plan and plant a balanced and harmonious garden.

    George Little and David Lewis are celebrated internationally both as artists and gardeners, and they open their renowned garden retreat on Washington’s Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound in the lushly illustrated book A Garden Gallery: The Plants, Art, and Hardscape of Little and Lewis (Timber Press, 175 pages). While not a how-to book, A Garden Gallery offers a vision of how a garden can be a completely magical place and provides useful tips and practical advice for blending sculpture, plants, water features, and natural landscape elements. The eloquent narrative and the stunning photographs by Barbara Denk will inspire even the most winter-hardened gardener.

    P. Allen Smith has achieved a kind of rock star following among gardeners, thanks to his popular televisions shows and his peripatetic schedule of lectures and workshops around the country. His new book, P. Allen Smith’s Container Gardens: 60 Container Recipes To Accent Your Garden (Clarkson Potter, 224 pages), offers some specific ideas for bringing gardens up out of the ground onto decks, balconies, and porches in containers. Each of the 60 recipes is designed to fulfill one of Mr Smith’s famous 12 Principles of Design, which are the basis of his first best-selling book P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home, and his public television show by the same name. The book includes a complete plant directory and specific instructions for planting in containers.

    While technically not a gardening book, Hannah Holmes’ Suburban Safari: A Year On The Lawn (Bloomsbury USA, 240 pages) will provide some particularly enjoyable reading for anyone interested in the incredible diverse ecosystem in their own backyard. Who knew the lawn could be such a complex and funny place? The author spent a year examining in great detail the great lives, loves, and losses in her tiny 0.2-acre yard in suburban Portland, Maine. Insects, birds, mammals, and plants all mix it up in Hannah Holmes’ yard, and the incredible story is laid out before readers by the keen, observant mind of the accomplished science writer. For anyone who needs a new appreciation of the world, this is a must-read.