Growing a book list: Holiday Gifts That Your Gardener Friends Will Love

We gardeners are easy to buy for . . . just get us a gift certificate from a local nursery and we’ll be as happy as can be. However, my friend Sharon asked me to write a column on my favorite garden book suggestions. “This will be easy,” I thought, “but wait, it depends on the kind of garden book, doesn’t it?” I’ve divided the books into groups  and listed two or three of my favorites in each.

The first is the How-To group. My well-thumbed copy of Tracy DiSabato-Aust’s The Well Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques is the best I’ve found. I attended her lecture at the Little Rock Flower and Garden Show one year, and what a surprise! She is a diminutive, blonde dynamo with extra curly hair woven into tiny, long braids. Another of her books is 50 High Impact, Low-Care Garden Plants. Deborah Martin has a new how-to book with possibly the world’s longest title: 1,001 Ingenious Gardening Ideas, New, Fun and Fabulous That Will Change the Way You Garden—Forever. It is engagingly written and full of smart ideas. Also, the best book on organic gardening is still Rodale’s All-New Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: An Indispensable Resource Guide. The best how-to on propagation is Ken Druse’s Making More Plants. His photography   is stunning.
My second group is I. D. books. These are the kinds of books that weigh several pounds. My hands-down favorites are The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, by Michael Dirr, and The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants.

The next group, which I called The Classics, is more about the philosophy and love of gardening, rather than how to do something. Allen Lacy is one of my favorite authors. I can recommend several of his works full of musings and observations: The Garden in Autumn, The Glory of Roses, and In a Green Shade. Others in this genre are both classical and historical: A Rock Garden in the South and The Garden in Winter by Elizabeth Lawrence and Cuttings from My Garden by the great English plantsman, Graham Stuart Thomas.

If you love reading about how things were done in the past, for Historical Garden Writing, I suggest, Old Time Gardens: A book of the Sweet O’ the Year by Alice Morse Earle, which was reprinted in 2005. The original, from 1901, is almost like the Bible for gardeners working on historical restorations. A splurge buy would be the coffee table size Once Upon A Time . . .A Cemetery Story by Jane Baber White about the saving of Lynchburg, Virginia’s Old City Cemetery. Also, The Once & Future Gardener: Garden Writing from the Golden Age of Magazines 1900-1940 has articles written by people, primarily women, who had their hands in the dirt and plenty of practical experience. These include Louise Beebe Wilder, Grace Tabor and Mrs. Frances King; whose garden writings had a formative influence on American culture.

Funny books about gardening can be new or old. Art Wolk, who could be considered the stand-up comedian of garden writing, is the author of Garden Lunacy: A Growing Concern. Classically funny garden books is anything written by Beverly Nichols, 1898-1993, a writer of novels and children’s books, but his best loved are his garden books, filled with anecdotes about his cats and his curious neighbors. Down the Garden Path, The Thatched Roof, Merry Hill, Laughter On the Stairs and many others are sure to delight you.

Native Plants, a big group in my library, include favorites like Easy Care Native Plants by Patricia Taylor, Tough Plants for Tough Places by Peter Loewer, and finally, the one I read over and over, Hedgemaids  & Fairy Candles: Lives and Lore of North American Wildflowers by Jack Sanders.

There are also dozens of single topic books, such as The New Book of Salvias: A Sage for Every Garden, written by Betsy Clebsch, an amateur botanist considered to be the authority on salvias. Roses, A Celebration, edited by Wayne Winterrowd, in which 33 eminent gardeners write about their favorite rose, is accompanied by lovely original color paintings by Pamela Stagg.

Gift certificates are always welcome from catalog companies such as Old House Gardens, Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, Gardener’s Supply Co., and Gardens Alive! Gift subscriptions to garden magazines, like Garden Gate, Arkansas Gardener, and Fine Gardening keep giving throughout the year.

Well, dear reader, this is my final column to appear in the Northwest Arkansas Times. There wasn’t space for my article after the merger of the local newspapers. Please subscribe to my Garden Blog, From Lynn’s Garden online at You’ll receive my articles, complete with my photos, straight to your own email. You will also be able to post comments and ask questions. Until then . . .

Bio: Lynn is a Washington County Master Gardener whose articles have appeared in the Northwest Arkansas Times for 10 years. She enjoys singing in the choir, traveling and helping people with their gardening problems.

The best all-around book for having a garden look good year-round.

making the most of our bounty of leaves for soil-building

We have a leaf service to shred our leaves and put them in place around the landscape: under the blackberries, over the dormant asparagus bed, around the base of trees and in flowerbeds. We use horse and sheep manure from friends to mix with the shredded leaves. At the end of the season, we have excellent compost produced in place, like strip composting.

With the addition of free coffee grounds from Starbuck’s, we can improve soil tilth, add to fertility and change hydrangea color from pink to blue.

Snow showers expected

I am scurrying around bringing my tender plants indoors: Lime Zinger elephant ear and Bishop of Llandaff dahlia. Both are winners everyone should grow.  I grow Zinger in a very large pot and underplant it with purple oxalis, with something to trail down, like a purple petunia.  The Bishop is the brightest crimson I’ve ever seen, except on a Cardinal flower. Its dark bronzy foliage makes it a striking plant. It is about 3-4′ tall but doesn’t need much staking. It came from Old House Gardens, one of my favorite bulb sellers.

Speaking of bulbs, time to get those daffodils and other bulbs in the ground. Happy planting.

Welcome to my new blog


I’m a garden writer from Northwest Arkansas, but due to a newspaper sale, my regular column, From the Garden, no longer has space in the Northwest Arkansas Times. I decided to write a garden blog, so readers could see more of my photos and ask me questions.

There are two topics I’m researching now: Using Evergreen Ferns in the Garden and Christmas Book Recommendations for Your Garden Friends.

Stay tuned. This site is under construction and there is MORE TO COME!