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: Build a Better Vegetable Garden

Build a Better Vegetable Garden

Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY projects to improve your harvest by Joyce Russell, photography by Ben Russell

As I’ve mentioned, my raised bed veg garden has not been my garden priority the last couple of years. I’ve just not been paying as much attention to it, part of the reason is that the trees nearby it have grown and are now shading it more than desired part of the day. I really need to relocate it next summer (although I’m also toying with the idea of trying to grow veggies in among the ornamental plants throughout the garden – I have a feeling that critters will eat more than I will with this approach, though). This book has 30 projects for growing veggies in the garden, ranging from plant supports to planter boxes and raised beds, to tool containers and organizers. Each project is rated for difficulty and includes a complete list of required materials and tools. A series of in-process photos are also shown, though not every step is fully illustrated, so some ability to interpret instructions without a visual is required. Ideas for using each item are also given, such as tips for growing particular crops on a plant support. Several of these have me dreaming about the future – I look forward to the day when our trees bear enough fruit to require the apple storage trays!

full disclosure: I borrowed this book from the Van Buren District Library 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: 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


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


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


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


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