Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter Reading

It’s not actually winter here – that official date is still 9 days away.  Yet the cold weather has been intense (and long) enough to make me feel like I’m already there.  Perhaps we’ll catch a break and warm up at some point, but until then I’ve got to think like it’s winter.  And that means staying inside.

I find reading to be a great cold weather activity.  All spring, summer and fall I am too busy to read – too busy being outside!  Here are some of my favorite gardening books and why.


Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy is the one that has impressed me the most in the last few years.  I got it during the 2007 winter holiday, and I think it is time to read it again.  Re-reading books often brings out new insights and perspectives because you are not the same person that read it the first time.

This book is a very “easy” read – entertaining, informative, and easy to follow from one chapter to the next.  I would say that for the last 3 years it has been the single most effective book in explaining why native plants are important.  People all over the country are reading this book and smacking their heads while thinking: “Of course, it all makes perfect sense now!” Here is a book review that I wrote on it for the native plant society.

Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides
 









Viburnums by Michael Dirr is both a reference book and a fabulous collection of beautiful pictures.  The book includes both native and non-native viburnums, so just skip past the non-natives, ok?  The species are in alphabetical order and include photographs of flowers, fruit, foliage (summer and fall in many cases) as well as overall habit.  Personal comments about plants in his Georgia garden are provided for the species that he grows - a plus for those of us that live in the South.



 Not a picture book, but a really cool reference is The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists by Lois Trigg Chaplin.  This book covers Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals, Vines, Ferns, Groundcovers and more.  

The best part of this book is the organization: Trees for Wet Sites, Perennials that Bloom in Winter, Perennials for Heavy Clay Soil, Shrubs that do well in Deep Shade … list after list of problem solving ideas.  Not all plants are native, but you can use those ideas to research which ones ARE native.




Lobelia cardinalis seedling
What is more inspiring in winter than the thought of seedlings and new growth?   The carefully tended seeds in tiny peat pots under grow lights ... actually,  I mostly rely on Mother Nature - look at this little guy just poking his way through that clay soil!  It's a regular miracle that he made it.

One of my favorite books in this category is Making More Plants by Ken Druse.  Well organized, well written, good pictures … this book covers it all: sowing seeds, cuttings, layering, grafting, division and more.  

And for those of you that have all these books already, consider the latest native plant book for Southern folk: Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens by Gil Nelson.  There is hardly anyone more qualified than Gil to write this book.  It is a beautiful collection of plants, photographs, stories and ideas.

If you still want more ideas, peruse this reading list on the GNPS website. Many of the books have reviews by members posted there.  The list is divided into 4 categories (Native Plants, Restoration, Propagation, and Wildlife Gardening) or you can choose to print out the entire list.  If you are in need of gift ideas, it is a good place to start!

Magazines are also candidates for review during the winter.  During the other seasons, I flip through them quickly, not always reading each article, so going back to them in the winter is nice.  Some of the ones I like:

  • “The American Gardener”, the magazine of the American Horticultural Society comes only every other month and covers more than natives, but they have had some excellent articles on natives (including a two-part series by Gil Nelson on native hollies).

  • “Tipularia”, the annual journal of the Georgia Botanical Society arrives in December, just in time for winter reading!  You must be a member to receive this publication, but they sell back copies of it at meetings for $10 each.  Each journal contains 5-6 detailed articles about plants and plant-related topics.  It is worth the price of admission: http://www.gabotsoc.org/

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