Entries in garden book reviews (21)

Thursday
Apr252013

Joseph and His Plants of Many Colors

Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener, Joseph Tychonievich, Timber Press.

When I learned that garden writing colleague, Joseph Tychonievich, had published his first book, I felt both joy and sadness. The joy I experienced was a culmination of several years of watching this young scientist’s career blossom – literally – before my eyes.  

The sadness arose when I realized that I did not have the academic credentials to give his work, on plant breeding for the home gardener, the review it deserved. That is why it makes me happy anytime someone else reviews the book. 

A few years ago, while in a post-graduate program at university, Joseph began a garden blog. He wrote his posts in an effortless and entertaining manner. On his site, he used words-  as a cartoonist uses pen and ink - to deliver his thoughts and feelings into the imagination of his readers. For a scientist, that is a remarkable and enviable talent.

Through his posts, I felt his enthusiasm for his chosen field and was inspired by his vibrant approach both to gardening and to life itself. Even now, his deceptively simple yet original use of language, both in his blog posts and on Facebook, allow readers to feel his pulse and share in the adrenaline racing through his body.

Eventually, just as cream rises to the surface of milk, Joseph attracted the attention of Timber Press who offered him a book contract. I was not surprised.

In short, Joseph is a natural born communicator who leaves his readers smiling. His enthusiasm for all things botanical is palpable in almost everything he writes. He has an original voice and uses it effectively. With simple words to create powerful imagery, he has created an endearing style of writing that reveals a warm, joy-filled personality. His followers can’t help but grow fond of him even if they have never met him in person.

This month, on behalf of his association with Arrowhead Alpine Plants, Joseph brought a collection of spring flowering plants to Detroit Garden Works, the design studio of Deborah Silver. His display was so colorful, that it inspired Ms. Silver, who usually features conservative-colored plant compositions, to share Joseph's vivid choices in a photo-essay on her blog, Dirt Simple.

From the moment he appeared online, Joseph attracted the eager attention of gardeners, bloggers, writers, and horticultural professionals. He impressed Timber Press to add him to their roster of authors and inspired Deborah Silver to illustrate her blog with richly colored images.  

He brings a smile to the faces of his fans and so moves those who have met him that some wish he were part of their family. Joseph is a reminder that if one chooses a career out of passion, every day can be a celebration of life.

Recently, I was pleased to discover that horticulturist Geri Laufer has written a glowing review of his first publication. Echoing my sentiments and in her words:-

“The author’s gift is to present the technical world of plant breeding so simply and in such a captivating manner that anyone can understand it—and everyone will want to try it. After all, it’s like making chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.”

Ms. Laufer has described the essence of a talented scientist-communicator who is able to make plant breeding as enjoyable as baking cookies. Few garden writers touch people’s hearts as deeply and effectively as Joseph does. That is why his book deserves our attention. 

                                

Saturday
Apr132013

Yoga Positions for Gardeners, a book review

Gardener’s Yoga - Bend & Stretch, Dig & Grow. Veronica D’Orazio, Sasquatch Books.

Essentially, this delightful little manual demonstrates how yoga can help combat the common aches and pains associated with otherwise pleasurable gardening chores.

In this cheerfully illustrated handbook, the author suggests a series of yoga poses that help prepare our bodies for our favorite hobby, protect our limbs from surprising strains, and soothe our muscles after our outdoor work has taken its physical toll.  

For both men and women, the objective is to foster awareness how breathing, posture, and deliberate flowing movement can benefit the gardener. For those who have never practiced yoga before, this publication, based upon twenty-one simple poses, also serves as a general introduction to yoga itself.

When Veronica D’Orazio felt her back go out after a strenuous week of weeding, she decided to soothe her sore muscles with yoga. That inspired her to create a yoga program that targets the body’s stress, helps prevent injury, and bolsters strength and flexibility.

Prior to beginning a gardening chore, the reader is encouraged to Break Ground. This group of yoga poses gently warms up the spine and prepares the lower limbs for the day’s work

For the actual outdoor chores, aka Planting Seeds, the author suggests poses that emphasize breathing and balance to reduce body tension and soreness.

In the last section titled Harvest Time, the focus is on poses for relaxation and elongating tired muscles to restore and unwind the body.

A valuable addition to this publication is a chart that readers can consult when seeking guidance to cure specific pain. Seven body parts that are most vulnerable to discomfort are cross-referenced with specific yoga poses that offer relief.

If yoga is a new concept for gardeners, it’s helpful to know that it does more than relieve strain on muscles and joints. It also rejuvenates the mind and spirit, balances the central nervous system, cleanses internal organs, strengthens the circulatory system, and promotes an overall sense of well-being and contentment. In that respect, both yoga and gardening are sources of similar natural benefits and each complements the other.

The author is a certified yoga instructor and gardener. The illustrator, Tim Foss, who gives life and meaning to Ms. D’Orazio’s text, is also a gardener and yoga practitioner. The publisher, Seattle-based Sasquatch Books, has created the ultimate printed product. It is an instructive, affordable gift, beautiful to look at, and fun to read.

                                  

Monday
Mar182013

Fine Foliage for Flowerbeds and Container Gardening, a book review

Fine Foliage, Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz,       St. Lynn’s Press

Sometimes, a gardener will return from the nursery with a car full of annuals and perennials, place them in flowerbeds or containers according to the guidelines of good garden design, and yet, the resulting plant arrangements still look wanting.

Perhaps the gardener forgot about foliage. Foliage is to garden design what fashion accessories are to clothing. Without the addition of the interesting leaves of perennials, ornamental grasses, shrubs, annuals, and trees, a garden never seems to be complete.

Image copywrite by finefoliage.comFoliage works as a facilitator. It allows otherwise unintegratable plants to combine successfully with others. It also serves as a proscenium, helping to make a perennial or a combination of perennials and shrubs appear more beautiful. Foliage may also supplies direction, volume, color, texture, visual excitement, movement, and mystery.

However, foliage has another role to play; and that is the theme of this book. When plants that are defined by their leaves rather than by their flowers or berries, are combined with other foliage plants, they provide unusual and spiritual visual drama.

Image copywrite by finefoliage.comThe premise of Ms. Chapman and Ms. Salwitz’s beautiful and delightful little book is that it is possible to create successful, eye-catching plant combinations using foliage alone for flowerbed and container gardening. The publication showcases more than sixty inspired foliage-plant partnerships that illustrate this successful style of garden design, while, at the same time, revealing the authors’ immense talent in that field.

Each combination is given a two-page spread with full-color, exquisite, high quality photographs of the individual plants within. So that readers might achieve similar results in their own garden beds and containers, descriptive directions accompany each grouping. Attention is also paid to important details such as sun or shade requirements, seasons, growing zones, soil preference, plant characteristics and care.

Image copywrite by finefoliage.comHowever, what sets apart this book from other garden design manuals is the focus on helping the gardener… get to “beautiful”. The authors take the time to explain why each of their sixty foliage combinations is successful. This information allows readers to gain a designer’s perspective. That outlook, in turn, will enable them to make better choices; it also encourages gardeners to take risks - all in the hope of creating unique personal landscapes and container gardens.

This richly illustrated guide is full of easy-to-use advice. Gardeners of all skill levels will be able to adapt  instructions to create elegant, stylish, flowerbeds for their gardens and breathtaking, designer-looking, containers for their patios.

Image copywrite by finefoliage.comBoth authors are hands-on gardeners. Karen Chapman is a garden coach, horticulturist, garden writer and owner of a container design company. Christina Salwitz  is a garden coach and garden writer who specializes in garden and container design. The authors live with their respective families in the Seattle area of the State of Washington, in the USA.

                            

Sunday
Feb172013

Plant Gardens in the Sky; a book review about penthouse gardening

Roof Terrace Gardening, Michele Osborne, Aquamarine.

Gardening in the sky is not a novel idea. As far back as 600 or 500 BC, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar ordered the construction of urban hanging gardens to please his wife, saddened when she was separated from the plants of her homeland.

Today, many urban dwellers choose to incorporate adjacent rooftops into their living spaces. Here, on these very desirable roofs, terraces, and balconies, they create lush outdoor gardens that enhance the quality of their lives by adding a natural balance to city living.

High above the bustle of densely populated areas, urbanites living in these privileged spaces are able to experience air that seems purer, a sense of freedom and privacy, brighter daylight, infinitely more sunlight, and closeness to nature that is often associated with mountaintop experiences. At these heights, people are more likely to be aware of the ever-changing shapes of clouds, the colorful drama of sunrises and sunsets, and the majesty of thunderstorms.

With strategic planning, apartment dwellers that are fortunate enough to include a rooftop into their living quarters, a concept sometimes known as a penthouse, can enjoy many of the benefits of a garden. However, the approach to achieving a quality outdoor life, high above a densely populated urban area, requires an approach different from that used to create a bucolic retreat in a back yard or on an estate.

A rooftop garden design must take into consideration building and zoning regulations, structural integrity of the apartment building, irrigation and waterproofing, physical access for both enjoyment and maintenance, and weather elements that are harsher at great heights than they are at street level.

In this very practical mass-market publication, the author offers a variety of inspiring design ideas that meet the needs of most aspiring rooftop gardeners. Readers will learn how to plan a design for a multipurpose outdoor space that takes into consideration one’s needs for entertaining, relaxation, play, and contemplation.

The author has also includes suggestions for furniture, containers, ornamentation, lighting, water features, and the selection of plants. Readers will be guided into choosing vegetation, not only for beauty, but also for privacy, shade, accents, visual background filler, and for growing food. The plant recommendations are influenced by the ability of certain vegetation to withstand the exposed, harsh conditions associated with windy, sun drenched rooftop gardens.

Michele Osborne graduated from the Sorbonne in Paris as a linguist before moving to England. There, her passion for art and architecture inspired her to become a landscape designer. Working privately and with developers and architects, she has completed projects both in England and abroad. 

Designing many roof terraces in London's East End and Docklands allowed her to discover views of the city, which she found so exhilarating that she decided to abandon her Victorian terraced house in favour of a converted telephone exchange, where she could build her own roof garden. She is a winner of the prestigious Guardian's Britannia Home - builder's Award for "Best Landscaping" and her work has been exhibited at the Museum of Garden History in London.

                              

Sunday
Jan062013

How to Solve Growing Problems in the Garden Before They Begin

Why Plant That When You Can Grow This? 255 Extraordinary Alternatives to Everyday Problem Plants, Andrew Keys, Timber Press.

In our quest to recreate luscious landscapes we have visited, or studied in a book or magazine, we sometimes find our personal gardens filled with plants that make us unhappy due to their disappointing appearance or performance.

Our growing zone may be too hot or cold, the soil on our land too wet or arid, and the sun might be to searing or absent altogether.

Even when the conditions are perfect, surprises still occur. Too much rain or too humid a summer will result in mildew. Pests that we did not expect to attack our plants often arrive out of nowhere.

Some perennials will propagate themselves aggressively, others require more nutrients or irrigation than we can provide. Sometimes we become overwhelmed when we realize that a plant requires more maintenance than we are perpared to undertake.

Our frustration with plants that disappoint is exacerbated by our growing need for predictability and reliability. Many of us have a compromised life style that does not allow the luxury of time to fuss and fiddle over plants.

The solution:- Read this book!

In it, the author suggests we adjust our expectations. Instead of recreating someone else’s landscape, he recommends that we interpret it by using more reliable, less invasive, and easier-to-care-for plants.

Mr. Keys, as his title precisely states, presents 255 user-friendly plants for our consideration. While readers in colder climates are expected to skip over those that are inappropriate for their growing conditions, there remain enough choices for all gardeners, regardless where they are located.

Readers will discover

  •  replacement plants for twenty trees that might be problematic,
  •  substitutions for twenty-five shrubs with specific growing problems,
  •  alternatives for seven vines that may give the gardeners a headache,
  •  options for twenty-two perennials that are challenging to grow or maintain,
  •  better choices for the twelve grasses and ground covers a gardener should avoid.       

To facilitate the reader’s ability to deal with these horticultural issues, Mr. Keys has supplied the names of web sites for supplementary, elaborative information, as well as a list of recommended readings, mail order plant sources for American and Canadian gardeners, and an easy-to-consult conversion table for gardeners who are stymied by either metric or Imperial measurements of plants.

This publication is another in a series of useful garden manuals. Those of us who lead busy live are always happy to be alerted to potential horticultural problem. It is reassuring to know that we can solve them before they become full-blown headaches.