I have found that there are only a handful of books that are necessary to keep on the bookshelf for home reference. I read a lot, but use the internet, the library and magazine publications to keep up to speed on most things (and free=me not having to get a “real” job). Here is what I keep at home
Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs by Michael Dirr 1997 Timber Press. Although there are a few good guides out there (the new Sibley’s comes to mind as another stellar one) I like Michael’s set-up. His pictures are realistic and some things actually look crappy which is good to know when garden planning, there is also a common name cross reference int he back which is useful for those of us born post Roman Empire
The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants by Bricknell and Zuk 1997 DK publishing. for plant ID can’t be beat. Gives you the lowdown on the botany (leave and flower structure and function)pruning info, propagation techniques, cultivation and use of a huge list of plants, followed by an encyclopedic directory of over 100 pages detailing 15,000 individual plants and great color pics. Also has a common name cross-reference. This is my 2nd most used book
The American Horticultural Society Smart Garden Regional Guide:Northeast (also has editions for the other regions of the country). Number 1 in my personal library for usefulness, this guide breaks down it’s plant , tree and shrub listings by color and cultivation using categories like “shrubs with red or purple foliage” or “trees with salt tolerance”. Genius I tell you! so if you want to plant perennial with gold color foliage, or want to know tall plants with pink flowers this is you go-to book. Beyond useful …indispensible for garden design
(also my book of choice for gifts to fellow gardeners)
The Well Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy Disabato-Aust 2006 Timber Press overall gardening with perennial guide from planning and design to cultivation and disease/pest info followed by an encyclopedia of plants and their use and place in the garden. Her knowledge comes from hands-on experience and the book is nicely laid out and easy to read
Ortho’s Home Gardener’s Problem Solver 2004 Meredith Books from it’s diagnostic checklist to the glossary of horticultural terms, a must have reference for plant disease/pest/cultural problems with one caveat…..use for ID ONLY, !! The pictures and layout of this book make it so easy to identify what is wrong with your plants, but the treatment suggestions are almost all pesticide realted (hint: Ortho is the Scotts company pesticide branch). After ID, do an internet search for an organic or IPM(integrated pest management) way to solve the problem if possible. Spray as a last resort, or take out the plant if necessary.
Because I grow clematis (and by the way think it is the single most under -used plant out there) I have many books on the subject but the two best are:
An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Clematis by Mary Toomey (Everett Leads photos), comprehensive as you can be as to cultivars and species, and cultivation, the phots are gorgeouis and the clematis are listed by alphabetical CULTIVAR name, so you don’t need to guess what species when looking for one , the species are added in the description instead making it very searchable.
Simply Clematis by Edith MAlek: available only through the American Clematis Society website www.clematis.org, no nonsense growing information, clear descriptions, beautiful photos, and presented by a true-blue clematis fan and grower, this book is easy to carry around and ever so useful for mysterious vine ID
Climbers and Wall Plants by Philippa Bensley: most well written and arranged book on vines I can think of. Although I loved Alan Armitage’s book (Vines and Climbers) which I took out from the library, this one is a definite to own. Plants are categorized by growing location (PERFECT) as in shady wall, clay soil etc. then again by their color and bloom times too!! Even this serious and knowledgeabe vine grower found lots to learn about site, size and combinations for my favorite type of plant. AND to make it even better the book is usually only available through used book sellers and cost me about $3.00
Eye candy books are nice to have in the winter and include lots of photos to get you daydreaming. Some faves are:
Gardens of New England by Epstien and Hubley (photos) 2008 Twin Lights publishing. Stunning photographs of public and private gardens all over New England. Great for planning day trips and also for planning massive gardens you can neither afford nor take care of without staff, one of my favorite winter activities
The Garden in Winter by Suzy Bales 2007 Roadale Books speaking of winter, here is a great resource for helping you design a landscape that will carry you throughout the cold dark months from Dec to March. Any book by this author gets the thumbs up from me, I like both her writing style and the fact that she is a hands on gardener
Seasons at Seven Gates Farm 1996 Country Living and Hearst Publishing and Window Boxes Indoors and Out by Mary Sears and Gridley and Graves photography Storey Publishing( in whatever year since they didn’t feel the need to print one)…Both of them follow partners James Cramer and Dean Johnson and their seemingly endless supply of ideas,time and apparantly money on their farm complete with to die for greenhouse, outbuildings galore and gardens and window boxes that span every season with beauty and creativity. Curl up by the fire and dream away, Oh what I could do with all the money we waste on such pesky things as college tuition and children’s shoes.
Current Affairs…in my world that revolves around what is going on on my 1.25 acre, I am sure that CNN and Fox news have something to offer, but really how interesting is that?
Garden to Vase :growing and using your own cut flowers by Linda Beutler Allan Mandell photos 2007 Timber Press At this time of year it is good to know what to do with all the flowers that can sometimes overwhelm my yard. There was a toss up between this book and Suzy Bales “Garden Boquets and Beyond“, but I found the info in this one to be more encompassing and easier to search. I will never condition flowers, seems like a waste when there are so many more out there waiting, but it’s good to know how I could if I wanted to. Also some of the suggestions are a bit out-of-the-box and I like that.
Here would be a good place to put a book on Vegetable gardening, except that I don’t plant them and therefore don’t read about them. There is a lovely farmers market here in town and the growers bring perfectly lovely veggies there I can purchase and never see a tomato horn worm, rotate crops or worry about things such as late blight
This page is a work in progress…..My big ole plan is to add sub-pages to the library, especially in the winter, reviewing books I am reading and hopefully hearing what you might be reading as well. We will see how that goes given my tendancy to get scattered and lazy