Books fuel garden planning for the new year

Books fuel garden planning for the new yearBy Terri McAffee   Christmas is behind us, and the gloomy days of winter loom ahead of us yet. The magazine rack is loaded with this year’s catalogs. And the drooling begins.

   But it is too early to really be starting seeds unless you have a greenhouse and are interested in starting perennials for the garden. So how do you fill your time?

   Why not read a garden book to expand your horizons and take the edge off your gardening itch?

   Finding books written with the interior Western gardener in mind is not always easy. I think you’ll find this list of books and the material in them is easily adapted to our gardening needs. I have personally had the pleasure of listening to some of these authors lecture on gardening techniques, and I always went home inspired and ready to tackle my garden. These books will do the same for you.

   The Undaunted Garden by Lauren Springer ought to be on the must read list for every western gardener. She will give you ideas and lists of plants that will thrive in our dry hot summers, survive cold winters and windy springs. If you have always thought that xeriscape landscaping adds up to zero, this author is there to prove you wrong.

   You may not want to change your garden design completely to xeriscape, but you may want to experiment. And that is a beginning to producing gardens that are defined by their location. This new style of garden will fit in with its surroundings and not be mistaken for a garden in England, Virginia or California.

    Springer also gives you resources to help you find plants that fit this style of gardening, which is an invaluable time saver.   The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DeSabato-Aust deals with perennials and how to plant and care for them to get the most from your plants.

   Are you tired of your perennial asters lopping over on their neighbors? Wish your salvia was better behaved and wouldn’t sprawl after the bloom cycle was over? Have you heard that some perennials will produce a second round of bloom if deadheaded appropriately? The Well-Tended Perennial Garden may be just the book that you have been looking for.

   Not only does DeSabato-Aust describe pruning techniques, she also gives you a “chocolate pudding” recipe to provide the ideal soil medium. With this recipe, your quart-sized perennials will produce like a gallon-container plant in average soil in the first year.

   Would you like to bypass the trial and error stage of perennial planting?

   Growing Perennials in Cold Climates by Mike Heger and John Whitman discusses 1,700 varieties of perennials that will survive cold climates. Heger is co-owner of Ambergate Gardens in Chaska, Minnesota and Whitman is a 40-year veteran gardener and garden writer.

   This book will tell you how and when to divide and transplant perennials. If you love to take bouquets of flowers indoors, this book will give you cutting, drying and companion planting advice.

   If you like to have plants that are just a bit different from your neighbors, Heger and Whitman offer sources for hard to find varieties of plants. If you are a plant-aholic, meaning you purchase one plant with the idea that you will propagate it into a drift of plants that fill a whole bed, you’ll find the help you need in this book.

   Are you looking for a good all-around book on perennials with information on how to grow and how to landscape with them?  Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia ofPerennials by Ellen Phillips and Colston Burrell is a wonderful addition to your gardening library.

   This book has one of the better illustrated encyclopedic sections. Photos are in color and the authors give you information on most varieties. This book is extremely accurate in its hardiness zones.

   My original book was a hardbound edition. When it fell apart due to constant thumbing, I replaced it with a softbound edition.

   This book also gives lists of perennials with culture tips, perennials that bloom from seed during their first season, cultivars that come true from seeds and lists of perennials that deer don’t nibble on.

   Christopher Lloyd, an Englishman, authored The Well-Tempered Garden. It is filled with Lloyd’s wit and gardening wisdom. The book has been adjusted to meet our hardiness zones. But what needs no adjustment is the depth of experience and gardening enthusiasm that Lloyd brings to the printed page. I have three or four of his books, but this is my favorite.

   If you have a greenhouse, you should have Shane Smith’s Greenhouse Gardener’s Companion on your bookshelf. This book will help you plan your planting schedule, propagation, layout and greenhouse design.

   The American Horticulture Society Plant Propagation book will give you all the information necessary to increase the number of plants in your garden. You will find the ideal time to take cuttings, what kind to take and how to get them to ‘strike’.

   Happy reading!

   “Perennial” doesn’t mean “eternal.” –Lauren SpringerPublished in Fifty-Plus Living January 2006   I    

Northern Idaho