It’s been a busy summer, which explains the lapse of time since my last column here. It’s also been a long, hot, dry summer for most of us. I’m one of the lucky gardeners with a deep, really good well, so I have continued to water my new plantings and containers, but I feel for anyone who is on metered water or who has a shallow well prone to run dry. I haven’t, however, been deadheading and weeding quite as much as I should because some days are just too hot in my garden to do more than water and take a few photographs.
On those too hot days when I want to enjoy gardening but even my toenails perspire at the thought of it, I turn to reading some of the new gardening books to land in my mailbox this summer. I also regularly reread older books — anything by Piet Oudolf, Nancy Ondra, Sarah Raven, or Christopher Lloyd (the great British gardener, not the actor) are among my favourites. There’s always something new to learn. If you’re looking for some great gardening reads for hammock or lawn chair, pour yourself a cold beverage and check a few of these out.
Gardening for Butterflies (Timber Press). The Xerces Society is an association of scientists and citizens dedicated to invertebrate conservation. They’ve been very active in promoting gardening for all kinds of pollinators, including the various types of native bees in North America. Now they have produced a highly readable and practical volume on attracting and protecting butterflies in your garden. Included are garden designs and a host of plants native to North America that are notable for their nurturing of our winged beauties.
Garden Revolution by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher (Timber Press). If you’re interested in ecological gardening, this is the book for you. The authors, a horticulturist and an ecological landscape designer, delve deep into how to be a practical gardener, developing plantings that are less labour-intensive, are pollinator- and wildlife-friendly, drought-tolerant and easier to maintain than the manicured beds and borders that some gardeners fret over. Maybe not a book for the weekend gardener, but a fascinating read packed with valuable information.
Raised Bed Gardening by Simon Akeroyd (Taunton Press). Raised beds are a terrific option for many gardeners — if you have mobility issues and can’t easily bend or kneel, if you have heavy clay or rocky soil that doesn’t lend itself easily to gardening, or if you have a small yard but want to grow vegetables and flowering plants, raised beds are for you. A raised bed can be as decorative as it is functional and versatile, too. Included in this volume are 15 different types of raised bed designs, as well as planting schemes and building projects to keep you happily occupied all season long.
The Aromatherapy Garden by Kathi Keville (Timber Press). Whether or not you believe in aromatherapy as a health treatment, there is no denying that fragrant plants can lighten almost anyone’s heart and improve our feelings of well-being. The author focuses on how to design and create a fragrance-laden garden that will stimulate the senses and is as useful as it is beautiful. She includes a number of recipe and project ideas, including making herbed vinegars, teas, potpourris and more, and provides a diverse list of plants known for their scented flowers and foliage.
The Plant Lover’s Guide to Primulas, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Clematis, and The Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns. (Timber Press). These handy, plant-specific reference volumes are published in association with Kew Royal Botanical Gardens, and are highly recommended for the collector or gardener with a fascination for particular types of plants. There are about a dozen volumes in this series (I have six of them) and they are packed with information about the type of plant, including many different species and varieties. Lots of great photos will incite plant seeking in many of us.
A Botanist’s Vocabulary by Susan K. Pell and Bobbi Angell (Timber Press). I freely admit I’m a complete and total plant nerd and have been since I was a teenager. I also admit I did a happy dance when this book arrived on my doorstep this spring. Subtitled “1300 Terms Explained and Illustrated,” it’s a must-have for anyone interested in botany, especially if you’re into wildflower field guides. OK, maybe you won’t use ‘lodicules,’ ‘calcicole,’ or ‘ornithophilous’ in everyday sentences, but these terms are often found in field guides and other botanical volumes. There are illustrations to accompany any term relating to a plant’s physiology, so you can understand exactly what ‘odd-pinnate’ or ‘distichous’ or ‘hypogeal’ refers to. The perfect book for a plant nerd.
Upcoming event! If you’re interested in wildflowers and native plants, you’ll want to take in an upcoming event at the Harriet Irving Botanical Gardens at Acadia University. On Sept. 19 at 7 p.m., research horticulturalist and noted author Todd Boland will be giving a talk on gardening with native plants. Boland is research horticulturist at the Memorial University of Newfoundland Botanical Garden, (which has been a place I have known and loved since its beginnings in the 1970s) and has authored a number of excellent field guide books, including Wildflowers of Nova Scotia, Trees and Shrubs of the Maritimes, and his latest, Wildflowers of New Brunswick. He is a wealth of knowledge and I highly recommend this event, which includes a book signing.