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Article Published December 10, 2014
The Gift of Good Reading
By By Kathy Connolly
Garden books and magazines have been some of my best friends over the course of my career in the outdoors. Here are some suggestions from 2014 that may please the gardeners on your holiday list-and you, too.
The Shady Lady's Guide to Northeast Shade Gardening by Amy Ziffer
Got shade? If you don't, but you live in southern New England, it's a good bet you soon will. Trees are our natural groundcover.
Author Amy Ziffer, a landscape designer from Sherman, offers an informative 200-page tour through the different types of shade and shade gardens. Ignore the nuances, she says, at peril of frustrating failure. For instance, plants that live in shade in the southern U.S. may tolerate full sunshine at the higher latitudes of Vermont.
I found her exploration of 60 plants for deep shade and another 25 plants for light shade insightful and well vetted. About half of the selections are regional natives. In each case, she offers a description of the plant's best uses and optimal conditions.
Shady Lady's Guide is straightforward and non-technical, but thorough enough to benefit gardeners of all experience levels as well as landscape professionals. Among books on shade gardening, this one is a gift to those of us who live in the land of the trees.
Coffee for Roses…and 70 Other Misleading Myths About Backyard Gardening by C.L. Fornari
Warning: This book could make you an insufferable gardening know-it-all. But that's only if you're willing to accept author C.L. Fornari's light-hearted challenges to lots of old, popular garden myths. She cleans out the cob webs surrounding 71 ideas that got started somewhere, somehow-but don't deserve any further light of day.
As the title suggests, the relationship between coffee grounds and roses is one such idea (see myth 25). In the course of rearranging our perspective on male and female hollies (myth 36), she offers down-to-earth insight on pollination and flower color-and even the stranger-than-fiction sex lives of plants. Rocks in the bottoms of garden pots? See myth 63.
This handsome, well-illustrated little book (140 pages) is a perfect candidate in the "under $20" gift category. For an informative read that's easy on the mind as well as the eyes, I give this one a thumbs-up.
The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy
Maybe Dorothy was giving garden advice in The Wizard of Oz when she said, "There's no place like home." That is certainly the message of The Living Landscape. How you manage your own backyard or community park makes a difference, and not just a small one. We learn, for instance, that our ultra-common arborvitae may offer us shade and screening as garden plants, but this small evergreen's ecological values make it more important than that. It provides nesting for birds, food for birds, small mammals and caterpillars, and pollen for insects.
Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy are among the most respected authors in horticulture and ecology today. Their 392-page book offers both photographic eye candy and a big helping of brain food. Ask your librarian to add it to the local collection. It carries a timely message that belongs in every homeowner's and landscaper's awareness.
Connecticut Gardener Magazine
Hydrangeas won't blossom? Good tomatoes gone bad? All land and garden care is local, which is why a subscription to Connecticut Gardener magazine could make your intended gift recipient very happy.
The publication started 20 years ago and continues to be written by local experts about our regional plants, gardens, and landscape conditions. Westport-based publishers Will and Anne Rowlands bring it out four times during the growing season.
One of my favorite features is a calendar of gardening-related events all over the state, but each issue also offers articles full of information that doesn't go stale. The magazine is three-hole-punched for archiving. Visit www.conngardener.com, call 203-292-0711, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Enjoy your winter reading!
Kathy Connolly is a landscape designer, garden writer, and speaker from Old Saybrook. Her website is www.speakingoflandscapes.com. Email her at email@example.com.