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Gardening Books In Full Bloom

The pile of new gardening books on my desk has grown about as fast as the weeds in the garden in May. Some of the books are worth immediate reading; others should be squirreled away for browsing when the rush of garden chores slows and there’s time to sit on the deck reading amid the sounds and smells of the yard.

Among the new spring offerings:

“Tender Roses for Tough Climates” by Douglas Green. The author knows all about the risks of growing roses in northern climes since he lives and gardens in eastern Ontario in Canada. He operates a retail nursery specializing in perennials but his garden includes more than 50 varieties of roses. His secret? A deep planting method in which the graft or bud union is planted six inches below the soil surface. And, in the fall he prunes the canes to ground level. The book covers roses from purchase to overwintering and includes enough photos of roses you’ll likely emerge from the book a fan of these beauties if you were not before. ($19.95; Chapters Publishing, ISBN: 1-57630-032-3)

“100 English Roses for the American Garden” by Clair Martin. If only I could have roses like those in this book. It’s possible. I’ve seen them on Manito Park’s Rose Hill. But Manito Park doesn’t have a deer problem. Whether viewed as a dream book or as a guide to roses, this book is a must for any gardener who’s given roses even a passing nod. Each rose listed is accompanied by a lush photo. The book also includes planting, feeding and pruning information, growth charts, historical notes and a source list. ($16.95, Workman, ISBN: 0-7611-0185-3)

“Ferns for American Gardens: The Definitive Guide to Selecting and Growing More Than 500 Kinds of Hardy Ferns” by John Mickel. To appreciate this book, you’ll need to be a huge fan of ferns. Not that these lacy, shade-loving plants don’t have their allure. It’s just that, well, most of us don’t think of them as showcase plants worthy of much attention. They’re filler material. With botanical descriptions of hundreds of ferns, this book’s for diehard fern growers or wannabes. The 360 photos are beautiful, though, and it would be nice if the shady areas of my garden looked like some of the gardens pictured here. ($22.50, Macmillan, ISBN: 0-02-861618-9)

“If You Like My Apples: A Simple Guide to Biodynamic Gardening” by Clue Dennis and Luke Miller. The authors explain that biodynamic gardening is a system of environmentally conscious gardening that blends organic gardening with a method of planting that is in sync with the rhythms of the earth. The result is a healthful harvest of fruits and vegetables. Much of the advice is common sense for those who are environmentally aware: use mulches and compost, introduce beneficial insects for pest control, use people-powered tools when possible rather than tools that run on fossil fuels. Unlike some proponents of this gardening philosophy, these authors are not philosophically opposed to lawn. ($11.95, Avery Publishing, ISBN: 0-89529-760-4)

“Easy-Care Perennial Gardens” by Susan McClure. Like most gardeners, I’ve heard about the ease of gardening with perennials. Of planting once and watching it all grow and bloom and spread. With only the occasional need to supplement with flats of petunias and geraniums. And, like some, I came to think it meant no maintenance after the daisies and poppies were established. Well, not so in a big way. Gardening with perennials still involves gardening of the weeding and digging and dividing variety. And the best perennial gardens also require boosts of color from tender annuals. But that shouldn’t discount the value of perennials. For one, perennials open up a whole new array of plant choices. Sure some aren’t as showy as annuals, but the best perennials work in tandem with other perennials for an overall effect. This book will help guide you as to what works well together for “easy-care” borders and for beds. ($27.95, hard-cover, Rodale, ISBN: 0-87596-778-7)

“Creative Vegetable Gardening” by Joy Larkcom. I’ve long admired gardeners who can intersperse flowers with vegetables and not have a garden that looks like an experiment gone awry. Those whose flower-vegetable gardens look like they belong in Martha Stewart’s magazine are, in my book, gardeners with panache. Most, though, grow a few kale, cabbage and carrots among the calendulas, peonies and asters. This book takes another tact: planting a few flowers among the vegetables. Since in this climate many gardeners mulch their vegetable gardens heavily with grass clippings, the flowers have a tough burden to elevate the garden to a high aesthetic status. But maybe with inspiration and some clever ideas from this book, it just might work - or you can simply sit back and enjoy the gorgeous photos in the book and leave the vegetable and flower gardens to go their own separate ways. ($35, hardcover, Abbey Press, ISBN: 0-7892-0352-9)

“100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names” by Diana Wells. Learning the history of the common flowers in our gardens is, well, a frivolous pursuit, but it will fill quiet moments in the garden. Take this book with you as you tour your yard and you’ll learn more about your favorite flowers. For example, the name petunia comes from a Brazilian word petun for tobacco and the two can be crossed to produce a flowering nicotiana, which is also a popular annual in our area. ($16.95, hardcover, Algonquin Books, ISBN: 1-56512-138-4)

“A Gardener’s Encyclopedia of Wildflowers” by C. Colston Burrell. Because some wildflowers are considered noxious weeds and others grow only in a highly specialized environment, few gardeners utilize them. Even when a collection is gathered as a wildflower-garden-in-a-can, it simply doesn’t produce the results that ponies of petunias or lobelia might. Still, with a focus on more environmentally friendly gardens, many are turning to wildflower use. This book will inspire, if not offer pertinent advice. The method is organic and, as suggested by the title, the book’s more encyclopedic than how-to. ($29.95, hardcover, Rodale, ISBN: 0-87596-723-X)

“Readers’s Digest Ideas for Your Garden.” As an idea book, this one’s tough to beat. It offers up hundreds of solutions for creating stunning gardens, paths, and container gardens, or for elevating your present yard to showcase status. Gardening philosophy meanders through how-to sceneries. This book requires serious amounts of time so unless it’s pure inspiration you need right now, put it aside for the harsh months when the garden, itself, doesn’t call like a siren. ($30, hardcover, ISBN: 0-89577-919-6)

“Natural Landscaping” by Sally Roth. Despite the name that may lead some to think organic gardening, this book’s more about creating a backyard habitat for wildlife and birds. The author explores methods for creating woodland and shade gardens, meadows, water gardens and areas attractive to birds and butterflies. Chapters include easy how-to explanations and illustrations accompanied by more than 250 photos of beautiful gardens. ($29.95, hardcover, Rodale, ISBN: 0-87596-704-3.) , DataTimes