May 09, 2008

Gardening Books

Below in the comments, I was asked if I had any recommendations for good gardening books for a novice gardener. I did not start learning to garden from books, I grew up watching my mother plant things, move things, and sit in the front yard weeding. I didn't ask a lot of questions about it all back then, and I didn't even help that much, but I did learn the names of a lot of flowers and I watched and figured out what I liked. Also, being taken to places like the Botanical Gardens in Pasadena as a kid didn't hurt, although the years with a desert landscape in Phoenix probably didn't do much for any gardening bug (there I just learned the jumping cholla were pure evil and ocatillo were only nice after a big rainstorm).

I did not grow up with any kind of food producing garden and I didn't grow up in the zone or even region where I now live, so watching and visiting gardens only went so far. Otherwise, I've mostly tried, failed and asked questions of people who have more experience gardening. There is probably no book out there that is better than asking for help (besides, other gardeners often like to give you plants when you ask for help and books never do that).

Still, it never hurts to have some books to look at and get inspired by, just like it never hurts to pull out all your favorite gardening magazines and drool over the beautiful landscapes.

Here then my short list of gardening books.

  1. A good regional reference book. I have this one. I don't use it as much as I probably should, but it is especially helpful when one is just getting started.
  2. Gardening for Dummies Most of the "for Dummies" books I've looked at are very good introductions to a topic. The publishers seem to do a good job finding the right experts to write for them.
  3. The Way We Garden Now by Katherine Whiteside. I checked this out from the library last year and loved it. I found it very informative and full of interesting ideas and garden designs. It's a book I would love to own.

If I were going to suggest one more book, it might be a good plant encyclopedia. It's very helpful to know what you've got already and to help you figure out what else you might want.

Another good resource comes to my house every year in the form of plant catalogs. Not all of them are created equal. Some of the cheapo ones like Spring Hill and Michigan Bulb offer great deals, but you will find a lot of warnings of poor customer service and refunds that never arrive out there on the web. I've only ordered from one of them and I had some plants survive and some that didn't, and I did not get any money returned to me.

Simply for reference and drooling purposes, I especially like White Flower Farm and High Country Gardens, which although offering many things for the Western garden that won't work in Tennessee, also specializes in xeriscaping and who doesn't like the idea of a waterwise garden?


Id love to see what others think im interested too

Posted by: Kelsey Smith at May 9, 2008 09:11 PM

Which catalogs WOULD you recommend using if I cannot find certain plants here in Texas? Just curious...

Posted by: Tricia at May 12, 2008 09:42 AM

Tricia, I'd probably check High Country Gardens, since they specialize in western, dry gardening and plants.

Posted by: Jordana at May 12, 2008 01:20 PM

Thanks for these tips, Jordana. I've requested the Dummies one and the Way We Garden Now. I'll see about a PA specific book, that's a good idea. I have a plant encyclopedia I use as a painting reference that was super cheap - I'll have to look at it more with planting in mind.

I've done well with asking people too. We got a couple plants from a great-uncle last week, and he's full of advice. I've been visiting and admiring public gardens (my favorite is Longwood Gardens) for years, so I've learned some of what I like through that.

I've heard the negatives about the cheapo places too, but since I don't want to put much money into this temporary home I tried Spring Hill. So far all but one of the plants look good. I'll have to consider some of the better sources when we get a more permanent home.


Posted by: Jennifer at May 13, 2008 12:54 PM