For some it’s the sight of roses bursting into bloom or the taste of freshly picked asparagus that signals spring has finally arrived. For me, spring is officially here when the postman begins delivering a steady stream of new gardening books to my mailbox. Here’s a roundup of some of the season’s best:
First up is Fine Foliage: Elegant Plant Combinations for Garden and Container (2013 St. Lynn’s Press) by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, with principal photography by Ashley deLatour. While I find myself learning from a range of gardening books, those that focus on design usually speak to me the most. Newly minted authors Karen and Christina have an eye for combining foliage textures and colors that will leave you wondering why you ever bothered with flowers in the first place. Of note is the book’s innovative and appealing layout: on one page, we’re invited to “meet the players” via a small photo and brief description of two or three plants that combine well. On the facing page, a large color photograph shows how the plants look together.
With whimsical names like “Sunset Shades” and “Rich and Regal,” plant combinations are included for a range of cultural conditions, making this appropriate for different climates. A greater range of plants is listed for more temperate USDA zones, however, even those in colder or harsher desert climates will benefit from the advice on how to combine foliage effectively, and can easily substitute plants from their area. While all gardeners should find this book useful and entertaining, the three plant format lends itself particularly well to container gardening.
A follow-up to last year’s inspiring 50 Mile Bouquet (read my review here), Slow Flowers: Four Seasons of Locally Grown Bouquets from the Garden, Meadow and Farm by Debra Prinzing represents a departure from the author’s journalistic style as she assumes a more personal how-to approach, explaining how she created 52 weeks of seasonal bouquets. If the term “slow flowers” is new to you, the introduction explains that it represents “a cultural shift in consumer attitudes toward local, seasonal and sustainably-grown flowers.” Both more practical and (I think) more beautiful than a traditional book on flower arranging, Slow Flowers is organized by the four seasons—the flower-equivalent of a seasonal cookbook, and is an idea whose time has come.
Arrangements utilize both locally sourced flowers and foliage, as well as plants from Debra’s own garden. Slow Flowers succeeds both as inspirational eye-candy and practical how-to, with specific instructions in creating a range of unique and artful arrangements. As with Fine Foliage, the small size, accessible topic and attractive layout that emphasizes high-quality photography make this an excellent gift book.
If you are a fan of gardening memoirs, be sure to check out Apprentice to a Garden: A new urban gardener goes wild (2013 LessLawn Press) by Evelyn Hadden. Part memoir and part garden essay, it tells the story of how Evelyn transformed her “lifeless urban lawn” into a garden overflowing with plants over the course of four years. Originally published in 2005, the book has been updated with 19 black and white drawings by artist Shari Zimmerman.
I am a great admirer of Evelyn’s writing style (find my review of her 2012 bestseller Beautiful No-Mow Yards here) and this book makes for an entertaining read, despite the lack of full-color photos we garden book fans are so fond of. Passionate gardeners will see themselves reflected in Evelyn’s story, as she writes: “I wanted to feel my garden, to interact with it, not just observe it.”
Stay tuned: Future reviews include two book being released in the next month: Succulents Simplified: Growing, Designing, and Crafting with 100 Easy-Care Varieties by succulent expert Debra Baldwin and Indoor Plant Decor: The Design Stylebook for Houseplants by Kylee Baumle and Jenny Peterson.
Review copies of Fine Foliage and Apprentice to a Garden were given to me by the publisher, however, all opinions expressed are my own.