If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve got a gardener on your list, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t go wrong with a big, fat gardening tome to keep them amused and out of your hair for the next three months, until spring begins to break and they can get outdoors again.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a look at five gardening books on a wide range of topics that have come across my desk in recent months.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Landscape Diaries: Garden of ObsessionÃ¢â‚¬? by Gayatri Carole Rocherolle, with photos by Richard Felber (Ruder Finn, $24.95). Many fans of great gardens in the Hudson Valley know Rocherolle and her husband, Jerome, as the behind-the-scenes brains and brawn that led to the creation of Michael and Judy SteinhardtÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s magnificent 55-acre spread in Bedford. Who knew she could write, too?
This very personal and quirky book takes readers along for a funny ride through a childhood of great wealth and privilege as an heir to the Avnet fortune (with a Renoir in her bedroom) that eventually led to the parking-lot launch of a Pound Ridge/Stamford, Conn., nursery thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s now considered one of the best sources in the country for bonsai.
Against her familyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wishes, she ran away to London (on the final voyage of the Queen Mary, no less) in 1965 to marry Jerome. The book chronicles their wonderful marriage and how they fell into the world of high-end garden design and maintenance. We also learn lots about the Steinhardt garden and how it came to be, with spectacular four-season photos by Felber and Carole Rocherolle.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Ã¢â‚¬Å“Down & Dirty: 43 Fun & Funky First-Time Projects & Activities to Get You GardeningÃ¢â‚¬? by Ellen Zachos (Storey, $19.95). This is a fun, easy-to-read book thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been on my desk since the summer. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a very practical approach to all kinds of backyard or terrace projects, including outdoor firepits, window-box herb gardens, raised beds, dividing perennials, forcing bulbs, growing blueberries and strawberries and drawing hummingbirds and other wildlife to your garden.
For the last 10 years, Zachos has run New York City-based Acme Plant Stuff, a boutique horticultural services company specializing in design, installation and maintenance of exterior and interior landscapes. She coordinates many of the educational programs at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx and teaches courses at the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Rockland County.
Zachos is also the author of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tempting Tropicals: 175 Irresistible Indoor PlantsÃ¢â‚¬? (Timber Press, 2005) and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Orchid Growing for Wimps: Techniques for the Ã¢â‚¬ËœWish I Could Do ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ GardenerÃ¢â‚¬? (Sterling, 2002).
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Way We Garden Now: 41 Pick-and-Choose Projects for Planting Your Paradise Large or SmallÃ¢â‚¬? by Katherine Whiteside (Clarkson Potter, $29.95). Hmmm, there seems to be a number sort of theme going on this year in the garden book world. This oneÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a winner, too Ã¢â‚¬â€ hands-on, practical and well written.
Whiteside has maintained a lovely home and garden in Garrison for 15 years, so the book is very much of the Hudson Valley. Her property was featured this fall in Ã¢â‚¬Å“Country HomeÃ¢â‚¬? to coincide with the announcement that she was becoming garden editor-at-large for the magazine.
Her first 10 projects start with such basics as fertilizing, preparing beds, weeding and avoiding pests and then she moves on to more fun projects like pea trellises, scented evening gardens and bulb displays. She includes recipes, too.
Like most gardeners I know, Whiteside likes to save money wherever she can and go all-organic as much as possible.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Ã¢â‚¬Å“Covering Ground: Unexpected Ideas for Landscaping with Colorful, Low-Maintenance Ground CoversÃ¢â‚¬? by Barbara Ellis (Storey, $19.95). Ellis, a very prolific garden writer for many publishers, brings a particularly authoritative voice to her writing. She really knows her stuff and covers lots of ground here (sorry!).
As more and more home gardeners banish more and more patches of lawn, this primer offers tons of suggestions for grass alternatives: vines, vincas, container plants, aggressive groundcovers for steep slopes and boggy spots, hardscaping, herb carpets and succulents.
Ellis has written dozens of garden books, including one of my favorites, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Shady Retreats: 20 Plans for Colorful, Private Spaces in Your BackyardÃ¢â‚¬? (Storey, 2003).
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢ Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Perennial GardenerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Design Primer: The Essential Guide to Creating Simply Sensational GardensÃ¢â‚¬? by Stephanie Cohen and Nancy J. Ondra (Storey, $24.95). Known as the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Perennials QueenÃ¢â‚¬? by many in the garden world, Cohen is another expert with lots to say. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve heard her lecture a few times and I always come away with dozens of ideas for new plants and color combinations I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait to try.
The authorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ 20 plant-by-numbers designs that cover a full range of garden challenges are particularly helpful. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll also find good sources, plant charts and detailed descriptions of more than 475 perennials. This looks like another winner, one that will keep me busy well into February.
Any other favorite new gardening books that have come out this year?