More great garden books

Garden writers recommend more of the books that really impressed them in the past year.

Sierra Club Books
Rosalind Creasy's new book, 'Edible Landscaping,' is a beautiful and practical guide to a philosophy of gardening that takes vegetables, fruits, and herbs out of the backyard and makes them the stars of the landscape.

Are you looking for an outstanding garden book, one that's a keeper and you refer to over and over?

I asked some of my fellow garden writers to recommend the best garden books they read last year. (Click here to read the first part of this discussion, which is filled with even more recommendations.)

Mentors in the garden and in life

“My favorite is ‘Mentors in the Garden of Life’ by Colleen Plimpton ($16.95, paperback, Park East Press)," says Martha Stoodley, who blogs at All the Dirt on Gardening.

“It is a series of short stories about family, friends, life, plants, and how they all tie together over the course of a lifetime. Really, it's soulful and delicious.”

If you’d like to see what others think, Martha also provided a link to the Amazon reviews of “Mentors in the Garden of Life.”

And here’s a You Tube video of Colleen reading from the book.

Dan Clost, who writes the Good Earth column for a Canadian newspaper and is the author of “Take Time: Reflections for Gentle Reader,” also recommends “Mentors in The Garden of Life.” In fact, he calls it his “favorite read” of the year.

" ‘Mentors in the Garden of Life’ is different from any gardening book I have read,” he says. “The pages are filled with the people who colored Colleen's life with the love of gardening. This is a testimony that graces the folks who passed on gardening knowledge, mostly, to her from the earliest days 'til present.

“One of Colleen's abilities is the knack of bringing these people to life, so much so that their personages form in your mind so clearly that you might have a conversation with them.”

'Thoughtful Gardening'

Along with several writers in yesterday’s post, Carolyn Ulrich, editor of Chicagoland Gardening magazine, recommends “Robin Lane Fox's book “Thoughtful Gardening” (Basic Books, $29.95). “His short essays are interesting, informative, and based on 40 years of gardening, writing, and traveling to gardens around the world,” she says.

“While I was taken aback by his negative opinions of some environmentalists and organic gardeners, I think he is mainly reacting to starry-eyed enthusiasm that can be based more on wishful thinking than evidence. The book is ‘thoughtful,’ and it does encourage us all to think more cogently about our own positions.”

Click here to see a wonderful video of Mr. Fox’s garden and hear him talk about gardening.

Shrubs and vines for your garden

“As someone who has purchased shrubs from the Gosslers [Gossler Farms Nursery] for probably close to two decades, I loved their first book, "The Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs: More than 350 Expert Choices for Your Garden" by Roger Gossler, Eric Gossler and Marjory Gossler (Timber Press, $34.95),” says Betty Earl, who regularly blogs here at Diggin’ It.

“For all those years, I have enjoyed their casual, but always information-laden catalogs. So I was thrilled when these very practical, experience driven descriptions gleaned in the catalogs were expanded to their 350 favorite shrubs, in book form,” she says.

“The book has, as most books usually do, advice about the care and maintenance of shrubs, plant categories, and lessons learned from people's gardens. The A to Z plant profiles of the 350 favorite shrubs include the best characteristics of each shrub, the height and spread, and optimum growing conditions; all this accompanied by colorful photographs of the shrubs.

“However, for me, the highlight of the book,” she adds, “is in the introductory chapters, especially in one titled ‘How Not to Kill Your Plants,’ which gives plenty of advice on how to select, buy, plant, and nurture the new ‘shrubby children.’ How can the reader not love such sage advice as, ‘Finally, don't be afraid to ask a grower how they raised the plants you are about to buy. Consider it an open adoption: You want to know about the birth parents, what neighborhood the plant came from, whether drugs were involved, and so on. These simple questions can affect the ultimate survival of any purchase.’ "

"I'd like to recommend "Armitage's Vines and Climbers" (Allan Armitage, Timber Press, $29.95) as a top book of 2010, one that's been needed for a long time," says Sharon Thompson, well-known South Carolina garden writer and speaker.

"It's full of excellent advice delivered in Armitage's usual humor on a plant category that seems so benign at first planting, but can turn on you in the proverbial blink of an eye. He covers the good, bad, and ugly of vineage, introducing little known but well-behaved substitutions for some of Vinelands worst thugs. Suitable for all levels of gardeners."

'Edible Landscaping'

Cathy Wilkinson Barash, who’s written some outstanding books of her own, including “Edible Flowers from Garden to Palate,” made a to-the-point comment: “Of course, I think Ros Creasy’s 'Edible Landscaping' (Sierra Club Books, $39.95) was a great new book last year."

She’s talking about the new edition of "The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping," originally published in 1982, which became a classic that showed gardeners that growing food didn’t have to take place in the backyard or be strictly utilitarian.

Calling this book a revision does it an injustice. This book is all new – and waiting to show a new generation of gardeners that they can have a gorgeous garden and eat it too, as Ros says.

Also a big fan of “Edible Landscaping” is Nan Sterman, garden designer, TV host, and speaker who blogs at Plant Soup and is the author of “California Gardener's Guide Vol. II” and “Waterwise Plants for the Southwest.”

“Ros Creasy's new ‘Edible Landscaping’ gets my vote, hands down,” Nan says. “It is without a doubt the most beautiful book I've ever seen, and one of the most important books of the year. Her first edition jump-started a revolution in gardening back in the early 1980s. This new edition will have an even bigger impact as a whole new generation is primed for exactly what it offers.

“And, in the intervening years,” she adds, “Ros has become the consummate photographer and writer. The book is fabulous.”

I agree that the book is fabulous and will have a more detailed review next week, so you’ll know just why you need to own this gorgeous book.


Judy Lowe is a long-time garden writer and blogger. Her latest book, about how to create many different types of herb theme gardens, has just been published.

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