March 10, 2013

Best Gardening Book Ever!

by Toni Leland

As I wait for the mountains of grey snow to melt for the second time this year, I've distracted myself with nursery mail-order catalogs and gardening books. What follows is my heart-felt review of the New England Gardener's Handbook. I had the good fortune to receive a review copy from the publisher and I can add a "thank you!" to them for this gem.

This is the gardening book I wish I'd owned when I returned to Connecticut last year. Though I'd lived here for many years previously, I'd forgotten most of what I must have known about gardening in this region. Even returning as an Ohio State University Master Gardener Volunteer, I still was at a loss as I began planning my new gardens.

First, this is a beautifully produced book with glorious photography and excellent design. As I began reading, I also began to chuckle at the authors' humorous approach to the eccentricities of New England weather. In all my years of gardening, in many parts of the country and even the world, I don't remember a garden guide that compares the weather effects of rural against urban, and how elevation can also change the equation. How many people know that deep snow acts as insulation that protects plants? Or that sometimes a gardener can develop a microclimate and enjoy plants and shrubs that might not otherwise survive?

New England Gardener's Handbook provides excellent basics for beginners, or newcomers to the region. The attention to detail reminds me very much of my old favorite, the "Western Garden Book", a Sunset Magazine publication from the late sixties. As mentioned above, the photographs are amazing in this 8 x 10 book filled with maps and icons for understanding the text. Eleven comprehensive sections list plant varieties alphabetically by common name, with full details for year-round maintenance and care.

After an introduction to environmentally sound gradening practices and an explanation on using the book, the sections that follow include annuals, perennials, bulbs, groundcovers, lawns & ornamental grasses, roses, vegetables & herbs, shrubs, vines, trees, and conifers. The Appendix covers pests, diseases, & controls; fertilizer & plant nutrition; pruning trees & shrubs; wildlife in the garden; and starting seeds indoors.

A good glossary, bibliography, and index round out this excellent regional gardening book written by well-known and respected garden authorities Jacqueline Heriteau, Holly Hunter Stonehill, Liz Ball, James Fizzell, and Joe Lampi.

With spring just around the corner, I'm now prepared.

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