Sunday, August 23, 2009

What I Read

“By the time one is eighty, it is said, there is no longer a tug of war in the garden with the May flowers hauling like mad against the claims of the other months. All is at last in balance and all is serene. The gardener is usually dead, of course.”
Henry Mitchell, The Essential Earthman, 1981

Over the years my favorite gardening magazines have been English Gardening, BBC’s Gardeners World, Organic Gardening and Northwest Garden News (the last is available free at most nurseries). I have found the English garden magazines to be the most useful to me for my maritime zone 7-8 (USDA) garden. We can enjoy most if not all of the plants the English do whereby making use of the entire magazine, whereas American gardening magazines write for a variety of zones. For example, Sunset magazine features garden advice for the whole West Coast, so I can only use about 30% of the magazines offerings. Fine Gardening writes for zones across the entire US, giving me even less useful information. I can use all of the British magazine’s articles, even though the magazine is nearly double the cost, it is more cost effective to me and so fun to see the similarities of our regions.

Usually in January, when I can’t do much in the garden, I checkout all the Organic Gardening magazines I can find at the public library. OG is a wealth of info on vegetable gardens and soil health. Northwest Garden News is by local garden authors for the Washington and Oregon area.

Gardening authors who have taught or simply entertained me include Margorie Fish (English), the late Christopher Lloyd (a British treasure), Henry Mitchell (humor), the late Ruth Stout (American humor/practicality) the late Louise Beebe Wilder (fragrance), Ann Lovejoy (garden design and plant care), Steve Solomon (vegetables), Tracy DiSabato-Aust (perennials/pruning). There are so many more, too many to remember or list.

One of the most fun books for me has been Gardeners Latin: A Lexicon by Bill Neal. Don’t let your eyes glaze over yet…it simply explains the Latin botanical name structure and how to make sense of it all. When you buy a plant the label should have its Latin name. We tend to prefer the common name for its ease of use but across the country or world there are too many ‘Bluebells’ - you may not get the right one you saw in your friends garden. The common name bluebells can refer to the spring blooming Hyacinthoides bulb but they also refer to Campanula that bloom in summer, and in Texas they refer to Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflora). Additionally, the English bluebell is different from the Spanish bluebell, one is stout, the other graceful and each with their own botanical name. Having the Latin will ensure the correct purchase. The book also contains numerous little known historical botanical facts. I refer to it a lot. Unfortunately it’s out of print, but available for purchase on-line at used book sales sites. I was excited to find a copy in ‘new’ condition on Amazon.

On the web I refer to often for plant info. You can search by common name or Latin there. Many nurseries and catalog companies have wonderful and informative monthly newsletters. Some of my favorites are Old House Gardens (MI) and Christianson’s Nursery and Greenhouse (WA), both have websites you can sign up on.

When you simply must speak to an expert, locally we have a garden hotline at 206-633-0224. If they don’t have an answer they’ll look it up and call you back!

Lastly, for murderous fiction, author Audry Stallsmith has created Regan Culver. An herbalist and nursery owner who always solves the mystery! A three part series: Rosemary For Remembrance, Marigolds For Mourning and Roses For Regret. Her books are full of herbal lore. Sadly these too are out of print, but used copies are out there. Audry Stallsmith has a great website too,

Happy reading!


sharibecht said...

Hi Joan!

Love the new blog and love your writing style! I can already see that this will be highly informative for people! Way to go!

Have a great week!

Kathy J said...

Now I see what can happen when our amazing trio goes out for a movie! I love it and I am in awe of how beautifully done this is...does this mean you are getting high speed internet? Thanks for the hot line number. You are a valuable source. Keep dishing the dirt! :-) Kathy