Gardeners looking for inspiration in the form of color photos will not be disappointed here. Martin focuses on each of the five senses as she moves through the four seasons, picking out favorite plants and parts of the garden (including earth and creatures) for each combination. She tells this story from her own first-person perspective with a cordial, friendly tone, which really draws you through and makes you want to find out what she’ll focus on next. She even finds things to appreciated during an East Coast winter!
full disclosure: reviewed from a NetGalley digital copy
The Front Yard Forager: Identifying, collecting, and cooking the 30 most common urban weeds by Melany Vorass Herrera
Foraging sounds neat, doesn’t it? Like, we all want to be self-sufficient and as an apocalypse (zombie or otherwise) seems just around the corner, it would pay to be able to find food anywhere. This book provides some history on how the western world has defined weeds, the ways in which urban and suburban landscaping has changed over time (the rise of the lawn, among other things), and things to keep in mind (personal safety while foraging, environmental pollution, and local regulations, etc.). Plants are grouped by where they’re likely to be found (lawns, vacant lots, and so forth). Each edible weed is described and a few recipes featuring that plant are provided. Most of the illustrations are monotone, which is a shame as they’d be much more useful if they were in color. There is a color insert, but I wish it were color throughout. The final chapter outlines poisonous weeds that are common to urban areas. I’ve eaten a few of the plants included here, like purslane, and they were fine, but on the whole I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I’m adventurous enough to try things as I’m pulling them out of the garden.
I’ve been interested in and working on reducing lawns for years. When we lived downstate, I mulched our entire front yard and made it a native plants garden (RIP, awesome garden, which we had to have sod laid over when we sold the house). Now we’ve replaced some areas of the yard with clover and are working to get rid of the rest of the lawn eventually. We live on a double lot and there is a LOT of lawn to cover, so it’s going to take a while. This book provides plant profiles of ornamental edibles and some plants we don’t usually think of as edible but which can be (sunflowers, lavender). It also contains design guidance for creating curb appeal, a handful of sample designs you could use or adapt, and information about clearing your current lawn and maintaining your new non-lawn garden. The focus here is on creating gardens rather than replacing grass with groundcovers that don’t need mowing.
Vertical Gardening: Grow up, now out, for more vegetables and flowers in much less space by Derek Fell
Using less space is not really a huge concern for me right now as I try to fill up our yard of lawns with gardens. We’ve got plenty of room! But I do want to include height for interest and to create different garden spaces (or rooms, as seems to be today’s preferred nomenclature), so I’m interested in vertical. Chapters outline types of plants including vegetables, fruits, and ornamental annual and perennial vines, as well as covering types of vertical supports and some gardening basics like seed starting and composting. This book is heavy on information and light on visual inspiration, as it is sadly another book with monotone photos throughout and only a few color pages.
Garden Revolution: How our landscapes can be a source of environmental change by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher
This title really appealed to me. I am for sure all about designing our garden to support the environment and am always keen to learn more about how to do that. Lucky for me, the ways that Weaner and Christopher recommend doing this fall right in line with my lazy gardening philosophy. There’s lots of surface-sowing, use of native plants, creating/encouraging plant communities, and minimal need for watering and weeding. The focus is on working with what nature wants to do, rather than fighting it. In everything here, the goal is for self-sufficiency, which makes for stronger plants and for reduced workload for the humans. There are also lots of large color photographs, both wide shots and close-ups, which provide inspiration and ideas for things I might do in my own garden. Many of the gardens featured here are expansive prairies and meadows but smaller gardens are also included. Seed lists and resources are provided.
A small garden is not really the challenge I’m facing these days (my issue is how to turn our huge lawn into a big garden) but there is a lot of great info here that applies regardless of your space. Much of this book is devoted to the part of gardening that happens before you actually do any gardening: planning. There is much encouragement for letting go of preconceived notions and using other gardens as inspiration, as well as finding creative ways to achieve goals like creating privacy, growing food, and many others. Willburn’s friendly, conspiratorial tone invites the reader to connect with the ideas and images – just as Willburn tells us “why garden porn is good,” the photos here provide inspiration and ideas for the reader’s own space. This book is fun to read as well as informational.
I have not done much with cut flowers. I love growing flowers in the garden, but I’ve usually just left them where they grow rather than cutting them to come inside. I do enjoy cut flowers in the house, though, so I’d like to be able to grow enough to have them inside without denuding the garden. This book starts from scratch with information about testing your soil and designing your garden. It then moves in to work by season, starting with spring including tasks, things that bloom in that season, and projects (mostly arrangements). For me, the best use of this book is as a guide to what blooms when and what combinations will look nice. I definitely want to keep adding things to our gardens so that we have blooms throughout the seasons and this will help me make a list of future additions.
I haven’t really explored the concept of aromatherapy before, but I definitely like to grow fragrant plants and find it satisfying to walk through the garden and smell them around me. This book starts off with some history of the use of fragrant plants and the basics of essential oils. Annoyingly there are a few comments that put me off, such as, “Primrose contains a trace of cinnamon scent, which is favored by men,” and “what women do not care for is the scent of cherry.” Really, though? Did you find some peer-reviewed data that prove this to be true? There are references to studies, but no specifics and I find these kind of generalities difficult to believe. This makes me skeptical of the other claims contained in this book, so I ended up using it as inspiration via the lovely color photos of plants and gardens and as a source for making a list of fragrant plants I might want to grow.
Shakespeare is already a romanticized figure, but thinking about his garden is, if possible, even more so. This book is lovely, with a sturdy cover that looks ready to age gracefully (like a book you’d find and know just by holding it that it contained valuable information) and thick pages with full-color illustrations from a variety of historical sources dating back to 1616. Strong explores the world of nature, the Victorian language of flowers, garden history, and more as relate to Shakespeare and his works. The combination of illustrations, highlighted quotes, and informative text create a nicely balanced work as easily read start to finish as flipped through casually. Also includes Francis Bacon’s ‘Of Gardens’ essay. Fully indexed and with a detailed list of illustration sources.
I am super interested in attracting wildlife to our gardens. My milkweed patch is bigger than it was last year, which makes me super happy, and I’m definitely seeing a lot of pollinators and so far I’ve seen a monarch on two occasions! I feel like I have a lot of room to make our gardens even more welcoming, though, especially for non-bug wildlife. This book starts with three steps to create a wildlife-welcoming garden:
1. stop using pesticides
2. replace nonnative lawn with native plants
3. watch and enjoy
I’m all over all three of these! We already don’t use any pesticides and are working to replace the lawn with clover (and eventually more of it will be garden beds rather than clover, but it’s a process). Various types of insects are detailed here with a focus on the work they do in the garden. Fireflies, (AKA Lightning Bugs – which are beetles, so Lightning Bugs might actually be a less inaccurate name, but we’re still calling our house Firefly Cottage) for instance, are not only neat but are predators of soft-bodied larvae like slugs, snails, and worms. Not that we don’t want ANY of those in the garden, but they need to be kept in check. And I’d prefer to keep slugs to a minimum, which herps (short for herpetofauna: frogs and toads, speaking of which, did you know that toads are a type of frog? I didn’t!) can help with as well, as outlined here. I’d love to have a pond or something for amphibians to live in, but I really haven’t figured out a good way/place to do that yet. Maybe down the road! Birds are also big in this book and are another area I’d like to address more in our gardens. My future shrub hedge will provide a good place for some birds to nest but I wouldn’t mind providing some bird houses and/or nesting boxes as well. There’s even more information here about making habitats for bats, squirrels (we have no shortage of those!), and other creatures. This is a book I’ll for sure come back to as our gardens continue to develop.