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

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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

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review: Cut Flower Garden

Cut Flower Garden

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, harvest & arrange stunning seasonal blooms by Erin Benzakein with Julie Chai, photographs by Michele M. Waite

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.

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

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review: The Aromatherapy Garden

The Aromatherapy Garden

The Aromatherapy Garden: Growing fragrant plants for happiness and well-being by Kathi Keville

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.

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

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review: The Quest for Shakespeare’s Garden

Shakespeare's Garden

The Quest for Shakespeare’s Garden by Roy Strong

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.

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Hillsdale College Library via the MeLCat interlibrary loan system

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review: Wildlife in Your Garden

Wildlife in the Garden

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.

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

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ladybug release at Firefly Cottage

We released some beneficial insects in the garden, especially on a few of the apple trees, which seem to be host to some aphids (not a huge infestation yet, thank goodness, but figured we’d nip it in the bud, haha). Here are the ladybugs, which were super active and jumped right to work:

I also put out some lacewing fly eggs, which come packed in sawdust and you place on the tree in little hanging bags so they can emerge on their own when they’re ready.

Lacewing fly eggs in sawdust

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garden update

We survived the flood last weekend pretty well and have no damage to report – we’re lucky! Many others in our town have flooded basements and yards and the local park system got completely flooded, as did several buildings at the University. I was slightly worried that we’d have damage in the gardens, but we fared quite well. A few things are droopier than they were before, but I’ve used some small wrought iron garden fencing bits that were left by the previous owner to prop them up, which is working fine. Here’s a quick update (filmed and edited on my iPod – pretty decent for the first try at that!):

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review: Heirloom Country Gardens

Heirloom Country Gardens

Heirloom Country Gardens: Timeless Treasures for Today’s Gardens by Sarah Wolfgang Heffner

I was excited to snag this book for my garden collection. Heirloom plants? I’m in! Country gardens? I’m in! Cute cover with hand-drawn illustrations of pea pods? I’m super in. There’s a ton of great info here, as well as plenty of inspiration in the form of photos of other people’s gardens. I love to be able to see various plants growing in combination, especially in settings where they’ve had time to get established. Also included are lovely watercolor plans for various garden designs, each accompanied by a chart listing the plants along with the quantity needed to create the illustrated plan and notes for spacing and on particular aspects of each plant (“may go dormant by midsummer,” “often self-sows.”) The second section details vegetables, providing origin, classifications, growing info, how to save seed, and a handful of heirloom selections. Subsequent chapters focus on heirloom flowers, herbs, and fruits, including special features, history, and growing info for each. The final chapters provide more general information about creating and maintaining healthy, happy gardens, as well as some projects and recipes that will be at home in an heirloom garden or use the fruits of your garden labor.

full disclosure: I bought this book for a quarter at a rummage sale

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review: Rock Gardening

Rock Gardening

Rock Gardening: Reimagining a classic style – gardens – techniques – plants by Joseph Tychonievich

Reducing water use is an increasingly popular topic as relates to gardening and landscaping. Though this author lives in Michigan, he traveled to a variety of locations in the United State and United Kingdom to explore rock gardens in a variety of climates. Many of these featured gardens are quite large and contain both rock and traditional gardens, but the focus here is on the former. Color photographs highlight both wide shots and close-ups of particular plantings. The second section focuses on techniques including constructing rock gardens in various styles, preparing and maintaining the soil, choosing containers, knowing your climate, and obtaining and propagating plants. The third and final portion of the book is a list of types and genii that are generally suited to rock gardens, such as cacti, campanulas, dianthus, sempervivums, and more. Several pages of description and color photographs are provided for each.

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

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