Over the winter, gardening books are a significant source of sanity
and security for the avid gardener. Thinking ahead to the likely
need for a mid-winter reprieve and with gift-giving in mind, I have
a few garden-related books to suggest. I own copies of all of them,
so I can recommend them with confidence. A couple of them I refer
to regularly for gardening information, but as with most gardening
books, for me they are also inspirational. They provide nutrients
for the mind, and in mid-winter, that can feel rich indeed.
I recently purchased a book which I anticipate may become a sort
of touchstone for me. Written by the well-known English landscape
designer Russell Page, The Education of a Gardener (New York
Review of Books, 1994 Edition, $18.95) was first published in 1962.
As the title indicates, the book is written around Page's decades-long
personal evolution in developing landscapes. The book is full of
anecdotes and insight into how Page approaches his landscapes, both
initially and throughout the process. Every landscape development
includes not only the dynamics of the existing site, and the possible
changes to it, but also the human dynamic of the owner, developer/designer,
and the workers, whose hands actually enact the transformation.
Consequently, there is also significant hands-on insight throughout
Many years ago, I received the first edition of The Garden Primer,
by Barbara Damsrosh (Workman Publishing Co., 2008 Edition, $18.95),
as a Christmas gift. I was greener to the trade then and the book
seemed like more information than I may ever need to use. As it
happens, I have turned to this gardening book more than any other
by far as it has helped me time and again. It covers every manner
of gardening issue, certainly any that the home gardener would encounter.
As a gardener by trade, it is often helpful to have a seasoned additional
perspective on site; Ms. Damroschs' style is very readable and assured.
Another book I regularly have on hand is Rodale's Successful
Organic Gardening – Perennials (Rodale Press, 1993). Though
more of a handbook than a comprehensive tome, I have it on hand
for just that reason. About half the book is how-to, and the other
half is a perennial plant guide. Though the plant guide is short
compared to much larger guides typically found in this category,
almost invariably I find what I am looking to reference, to find
a photo of, or for a growing tip.
Piet Oudolf is a landscape designer and writer whose ideas I have
begun to understand and appreciate. Though initially his work strikes
one as starkly contemporary, there is actually significant and progressive
horticultural sense to it. He strives to group plants according
to their native patterns, often in massed plantings, and places
those larger groups in more austere contemporary arrangements and
sites. Hence, the contemporary aesthetic appearance. This planting
perspective is one in which we Corvallis Oregon gardeners, who are experiencing
a fresh look at native plants, would be smart to explore. His book,
Planting Design, written with Noel Kingsbury (Timber Press,
$34.95) is on my winter reading stack.
For quality gardening books, The Timber Press of Portland, Oregon,
is arguably the best publisher of horticultural books in North America.
Find their catalog at www.timberpress.com,
then go to a local bookstore and order it through them. Most local
bookstores have significant gardening sections, the visiting of
which could be a small winter reprieve all its own.
Matt Giroux is Grounds by Design – Fine Landscapes –
Design, Photography, Gardening, Consulting. He can be reached at
802.496.4765 or by email.