Great garden books for winter reading

Winter's a great time to catch up on your reading. Here are nine recommendation's of great garden books

If you'd like your landscape to resemble Coton Manor Gardens in England, winter's a good time to read some good garden books that give you ideas for achieving your goal.

Landscape and gardening books are handy sources of inspiration that make perfect holiday gifts for the gardener on your list. Here is a selection of the best works from this year's bumper crop of books:

"American Horticultural Society New Encyclopedia of Gardening Techniques: The Indispensable Illustrated Practical Guide" edited by David J. Ellis, Fiona Gilsenan, Rita Pelczar and Graham Rice (Mitchell Beazley, 2009). This is a must have for gardeners and landscape designers. This book presents an organized approach to property care, including basic horticultural guidelines, wildlife, ornamentals, vegetables, herbs, fruit, lawns, aquatics and containers. It features step-by-step color illustrations of landscaping tasks and 200 full-color photographs. Hardcover, 480 pages. $45.

"The Bizarre and Incredible World of Plants" by Wolfgang Stuppy, Rob Kessler and Madeline Harley (Firefly Books, 2009). The authors leverage the power of microscopes to enlarge tiny bits of plant material to fill entire pages in this photo anthology. Seen in a larger than life fashion, pollens and seeds become complete life forms with unique purposes. The photography and text convey a wealth of information about the organisms responsible for our plant world. Hardcover, 144 pages. $29.95

"Fragrant Designs" is the latest Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) All-Region Guide, part of the award-winning gardening handbook series that has been published continuously since 1945. The booklet presents a general overview of scents, and their effect in the garden, offering sections on capturing fragrance for garden designs. To subscribe to the series, call 718-623-7200 or visit Paperback, 119 pages. $9.95,

"Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" sixth edition, by Michael A. Dirr (Stipes Publishing, 2009). The author's works are known to serious gardeners and landscape professionals around the world. I have used Dirr's books for more than 25 years, and this latest 5 1/2-pound volume is his most complete compilation of woody ornamentals. It offers thorough information about shrubs and trees to help you decide on the right plants for a site. 1,325 pages. $76.80 soft cover, $96.80 hardback

"Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love" by Julie Moir Messervy (the Taunton Press, 2009). One of the nation's preeminent landscape designers, Messervy guides readers through six of what she calls "pleasure principles." In a text rich in landscape ideas, she illustrates how you can create your own "pleasure ground." Hardcover, 249 pages. $30

"Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture" second edition, by Toby Hemenway (Chelsea Green, 2009). This book explores ways to create energy-efficient designs by making good use of sun, wind, vegetation and land contours in urban and country settings. The term permaculture refers to creating sustainable landscapes, homes and workplaces based on ecological principles. It clearly and concisely covers most aspects of environmentally friendly horticultural design, including energy analyses, design process, water use, wildlife and plant use. Paperback, 313 pages. $29.95

"Waking Up in Eden" by Lucinda Fleeson (Algonquin, 2009) is the biographical story of Fleeson's adventure living on the edge of a threatened natural environment in rural Kauai, Hawaii. After 20 years as a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, she sold her home and left her job to work at the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Fleeson takes readers on her explorations of the island, especially its plant life, as she learns that native plants are rapidly disappearing and invasive species are taking over. Paperback, 320 pages. $23.95

"Wicked Plants" by Amy Stewart (Algonquin, 2009) is a fascinating, albeit morbid, nonfiction account of the dangers of poisonous plants. This easy-to-read book can fit in your pocket and provides a trove of information that could save your life. Hardcover, 235 pages. $18.95

"Birds of Eastern North America: A Photographic Guide" by Paul Sterry & Brian E. Small (Princeton University Press, 2009) is the ultimate handbook to accompany you in the field or while bird watching at home. Paperback, 336 pages. $18.95

Joel M. Lerner is president of Environmental Design in Capitol View Park, Md., and author of "Anyone Can Landscape"(Ball 2001). Contact him through his Web site,

Editor’s note: For more on gardening, see the Monitor’s main gardening page, which offers articles on many gardening topics. Also, check out our blog archive and our RSS feed. You may want to visit Gardening With the Monitor on Flickr. Take part in the discussions and get answers to your gardening questions. If you join the group (it’s free), you can upload your garden photos and enter our contests.

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