Entries in Timber Press (12)

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. 

                                

Sunday
Feb032013

Plants That Perform All Season, a book review

Powerhouse Plants, 510 Top Performers for Multi-Season Beauty, Graham Rice, Timber Press,

Graham Rice is an international renowned and respected plantsman with gardening experience on both sides of the Atlantic. He is also an award-winning writer with more than twenty gardening books to his credit.

This latest work reaches out to readers who garden on small plots of land where plants must do double duty because there is room for so few of them. To create beautiful and interesting gardens under these confining conditions, Mr. Rice recommends that we consider using versatile powerhouse plants.

Such plants enhance the design of small gardens because they multi task throughout the growing season. Included in this category are perennials, shrubs, trees, ornamental grasses, vines and ground cover, all of which put on visual performances that last longer than their respective plant tags indicate. They do that by transforming themselves from a flowering summer perennial, for example, into a display of intensely colored fall foliage.

The inherent potential of these versatile players allows the gardener to create different and evolving plant combinations for various times of the year, all the while using a minimum number of plants.

Readers will be delighted that the author’s suggestions are confined to ones that are easy to grow, hardy, and glorious performers. Nothing makes a gardener happier than to discover that a beautiful plant is also a workhorse and that it requires little attention.

In that respect, nature has been very cooperative. Mr. Rice has managed to identify no less than five hundred and ten of these powerhouse plants – each with characteristics that evolve or linger in the garden, and whose beauty and visual interest is sustained long after they have lost one of their salient features.

Such a plant will display at least two of the following attributes: - spring shoots pushing through the soil, fresh unfurling foliage, spring flowers, summer flowers, summer foliage, attractive fruit and berries, evergreen foliage, vibrant colors in the fall, bark, interesting and colorful stems in winter, and winter or spring foliage rosettes.

Of course the above list doesn’t even begin to address other characteristics that a plant make contribute to the garden. These would include form, shape, texture, movement, fragrance, birds, and butterflies. All are qualities that enhance the value of most of the recommended plants in this book.

Gardeners who struggle to maximize the visual appeal of their small gardens will be relieved that there is now a handbook to help make that an easier task. Creative homeowners with larger gardens will also benefit because versatile, all-season, powerhouse plants enrich the appearance of all gardens, regardless of their size.

                              

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.

                           

Sunday
Dec092012

Designing the Layered Garden at Brandywine Cottage; a book review.

The Layered Garden, David L. Culp, photographs by Rob Cardillo, Timber Press.

A layered garden refers to a design process that maximizes beauty within each planted space; it also describes a garden that supplies visual interest through - out the seasons. The objective of the publisher was to demonstrate how a beautiful garden - Brandywine Cottage – situated in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA, - achieved that result.

It was accomplished by:- combining complementary plants that either grow and bloom together or follow each other in succession . Then, it continues to …encompass the development of each bed and how the beds relate to each other and the garden as a whole.

Image: Timber PressThe essence of a layered garden, therefore, is to understand and take advantage of each plant’s growing habit as it evolves through the seasons. One plant may provide a variety of different textures, colors, and effects at different times of the year. At each interval of growth, it will evoke a different sensory experience.

Furthermore, to get the most interest from any garden, all the layers need to be considered from the ground level to the middle level of shrubs, and small trees up to the canopy trees.

Image: Timber PressLayering allows the gardener to utilize as many plants as they have, in attractive and exciting ways. The result is a garden that highlights an individual plant while integrating the entire collection of plants into one cohesive design. In addition, the garden at Brandywine Cottage has been deliberately planted so that different areas of this 2-acre garden peak at different times.

Image property of www.davidlculp.comAlong with a keen eye, the author’s patience, optimism, and pro-active attitude were important factors in the execution of his garden. While describing its evolution, he encourages readers to be bold so that they focus on the possibilities of plants rather than upon their inherent limitations.

Readers will discover what Mr. Culp has learned; that one of the most exciting aspects of a layered garden is the suspenseful gradual revelation of the composition – the way that each part provides multiple layers of interest, sometimes working together with other plants and sometimes playing off each other.

Image property of www.davidlculp.comBoth the author and the photographer have worked from their hearts to create a warm and welcoming experience. Once inside the book, the reader will be embraced with design inspiration, plantsmanship, and practical information all emanating from one location - Brandywine Cottage, an iconic American-style landscape.

If you thought it impossible to capture effectively the essence of a beautiful garden in words and pictures, think again. This successful publication is both charming and inspirational.

                         

Thursday
Oct182012

A Concert of Master Gardeners, Each With Their Own Moving Solo; a book review.

The Roots of my Obsession, Thirty Great Gardeners Reveal Why They Garden, edited by Thomas Cooper, Timber Press.

Under the stewardship of Thomas Cooper, innovative Timber Press collected first hand experiences of distinguished gardeners from around the globe and encapsulated them into a little book whose size belies the grandeur of its contents.

Do not be misled by the title. This is not a collection of cobbled – together, self-congratulatory paeans to horticulture. Instead, consider it a jewelry box filled with personal sketches that touch the heart of those that open its cover. Mr. Cooper himself has written a sublimely crafted introduction that represents garden writing at its best.

Imagine your favorite musicians. Then, think what a concert would sound like if they all assembled to perform at a command performance. Now, envisage this publication; for that’s what this is: - a concert of master gardeners, each with their own moving solo.

The publishers solicited thirty personal recollections from some of the world’s most prominent horticultural voices to find out what motivated them. It is not a coincidence that they are all, in their own right, superb garden writers. Only the splendor of their professional accomplishments surpasses the beautiful skills of communication they display here.

On a personal note, I found this book quite meaningful. As a male gardener, I enjoyed reading the candid, autobiographical pieces submitted by men who, like me, combine the attributes of manhood with the tender wonderment of discovery.

While those of us who work in the horticultural industry experience a satisfying social camaraderie, [we have opportunities to see ourselves reflected in other male colleagues], too many of our gender find gardening to be a lonely activity.

From that perspective, such a collection of personal confidences, wherein half the articles were written by men, makes this book significant for me; it validates the male gardener who sometimes finds himself in print, social media, and in the flowerbeds, vastly outnumbered by his respected and talented female colleagues. However, that personal observation in no way deprecates the rich contributions of the other fifty percent of the contributors - our female rock stars of gardening.

Some of the participants in this book submitted short essays, others have written a short narrative. A large number connect the dots of gardening back to pleasurable childhood experiences. Regardless of the kind of horticultural journey they travelled, all share a love for this passionate hobby.

With a variety of thirty different personal experiences to discover, readers who garden will find themselves reflected in the pages of this book. Those who are considering entering the field, for recreation or vocation, will be even more inspired to do so. As for the already committed, it will feel good to learn about others who are very much like us. Welcome to the personally - rewarding universe of gardening.