A Bouquet of Mini Book Reviews

Garden books tend to come out at two times of the year: when the season is over in fall and just as it begins in early spring.  So, my poor mail carrier has been delivering lots of big packages with books in them recently. I don’t review everything I get, but here are four books worth considering for your collection.

Tauton Press Image
Tauton Press Image

Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love, by Julie Moir Messervy, (Tauton Press, $30). I mentioned this book earlier in a post on naming your garden. In it, Messervy, a designer and co-author of Susan Susanka’s Outside the Not-So-Big House, describes a process home owners should go through as they decide how to landscape their property. Like many garden design books, it’s full of fabulous photos of no doubt fabulously expensive gardens. Unlike most garden design books, Messervy deals with the kinds of problems average gardeners have, such as how to make a home welcoming when the garage is the first thing visitors see. (As the owner of a snout house, this is a pet issue of mine with garden design books. Note to authors and landscapers: People have garages. Please help us deal with them.) If you are starting with a blank canvass or planning a major garden renovation, this book is a great place to start.

Rodale Press Image
Rodale Press Image

Noting the surge in interest in organics and sustainable landscaping, Rodale has revised and reissued its Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, (Rodale Press, $24.95). Checking in at just over 700 pages, this encyclopedia covers everything from animal pests to xeriscaping with an organic approach. Most entries are short plant descriptions, but the encyclopedia offers much more depth on topics such as fertilizer, garden design and greenhouse gardening. Rodale has been writing about organics for 50 years–these are the folks who publish Organic Gardening magazine–so the information is solid.

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Lesslawn.com Image

From titans of the garden publishing world to a lone writer with a passion: Recently, Evelyn J. Hadden sent me a copy of her book, Shrink Your Lawn: Design Ideas for Any Landscape, (Less Lawn Press, $28.99). A Plymouth, MN, gardener and frequent speaker at local gardening events, Hadden offers practical and beautiful ways to reduce the amount of grass on your property. Her argument is that lawns, while a classic element of American landscaping, are costly and unsuitable for many environments and climates. And, there are many parts of your lawn you never go to except to mow–so why not plant something else there? Many of the examples Hadden shows in the book are from the Twin Cities, making her suggestions especially relevant to readers in the Upper Midwest. The book is just under 100 pages long, but for those dedicated to getting rid of at least some of their lawn, it’s well worth reading.

This last book is not new, but you may be able to find it at your local used book shop or library. If you do, grab it, because it is one of the most delightful garden books I’ve read in a long time. Mrs. Greenthumbs: How I Turned a Boring Yard into a Glorious Garden and How You Can, Too, (Three Rivers Press, prices vary) is a march through the gardening year with a hilarious, opinionated guide: Cassandra Danz. I was sorry to read elsewhere that Danz died in 2002, but she left behind a wonderful book full of stories and advice. She’ll tell you how to prune a tree or shrub, how to avoid double digging, and which seven perennials you must have in your garden. Like a good friend, she’ll tell you the garden truths you do not want to hear (In my case, that you really need to have a fence or other form of enclosure to have a truly comfortable garden), and she’ll keep you laughing all the way through. Find it, read it.

Since winter is not giving up its frigid grip just yet, grab a book and settle in for a few more weeks.

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