The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

A Gardener's Wish List of Books

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Gardeners have fertile minds. We spend as much time gardening in our heads as we spend gardening in our gardens. As with all good gardens, real or imagined, sometimes we need to add a little fertilizer. Garden books abound to ensure a bountiful brain. After all as philosopher Cicero declared, "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."

Consider these stimulating books for your garden library:

Trowel and Error: Over 700 Tips, Remedies and Shortcuts for the Gardener by Sharon Lovejoy is an amusing and informative book. Her Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children, is a classic book for gardening with human sprouts.

Do you ponder life's questions such as, do coffee grounds really perk up plants? If you are interested in the research behind the remedies and the commonly repeated "rules" of gardening, check out The Informed Gardener by Linda Chalker-Scott, Washington State University Extension horticulturalist. Another good one along the same lines is The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why by Jeff Gillman Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota.

All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew is the updated version of how to fit more garden into less space.

The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener by Eliot Coleman is a bountiful read. He also wrote Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long. Coleman gardens in Maine so the phrase "all year long" has added meaning.

UI publication Vegetable Gardening in the Midwest by C.E. Voigt and J.S. Vandemark is a "must have" for people who prefer to eat their landscapes. https://pubsplus.uiuc.edu/ Cruise the website for many other garden books.

For the flower gardener helpful authors include Tracy DiSabato-Aust, Janet Macunovich, Allan Armitage and Colston Burrell.

The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust details how to care for specific perennial flowers. The revised edition has a few more lists and forms for journals; however, the original version has all the meat. Her book, The Well-Designed Mixed Border, guides novice or seasoned gardener on the mechanics of combining all those well-tended plants into effective designs. Her new book 50 High-Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants offers noteworthy plant selections.

Janet Macunovich has an easy to understand style in both her books: Caring for Perennials and Design your Gardens and Landscapes. She is one of our great speakers for Garden Day 2010, March 26 and 27.

Allan Armitage is a plant guru with a southern accent. His books include Herbaceous Perennial Plants, Armitage's Annuals, Biennials, and Half-Hardy Perennials, Armitage's Garden Annuals, and Armitage's Native Plants for North American Gardens.

New to garden design? Colston Burrell gives specific information in his book Perennial Combinations.

For tree lovers, look for books by former UI professor Michael A. Dirr. We still love him even though he jumped ship for University of Georgia. His books include Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (literally the textbook for identification and use of woody plants) now in its sixth edition, Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs, and Hydrangeas For American Gardens. His book Viburnums: Flowering Shrubs for Every Season is a must for any landscaper or garden designer.

The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander is hilarious. It's more on what-not-to-do than what-to-do, but any gardener will see a bit of themselves as they travel with Alexander on his journey into garden mania.

Here's to the gardener! To paraphrase Beard and McKie from their Gardener's Dictionary: "Gardeners are charity minded individuals who nurture vast numbers of free outdoor restaurants in an effort to provide healthful, well-balanced meals for insects, birds, and animals."

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