Temperate Garden Plant Families – Peter Goldblatt and John C. Manning

160469498x.01._sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_This is the type of book I don’t usually mark as having read, because this type of book is more often one you flip through to look for specific information you’re interested in. But I actually did read this – I’m interested enough in the subject that the entries were worthwhile reading.

The book touches on the plant families that are important for agriculture and gardening in temperate zones, though it’ll touch on which ones have cross over into tropical zones. Since I do track the families of the flowers I’m labeling on my other blog, it’s interesting to me to see how the family relationships are classified here in a recently published book, because it’s different than what I’ve settled on for my source of truth. (The Native Plant Trust’s GoBotany website, since they’re the people behind the Flora Novae Angliae.) It’s such an interesting place we’re in right now with all the DNA study going on. So the plant geek in me very much enjoyed that in this book. It’s maybe a little more technical than a beginner can easily use – I got a lot of this because I’ve been doing as much work with plant families as I have. But it’s a good overview reference if you want to start seeing relationships.

Flowers and Herbs in Early America – Lawrence D. Griffith

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This is an interesting book, based on the author’s trials at Colonial Williamsburg of various plants that were thought to be available for Colonial era gardeners. He talks about where they were found in sources, reasons that they might have been brought over, and even why some of those plants are probably problematic if you’re trying for absolute authenticity. He also includes tips from his trials and what he grew them with.

I did really enjoy the book, but if you want to put it into practical application, you definitely want to live closer to the Mason-Dixon line – there are some lovely plants in here that my zone 5 garden would eat for dinner over the winter.

In a Unicorn’s Garden – Judyth McLeod

1921208570-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_This is theoretically a book about medieval gardens, and while it does talk about a few specific gardens, and has some interesting plant lists, it’s really more of a historical wrap up of the kinds of gardens that would have existed in that time, with a somewhat modern garden plan to go with each idea. The plans are fairly basic – I’ll admit I was hoping for something a little more substantial. However, the plant listing in several chapters, as well as some specific plant highlights, are very useful.

I think this would also be interesting for anyone wanting an overview of history that happens to potentially touch gardening. The author goes out on some tangents that may only seem peripherally related to gardening, but they are interesting. It’s a pleasant book, just a little hard to classify.

The Shakespearean Botanical – Margaret Willes

1851244379-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_I picked this up for myself as a souvenir from the Bodleian Library. I don’t normally buy books in England (it’s one thing where the prices are usually far better in the US), but this was unique, and actually published by the Bodleian Library press, so I jumped on it.

It’s a cool little book, using illustrations from John Gerard’s Herball of 1597, which Shakespeare would probably have known, and tying them in with passages from his plays and the longer narrative poems. It’s a nice addition to my gardening book collection.

 

Tender – Nigel Slater

1607740370-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_After plowing through Slater’s Ripe, I had to go back and get the book he wrote before that, which dealt with vegetables, instead of fruit. And I again found this to be one of the rare cookbooks I can read from cover to cover. However, it’s a little less useful to me than Ripe was, because the way that vegetables behave through a British winter is very different than how they behave in a Maine winter. In other words, short of buying a heated greenhouse, I will never have a winter crop of anything. So my seasonality is not the seasonality of this book – therefore, the gardening tips are not so useful to me. (Fruit seasons are more similar, so Ripe was still seasonally familiar to me.)

Still, the gardening was evocative and inspirational on some levels, and I still enjoyed the recipes. So it’s still a worthwhile book for my collection, even if Ripe is a better fit.

Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education – Michael Pollan

Any American gardener should read this book – it’s the story of Pollan’s evolution as a gardener at his New England farmhouse, but within this evolution, he explores quite a bit of what makes gardening here in America both the same as other places, and also very unique.

One of the things he brings up, that I had never thought about, but could instantly see, is that the American garden (and by garden, we’re often speaking about larger grounds of a home), abhors fences.    If you look at the front lawns of suburbia, they flow into the next perfectly manicured lawn, and if you put up any sort of substantial fence or hedge, you’re absenting yourself from this landscape, and even if only subconsciously, your neighbors will look down on this rebellion.    I’ve always had a thing against hedges in the city, and I think I understand part of why now.    But he also points out that this lack of fencing can be traced back to the Puritans, who believed that this land was given to us by God, and you can’t fence that off.    And it’s that viewpoint that has governed a lot of how Americans relate to land up to the present day.

There are a number of other really interesting chapters, but my other particular favorite was one about the variety of seed catalogs you can find in America.    It’s now a bit dated (the book was published in 1991), but even with what was out there then (which I remember looking at from what my mother received), there’s a lot of things I had never thought about that you find out about regional identity and class viewpoints from these catalogs.    I’d actually be really interested to see what he’d say about the catalogs out there today – in the book, Johnny’s Select Seeds is a relative newcomer, and they’ve been around for a while now.

I really enjoyed this book.    I don’t think I was expecting to have a gardening book make me think this much – there’s a lot of information to chew over in here, though I suppose that shouldn’t surprise me, coming from the author of The Botany of Desire.

Easy Growing – Gayla Trail

I’ve been torturing myself with gardening books again.

After enjoying Grow Great Grub, I decided to pick up the author’s new book, which focuses on herbs and edible flowers. I like it for the same reasons I liked Grow Great Grub – she’s in more or less my climate zone, so focuses on plants I can actually grow, and breaks them down with useful information for the same garden.

I wouldn’t have minded some more plants, though she did provide a list of extra plants that she couldn’t fit in the book, so I do have more to look up and continue the fun.