Winter is the perfect time of year for gardeners to plan and dream, and with the increased interest in gardening, bookstores are crowded with tomes covering every possible aspect of this pastime. Here are a few intriguing possibilities to help you pass these dreary days of short daylight.
The Uses of Wild Plants: Using and Growing the Wild Plants of the United States and Canada
By Frank Tozer, $24.95, Greenman Publishing, 2007
Who knew that manzanita cider was once a common drink for Western pioneers? Tozer gives you the recipe for making it — as American Indians gave it to early settlers. This is a fascinating look into the history of plants around us that we often take for granted, with a discussion of their past uses and recipes where needed, plus growing tips.
Thoroughly researched and full of often overlooked facts, this is a survey of 1,200 species of plants from more than 500 genera.
The Winter Harvest Handbook: Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Deep Organic Techniques and Unheated Greenhouses
By Eliot Coleman, $29.95, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010
Coleman lives on a farm in Maine and has developed techniques for growing vegetables throughout the winter in unheated, simple, plastic-hoop greenhouses. He says that despite the misconception that winter days are too short for growing, the reality is many plants grown without the stress of summer heat actually are "sweeter, tenderer and more flavorful."
Among the winter plants he harvests are arugula, beet greens, broccoli, carrots, chard, collards, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, pak choi, radishes, scallions, sorrel, spinach, turnips and watercress.
If you want to extend your growing season to the eight harvests a year Coleman gets, this meticulously detailed book can help.
Gardening for a Lifetime: How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older
By Sydney Eddison, $19.95, Timber Press, 2010
After 50 years of gardening, Eddison has come to the point in life where her body is no longer able to do all the chores that once came easily. For anyone facing this prospect, this small, 200-page book is packed full of ideas and alternatives for making it easier to continue gardening.
Edited by Edward W. Hellman, $45, Oregon State University Press, 2009
Anyone interested in Oregon wine will appreciate this compilation of essays by experts in the field, covering everything from basic grape-development processes to the history of wine cultivation in Oregon, grape varieties, site and soil preparation, fertilizing, pruning, training systems, irrigation, marketing and vineyard management.
Included are detailed looks at Oregon's wine-growing regions: the Applegate Valley, Rogue Valley, Illinois Valley, Umpqua Valley, Columbia Valley and Willamette Valley, as well as Washington's Walla Walla Valley. Although a few articles may be too technical for the average reader, anyone pondering growing wine grapes needs this book.
The Wild Garden: Expanded Edition
By William Robinson and Rick Darke, $29.95, Timber Press, 2009
I've never seen anything quite like this book. Robinson, an English gardener, originally wrote his classic in 1870, and it was in print for more than 50 years. Robinson was an original advocate for the change from formal to natural-looking gardens in the Victorian era.
Darke is a modern writer who has taken the fifth edition of 1895 and updated it to our modern age.
The first part of the book is Darke's take on Robinson, but Robinson's entire book is included, with original engravings and black-and-white photos. Darke has added color photos to show how the gardens discussed look now.
Great Gardens of America
By Tim Richardson, $50, Francis Lincoln Limited, 2009
Picture books are inspirational in the dead of winter when everything is gray and you start longing for spring. "Great Gardens" is in some ways a typical, large-format, coffee-table book. It is full of awesome photos of 25 of America's most renowned gardens, including Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and California's Filoli. But it is a British book that gives an English gardener's perspective on the uniquely American aspects of these gardens — fascinating.
Personally, I'd like all of these under my Christmas tree.