Resources for the newbie

I realized I come at this gardening thing with years of experience and a degree under my belt (now where did that diploma go?).? I also try to avoid telling people that I used to be a landscape designer.? Especially my neighbors.? Otherwise I get the constant harassment (from the lady across the street) to tell them what they should put here or there.? Oddly enough it isn’t just that easy.? Sure I can pull the botanical name of a Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) out of the A-file and use them as party tricks, but to tell you what perennial will grow nicely in dry soil with little sunlight is a little tougher.? From my current vantage point answering that question requires me to look up and find the right book out of the over 60 I own on the subject of gardening.

It’s true.? Like any good professional I have resources.? As a graphic artist I have a few books on programs I use and a whole host of web bookmarks.? Can’t live without my bookmarks.? As a horticulturalist I can’t live without my books.? I find the internet to be much less useful when it comes to growing plants.

My arsenal of books is geared mostly toward the Pacific Northwest despite the fact that I started my horticulture career in the midwest.? This is because the majority of my books were school “text books.”? And some of my favorites are truly text book like, but for me the offer the type of information I am looking for.

One such example is Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael A. Dirr.? However I don’t suggest anyone rush out and spend the $61.97 + $400 in shipping it takes to get that book.? It is a monster and not very practical.? But if you really want to know the leaf structure of a Horse Chestnut or the seed viability of a Ginko go right ahead.? A better choice might be a different book by Dirr, Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs.? Also not practical, but oohh look at the pretty pictures.

I thought I would give you a peek at a few of my favorite, and actually useful books.? Some are better for those in the NW, but you get the idea.

#1 all time favorite book on plants, with lists for growing situations, and a useful climate zone map is the Sunset Western Garden Book.? This is a must have if you live anywhere on the West Coast, Alaska or Hawaii.? I have 2 copies (1 old school and another when they did the first color update to it).? I’ve seen the newest version at Costco and must have it.? I just haven’t bought it yet.

Other books I pull of the shelf on a regular basis are The Pacific Northwest Gardener’s Book of Lists, Landscaping with Fruits and Vegetables, and The Green Thumb Garden Handbook.? The last is sadly out of print but you can still purchase it at used book stores or from Amazon used.? It is well worth it.

A few book I recommend to people are a series put out by The American Horticulture Society.? Pruning & Training, Plant Propagation, Pests & Diseases, and The Encyclopedia of Gardening are all fantastic books.? The Encyclopedia is a great one for beginners.? AHS also publishes an Encyclopedia of Garden Plants that is similar to the Western Garden Book, but geared for the entire nation.

I could go on and on with a complete list of the books I own, but that is a lot of linking and you’d get bored with book like Grower Talks on Retailing and Greenhouse Operation and Management.? Even better are books such as Nursery Management and the Handbook of Successful Ecological Lawn Care.? Books so dry and boring that even I wouldn’t read them.

I hope this gives you a few new resources to kick start your garden.? Spend some time in the book store browsing the gardening section.? Look for the books that are tailored to your learning style and geared toward what you want to grow.? A good gardening book should be bookmarked, dog eared and dirty.

3 Comment

  1. Wendy says: Reply

    My favorite gardening book is ‘How to Grow Plants in the Armpit Climate that is Houston’. Then there is ‘Planting the Salad Bar for the Deer’. That is a favorite of mine too. Yes, I need help….

  2. I’m lazy. I experiment and see what works. Now that I’ve moved to a different climate I’m clueless. So I’m looking around to see what other people have success with. Maybe if I read a book I could figure out why my herbs, which I plant in pots every year so that I can bring them inside in the fall, die within a month of bringing them in.

  3. Ree says: Reply

    Thanks Elle. I’m loving these posts.

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