December 28, 2007

Winter Reading

I was inspired last weekend while surfing for random loast minute holiday gifts (for myself, basically, since I became distracted while eBaying and Googling) Somehow, I took a break and discovered noted garden writer and respected bulb expert Judy Glattatein's web site XXXXXXX. I love discovering new plant sites, especially those managed by horticulturists who are curious as well as educated. Call us plant geeks - there is nothing better than sharing through ones geekness. Judy's passion for plants and bulbs led her to post about a year ago requesting others to share with here the number of books they have in their plant book library, and then to select thier top 5 favorite gardening books. I would love to challenge all of you readers to do the same.

I will not share my favorites right now,but I would love to hear your top five most influencial, most noteworty, most likely to end up at your bed side table again and again. Surely, there will be some duplicates, but also I susspect some new discoveries. It was through Judy's site that I made my new discovery - a Christmas gift to myself thanks to Alibris.com. A gift which consisted of 9 books which where listed by her readers as thier favorites (many of which are South African bulb books), and many which are out of print, but easily available from one of the many book sites that specialize in such things. I love Alibris.com, and now, even more since I was able to order at one time nine books which will keep me busy long through the winter, and thanks to Judy's readers, my library is enriched as are my long New England winter evenings.

Here are the books, in no special order...

This 1966 classic arrived in pristine condition, yet without it's dust cover, which is fine with me. The etchings and line art drawings are simple yet horticulturally accuarate and the mid-century black and white photos of winter gems like Galathus and early small bulbs are charmingly period and almost nostalgic in quality. The text seems to consist of short essays focused around all sorts of winter blooming northern hemisphere plants.

COLOR IN THE WINTER GARDEN by Robert Nicholson. 1973
Following in the theme of winter blooming plants, this British book provides a different perspective on winter gardening and does so with lots of black and white and color photos. From Cyclamen to Pernetya, this hardcover book may be thin at 96 pages, but is an exciting find for me, and adds to a genre where few books explore.

A find, indeed. Be careful if you want this out-of-print book loaded with color plates of Jeppes gorgeous watercolors, some copies on Alibris.com we're selling in a range of $350 - $900 US DOLLARS. You should be able to find one for less that $200 if lucky, but this is one book which is surely a must-have for any South African bulb fanatic. With color plates dedicated to such genus as Babiana, Lachenalia, Massonia, Gladiolus, Ixia, and most every South African bulb and even those not technically bulbs like the bulbous Oxalis ( a thrill for me!), I have to say that this is an awesome book, and I can't wait to spend more time with it. One drawback is that the book seems to ignor many of the Amaryllids of South Africa, but it does cover some genus such Romulea quite extensively. Not too much cultural information is provided, but the short descriptions do provide a valuable fact for each species - a line explaining where the latin name came from. i.e. Lachenalia aloided means that the flowers look like Aloe blossoms - Aloides.Watsonia Illustration from Jeppe's book.

Another South African press book, which would not be available to many of us if it were not for Alibris. Also out of print, this book is slightly smaller than Jeppe's coffee table size, but provides an equally impressive selection of color illutrated plates. I can't even begin to share my excitement about discovering and finally recieving these two books, since only two books on South African bulbs are available to North American gardeners via Timber Press.

A GARDEN FOR ALL SEASONS a Readers Digest Book was also reccomended, and althrough more conventional, this book appears to be of high quality, full of color photos and text.

Rounding out the nine books, is a vintage book called OLD HERBACEOUS by Reginald Arkell, 1951. A essay books, the inside flap reads..." Anyone who loved the England of Goodbye Mr. Chips and Mrs. Miniver will love Mr. Arkell's England too.". This is the story of a gardener through all of his years of growth, from child through adult, English mansions, Conservatory's and garden rooms.....

Another book, WILD WEALTH by Sear, Becker,Poetker and Forberg is beautifully bound in gold leaf, with illustrations that might be too mid-century modern in thier Picasso abstractness, yet Ms. Glattstein says that it is on her top 5 list, and that alone encourages me to spend time with it. OUT IN THE GARDEN by Dean Riddle is the most contemporary book on this list, and most likely will be the book which I will take on a plane with me since it is small , well written and funny. The illustrations are by one of my favorite contemporary illustrators Jwho happens to be included in my design book BEYOND TREND and represented by a friend of mine in Japan, CWC....Jeffrey Fulvimari's sketches are fabulous and artisticall stylish if not silly and cheerful, yet may not stir the soul of the serious gardener accoustomed to images of Haws watering cans, hand thrown pots and alpine plants.

Last but not least, Judy Glattsteins classic book, THE AMERICAN GARDENER'S WORLD OF BULBS, hard to find perhaps, but still on Amazon, if not eBay. I can;t believe that this early book of hers slipped under my radar. If you are addicted to this blog, you must get this book!

So share with me what are your 5 favorite gardening books that you keep turning to. And....how many books do you have in your gardening library? I will go count mine, and then choose my 5 fav's and share later.

Merry Christmas to me! And you!


  1. Anonymous4:05 AM

    Just discovered your blog tonight and must tell you how much I liked it. I'm going to check out the link you mentioned and the books. The Arkell book is right up my alley. Hey, five favorite books is tough.

    No, easy I mean, in terms of the first one: The Education of a Gardener by Russell Page. Besides being the only book I've read that objectively tells you how to make a garden beautiful, without ever telling you what style it should be or what to put in it, the book inspires a kind of mental rigor and discipline that I sorely need!

    Second has to be Ms. Jekyll. Of her books, I'll pick Colour Schemes for Flower Gardens, for similar reasons to Mr. Page above. You not only learn how to make beautiful garden pictures, but the woman teaches you how to see, literally. Close behind is any Vita Sackville-West collection, simply for her originality and outrageouly seductive prose. Responding to what you say, I read the above three over and over and over again.

    Then there are a group of really good writers that everyone should read and have. I stumbled on such as Helen Van Pelt Wilson, Thalassa Cruso, Louise Beebe Wilder and Henry Mitchell (what a hoot!) in my tender years. Later, Christopher Lloyd, Pam Harper, Penelope Hobhouse, and so many others we all know and love. And I'm not even considering the reference works, including the truly indispensible Wildflowers of Eastern and Central North America by R T Petersen.

    Rules say I have two more choices, since my sneaky mentions in the above paragraph don't count(!)

    These are books that fascinated me for extended periods and taught me a lot. I go back to them. I'd say they share a compelling voice, original vision and complete mastery of the subject matter. You choose any two you like. I'd be glad to tell you why I like them another time:

    Roses, by Jack Harkness.

    Beatrix Farrand's Plant Book for Dumbarton Oaks.

    Theme Gardens, by Barbara Damrosch.

    Gardening on Main Street, by Buckner Hollingsworth

    100 Great Garden Plants, by William H. Frederick, Jr.

    Second Nature, by Michael Polan

    Lee Bailey's Country Flowers

    Gardening at Sissinghurst, Tony Lord

    Though I have lots of garden enthusiasms that go in and out of focus, I'm not a collector in the way you are. I've got somewhere around 250 books, and I try to expunge the duds every few years.

    Thanks again for the great blog and best wishes to you and your hubby for the new year. KM

    I haven't thought of Roger Tory Petersons work for some time now. He was very influencial in my appreciation for wild plants, as well as for birds. He and my fathers spent a summer back in the 30's in Maine illustrating Puffins and sea birds.
    Love Barbara Damrosch's book as well as Michael Polan's. Thanks for your kind words and for your time in writing such a thoughtful list.


  3. I like the dragonfly lamp in the first photo!

    We're in our new house almost three years now, and still haven't set up the library. The only ones I regularly read cover to cover are the handbooks from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

    I am still buying new books, though I don't have the time for them that I used to. Mostly I refer to them when I'm playing "garden mentor" to a neighbor. It's helpful to pull out a book or two to share with them and give them ideas.

  4. I came across your blog by chance - I did a Google search on my dear old friend Barbara Jeppe - a photograph of "Spring and Winter flowering Bulbs of the Cape" lead me to your blog. I helped Barbara - or should say nagged her to publish the pile of original watercolours stored at the bottom of her wardrobe - she had been waiting for about 3 years for a Botanist in Cape Town to write the text. She had eventually given up nagging. I took over her role as nagger and I moved in with her and we wrote the text in 3 months - burning the midnight oil. She went on to win many awards for this astonishing book - my book is naturally autographed with a personal note of thanks. I treasure mine - and miss her deeply.

    Needless to say ... I am an avid indigenous, gardener with a huge collection of bulbs - and, am one of the lucky ones to be living in the fynbos-rich mountains of the Cape.


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