For Christmas why not give a book on gardening? Next to plants my favorite “thing” is probably books. In December 2006 I wrote about some of my favorite books. Today I want to update the list and hope you find one that you want to check out then put it on your Christmas list, or give to a gardener friend.

          1.  Burpee’s book “Complete Flower Gardener” is written for those who want to garden organically.  Its 488 pages do not leave out any topics. The last 241 pages have a color print of flowers to use plus directions for each one:

          A. What to grow (species that grow well in different zones and soils;

          B. How to grow;

          C. How to use in a garden.

For example, Oriental Poppies should not be planted in big groups as they go dormant in summer and cut ends must be burnt or seared before putting in a bouquet. On Balloon Flowers it warns when dead heading to remove blooms only as further blooms develop on the same stem.

          An interesting thing is the charts that show up on many subjects to give a little history or an ancient myth.  One I liked was a list of “flowers for the sandbox”, that is flowers liking sandy soil, such as Gayfeathers, Moss Rose, and Straw Flowers.  There is a chart “Gardener Beware” listing poisonous or toxic plants.

          2.  A much smaller book (220 pages) is “Perennial Dream Gardens” from Better Homes and Gardens. It is full of gorgeous colored photographs to give you ideas of gardens in different places and how they use flowers.  It is divided into color, cottage, small, shade, and water gardens with an encyclopedia of perennials in color to choose from.

          One of the first gardens was in Kansas with over 2 acres divided into smaller gardens with chairs for comfort and included a big dog and a cat.  With this much space there is room for berms, an orchard, and a vegetable garden. Any of which could become a single garden for a city lot.

          In New York City is a roof top garden with raised beds.  After you are certain the building can carry the weight, the good part is to reduce heat below, enjoy more plants per square foot, and extend the season by covering the raised beds in fall. They will also warm up earlier in spring.

          A small lot in New York City grew a garden on a trellis, pergolas, and fences along the edges of the lot.  This works in Lincoln as I have seen several very small yards covered with a great variety of plants with a chair or table fitted in for coffee. The structures make shade for shade lovers. It does not take as many trees for these yards nor as many leaves to rake in the fall.  One yard was for a retired couple and had a very small pond for fish and the sound of water.  The book then has its list of perennials to use, and how take care of them.

          3.  Another book I like very much is “The Houseplant Encyclopedia” by Jantia and Kruger.  It is a heavy one with 384 pages stuffed with lots of colored pictures. There is a short history of houseplants starting in Ancient Egypt. Then over the years people have tried to keep plants growing in their houses or by building houses especially for plants.

          An early chapter is “Plants That Need Careful Handling” along with a list of toxic houseplants and the parts to be aware of.  If you have kids, or cats, or dogs, this section will be very useful.  Leaves, berries, sap especially latex), tubers, seeds, and bulbs are all listed.

          Under “Care and Propagation” are light requirements, long and short day plants, respiration, and water requirements. This is a fairly long section but very important as more plants are killed by “overwatering” than anything else. Overwatering causes root rot which is usually a fatal disease and cannot be corrected with chemicals.

          There are recipes for different soil mixes for the various types of houseplants such as Cactus or tropicals. There is also a chart for temperatures in which they survive, both high and low. I noticed my Camellia has 23 degrees F. as its low, the lowest on the chart. It did freeze several years ago but came back to life and is now in bloom.

          4.  Another type of book I have always liked to read are those on plants used for medicine or those that tell of long ago uses of plants, so I have collected several of these.  One of these is “Natures Cures” by Castleman. “Natures Cures” talks about “Aromathy” going back to Cleopatra who spread Rose petals all over as she waited for Mark Anthony. We associate Lavender now with relaxation and use Rose, Rosemary, and Clove oils. This book in general went over many of the so called cures and bisected them to see how they might work. The “Weeds of Nebraska” from the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, also contains many of these legends as it deals with various plants. 

          In the Roger Peterson series of books there is “Medicinal Plants.  The book has many of the plants in our yards and tells how they have been used and where they can harm.  An example is our “Butterfly Weed” (Asclepsis tuberosa) also called “Pleurisy Root” and used as a treatment for the disease of pleurisy and other lung ailments. It also warns that it may be toxic in large quantities.

Copyright 2011