Gardening became an interest of mine long before I was actually conscious of it. My parents told stories of growing up on farms and of one relative in particular who had an obsession with pansies. This aunt would start pansies from seed each year and then toil endlessly in the garden all summer. She also had heart troubles and would frequently skip out on tasks like laundry or housework in general, yet be out on her hands and knees on the hottest summer day gardening. I kind of respect her approach.
While a child I spent a great deal of time in the outdoors, basically because my mother would tire of me messing up the house and say, “Why don’t you go spend some time outside?” while pushing me out the door. Local swamps and forests became my regular hangouts. At the same time, I developed a love of reading. Eventually these two interests would cross and I started to collect books on gardening.
So, what books shaped my interest in plants? Well, quite a few over the years, but much of my early interest was colored by the PBS series “The Victory Garden.” My parents enjoyed the show and because of this, so did I. Books based on the series eventually entered into my addiction and my full blown horticultural disease was born. There were other books, of course, and many other plants along the way. This post is dedicated to these texts filled with plant knowledge. Unfortunately, many of these books are out of print but they are easily accessible via used bookstores and/or the internet.
1. Masters of the Victory Garden: Specialty Gardeners Share Their Expert Techniques. By Jim Wilson. This book is probably to blame for my interest in daylilies and wildflowers. Each chapter focuses on a specific plant type and the specialists who focus on growing them.
2. Crockett’s Flower Garden. By James Underwood Crockett. Unlike the other Victory Garden book, this one focuses on the flower garden month by month. Annuals, perennials and biennials are all discussed as well as important information such as how to divide perennials. Unfortunately, one of the recommended perennials is purple loosestrife (although the book was originally published in 1981, prior to the loosestrife invasion).
3. Green Trigger Fingers. By John Sherwood. This is the first in a series of horticultural themed murder mysteries. Sherwood worked, and wrote, for the BBC and then started writing a couple series of books. I’m not sure when I first encountered his books, but I was drawn to them for the descriptions of the English countryside as well as for the plant information. They’re all pretty light reading, yet the horticulture is interesting and it’s probably this book I owe an interest in primroses to.
4. Beautiful Madness. James Dodson. This is a more recent book, from 2006, but it sums up extremely well what gardening is and how it impacts people. The author spent many years writing about golf courses, but found time to visit local gardens as well. His own garden in Maine became an obsession and he found himself driven by the “beautiful madness.” Although out of print, this book has a nice entry at his website: http://www.jamesdodsonauthor.com
5. Hardy Roses: An Organic Guide to Growing Frost and Disease Resistant Varieties. By Robert Osbourne and Beth Powning. There’s just something about roses. Unfortunately, that something is often disappointment here in New England. Those perfectly formed Tea roses just don’t enjoy winters in New England all that much. My first attempts with roses met with disaster. This book changed all that, particularly since it lays out planting and pruning extremely clearly. The roses recommended are fantastically tough and this book helped foster my interest in old garden roses, which tend to be more durable and often have fantastic scent.
6. A Small Farm in Maine. By Terry Silber. In this book, the author and her husband leave the world they know behind in order to farm in Maine. Herbs are a major focus of their business and the book details their beginnings and eventual retail shop. This book totally drew me in and I strongly wished I could have done the same. Unfortunately the author passed away in 2003 and the farm itself shut down operations in 2006. They also wrote the book Growing Herbs and Vegetables: From Seed to Harvest, in 1999 although I’ve not read it as of yet.
7. A Year at North Hill: Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden. By Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd. North Hill is an amazing garden and I hope to actually visit it at some point soon. Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd created a garden that challenged the idea that gardening in Vermont was a limited prospect. They used the land well and fully understood their site. Because of this, they managed to get plants to survive through Vermont winters that many said would fail. Not only did the plants survive, the garden expanded and grew into something remarkable. Wayne Winterrowd has passed away and work has begun to turn North Hill into a hybrid botanic garden/learning center. http://www.northhillgarden.com/
8. Landscaping with Herbs. By Jim Wilson. An excellent book for adding herbs to the garden (or to containers). It doesn’t have nitty gritty information about herbs, but instead offers up design ideas. The pictures and suggestions are fantastic and I refer to this book often when looking for ideas.
Hemerocallis “Siloam Frosted Mint.” I encountered this daylily at Tower Hill Botanic Gardens and was immediately taken by the large iridescent yellow flowers. It was quite a robust plant overall and had a number of buds waiting to open. I’m expecting it will end up in my garden at some point.