Is there anything as frustrating for a gardener as the grays of winter? We yearn for the vibrant greens and colors of spring and summer, while all around us is dark and dull. What recourse do we have but to bury our hearts in books? Preferably books with beautiful color photos of gardens and information to help us when spring finally comes around again.
The new updated edition of Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting & Pruning Techniques by Tracy DiSabato-Aust (Timber Press, $34.95) is just the thing to chase away the winter blahs. This book covers all aspects of creating an outstanding perennial garden, from choosing the right plant for the right spot, to how to create hardy plants with beautiful blooms from your selections. With 64 pages of full color illustrations the author explains and illustrates staking, deadheading, disbudding, pinching back, cutting back, thinning and other important maintenance issues. Then she includes an encyclopedia of 179 common garden perennials in the back half of the book, with descriptions of growing needs and color photos of the plants.
If ecology is an important word in your vocabulary and you keep hearing about this thing called permaculture but donít quite understand it, pick up Gaiaís Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by local author Toby Hemenway (Chelsea Green, $24.95).
The focus of permaculture is working with nature, rather than against it. The goal is to make gardening easier by understanding the inclinations of plants and the basic science of how things grow. Hemenway explains the nature of biodiversity, the intimate relationship of plants, insects and animals in natural ecosystems, and how this can be adapted to the garden habitat.
This book tells you not only what to do and how, but it also explains the whys. It isnít a book to be used as a reference, thumbed through for quick answers, but rather one that helps you understand the garden as an integrated system. Perfect for a winter read, it also provides a lot of practical, useful advice.
Another absolutely amazing must-have book is Home Landscaping : Northwest Region by Roger Holmes and Don Marshall (Creative Homeowner, $19.95.) This book has beautifully drawn, colored landscape designs for every type of garden ó shady, sunny, combination, formal, informal, passageways and water features. If you need it, you can probably find a model here. One great chapter shows the initial planting, then how it looks in five years and how it looks in 10 to 15 years, letting you see how important spacing is as plants develop. The illustrations are supplemented with color photos of the plants recommended. Detailed guides to building irrigation systems, retaining walls, trellises, gates, fences, walkways and other garden features are also included.
If you ever wondered how a professional landscaper works, Rosemary Alexanderís The Essential Design Workbook has all the answers (Timber Press, $34.95). Designed for the landscape professional or the home gardener, it is a veritable landscaping textbook. Alexander starts with the basics, like doing a site survey and taking measurements including how to figure slopes and the height and canopy of existing trees. It walks you through how to analyze views and how to mask unwanted ones. It also explains micro-climates, drainage and wind and soil considerations, with a brief lesson on drawing and lettering landscape plans. It is a thorough book that is still eminently readable. While its color photographs are small, they do the job and the myriad drawings are helpful. Whether planning a new yard or just wanting the old one to look more professionally finished, this book should help.
For those of us perched on hillsides, Hillside Landscaping by Susan Lang (Sunset Books, $14.95) offers solutions and inspiration. Primarily a picture book with a great variety of color photo examples, it also offers the basics on contour, micro-climates and planning how to use your slope. There is a good section on various types of retaining walls and terraced beds.
Jerry Baker has published over 50 books and bills himself as ďAmericaís Master Gardener.Ē His newest, Giant Book of Garden Solutions: 1,954 Natural Remedies to Handle Your Toughest Garden Problems (American Master Products, $14.95) should probably be on every gardenerís bookshelf . Baker gives you his tried and true formulas for handling everything from rampaging beetles to wilting transplants, with lots of humor slipped in for good measure.
So brew up a pot of tea, light the fire and kick back with these colorful books. Spring will get here eventually. Promise.