review: The Magic of Children’s Gardens

The Magic of Children's Gardens

The Magic of Children’s Gardens: Inspiring through creative design by Lolly Tai

Who doesn’t love the idea of a whimsical garden that delights all ages? This book showcases 19 children’s and discovery gardens from all over the United States. For each garden, it provides details of the goal, concept, and design the garden’s creators started with, along with a guide to key areas and a list of plants used. Also listed is contact information and some stats such as size. Accompanying all this information are sketches and design images from the conceptual and planning stages of the garden’s creation, as well as color photographs of the garden at present. There’s lots of good inspiration here for most any gardener, even if you’re not planning something on the scale of these large projects.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Lapeer District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


review: Sound and Scent in the Garden

Sound and Scent in the Garden

Sound and Scent in the Garden edited by D. Fairchild Ruggles

This book is a collection of essays (some of which are indistinguishable from full-on journal articles) on the experience of being in an intentionally designed outdoor space, with a specific focus on sound and smell. Most of the contributors are academics, but the essays are not all as dry as you might fear. (They do all include full citation lists as you’d expect.) Many illustrations are included as part of the writing, some of which are photographs of gardens as they currently exist, others of which are historical artwork and diagrams that relate to the subject matter. This isn’t a light read by any means, but works well as a ‘dip in and out’ book – read the essay(s) that suit your interest and move on. If nothing else, gardeners will find inspiration in the illustrations.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from Michigan State University via the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


review: The Flower Book

The Flower Book

The Flower Book: Let the beauty of each bloom speak for itself – natural flower arrangements for your home

Fans of flowers will be delighted with the full color photos in this large book. Step by step instructions are provided for creating professional-looking cut flower arrangements and bouquets. Recommended specific flowers are profiled, including a wealth of information in addition to a huge close-up color photo. These flowers are listed individually and then several are used to create a mixed-flower arrangement. Even as someone who appreciates flowers almost exclusively where they grow in the garden, there is a ton of inspiration here – from which flowers might look good together to the facts about the plants themselves.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Grand Rapids Public Library via the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


review: Indoor Edible Garden

Indoor Edible Garden

Indoor Edible Garden: Creative ways to grow herbs, fruit, and vegetables in your home by Zia Allaway

Who doesn’t want to have fresh plants to eat all year round? I for sure do! I have to admit that my raised bed garden has gone neglected the last couple of years – I keep planting, but then I get caught up with other parts of the garden and other projects and end up ignoring the raised bed. This doesn’t bode super well for my success growing things indoors, but perhaps if I were focused on it when the rest of the garden is asleep for the winter, I might do better. This book goes from start to finish, so you can start with finding the best growing spots in your home based on access to light and areas that tend to be cooler than average and go all the way through to harvest. As you might guess, choice of containers and soils is also important and are included here as well. The beautiful photos of flourishing houseplants are inspiring and will have you imagining your own indoor edible garden and the meals you could make from it.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Lenawee District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


review: The Garden in Every Sense and Season

The Garden in Every Sense and Season

The Garden in Every Sense and Season by Tovah Martin, photographs by Kindra Clineff

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


review: The Front Yard Forager

Front Yard Forager

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.

Full disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Library


review: The Edible Front Yard

Edible Front Yard

The Edible Front Yard: The mow-less, grow-more plan for a beautiful, bountiful garden by Ivette Soler

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.

Full disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local Chippewa River District Library


review: Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening

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.

Full disclosure: I borrowed this book from my local Chippewa River District Library


review: Garden Revolution

Garden Revolution

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.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Capital Area District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system


review: Big Dreams, Small Garden

Big Dreams, Small Garden

Big Dreams, Small Garden: A Guide to creating something extraordinary in your ordinary space by Marianne Willburn

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.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Van Buren District Library through the MeLCat interlibrary loan system