Gardeners can harvest good ideas at library
I was browsing through our new nonfiction books the other day and picked up a few on gardening. It was such a horrible winter that I've been eager to get outside and see things grow. Like some of you, I did have some plants that didn't make it back this year. Among the deceased were some lemon wave hydrangeas, a beautiful rose, some lavender and a butterfly bush.
Every day, I like to walk outside and check on the progress of those things that made it through. My peonies are gorgeous this year. I have red, pink and a peachy-salmon color. After a slow start, the Russian sage is looking strong, and the allium, penstemmon, black-eyed Susans and hostas all look fabulous. Like most gardeners, however, I'm always looking to add more or move around what I already have. I found several books that have entertained my thoughts on this in the last couple of weeks.
"Gardening With Perennials: Lessons From Chicago's Lurie Garden" by Noel Kingsbury is a delightful little book that will give you some new perspectives on Midwest gardening. The Lurie Garden is in Chicago's Millennium Park, surrounded by the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the Bean, water features and the Art Institute to the south. The architects and horticulturists of the garden focused on noninvasive species of perennials, and more than half of them are Midwest natives.
This book discusses plant placement and partners, essential maintenance and how to make your garden more hospitable to the plants as well as wildlife. The last half of the book is a plant directory, listing the species in the garden, as well as great information about their origins, specifications, photographs and other little anecdotes.
"Plantiful: Start Small, Grow Big with 150 Plants that Spread, Self-Sow, and Overwinter" by Kristin Green is the book for someone with a lot of room to let their gardens increase in size each year. The author focuses primarily on plants that are easy to grow, hardy and don't need a lot of pampering. She begins with a quick lesson on how plants are propagated naturally and moves on to plants that give you the most bang for your buck in performance. Keep in mind that this is probably not the book for people who like small, meticulously maintained gardens. The theme here is letting go and allowing flowers to self-seed and pop up wherever they'd like. The pictures and instructions for seeding are well done, and the variety of plant options is impressive. Each entry lists the specifications for the plants, as well as a caveat called "Fine Print."
Speaking of allowing nature to take its course, check out "Attracting Beneficial Bugs to Your Garden" by Jessica Wallisper. Although the close-up photos of the bugs made my stomach turn a few times (I'm just a wimp with bugs — I'm sure you'll be fine!), the entries were thorough and informative. Besides the picture, each listing of the common insect in the garden included a narrative discussion of its benefits and possible detriments. The last half of the book was a plant directory that discussed which insect it attracts and why you should include it in your garden, as well as planting diagrams and companion planting ideas.
Do you like to share plants among friends? Take a look at "Seedswap: The Gardener's Guide to Saving and Swapping Seeds" by Josie Jeffery. This fabulous book takes out all of the guesswork on harvesting seeds. It begins with a brief discussion on the benefits and popularity of seed swapping and moves on to the details of pollination, germination and dispersal. Once again, the last half of the book is a plant directory. This time, emphasis is on details involving sowing, plant care, harvesting and storage options. There are some great photos included in each entry. This book included vegetables, as well as flowers.
Lastly, if you're an armchair gardener or you also like to learn about the geographic history of roses, you must pick up "Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the Venetian Countryside" by Andrea di Robilant. This is a delightful and engaging story that reads like a novel. The author takes us back to the days of Josephine Bonaparte and leads us on a cross-country tour of the gardens of Italy in an enchanting tale of family and the unexpected beauty of things that are passed down through generations. This is a lovely book by the author of "A Venetian Affair."
And now I have to get back out to the garden — happy growing.
Kelly Strom is the collection manager at the Champaign Public Library. She orders books, magazines, newspapers, audiobooks and CDs.