I owe many things to my Aunt Elizabeth…. but the thing for which I am most indebted is her annual gift of reading material. When I was a young teen, she gave me a subscription to Boy’s Life magazine, which I devoured each month. She also enrolled me in a teenage “Book of the Month” club which caused me to hang forlornly around the community Post Office until Mr. Jim Minter, the postmaster, chased me off to do farm chores for my father.
I love to read and I’m not picky about what’s before my eyes. Cereal box, catalog, book or junk mail flyer – all are interesting to me.
As you might guess, I have a lot of books. When it comes to gardening books, though, I have two categories: reference and pleasure. I use Dr. Dirr’s “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” and Dr. Armitage’s “Herbaceous Perennial Plants” almost daily.
They’re great for a professional garden writer but would put most folks to sleep faster than a nightcap of benadryl and whiskey.
There are some garden books, though, that are entertaining as well as informative. I’ve chosen some of my favorites to give you gift ideas for any gardener.
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The Southern Living Garden Book edited by Steve Bender
Clearly written and full of important information on how to garden in the South. Has an excellent descriptive list of landscape plants. This is the best basic book (other than my own books!) for Southern gardeners.
Southern Living Garden Problem Solver edited by Steve Bender
If you garden, you’re gonna have problems occasionally. This book covers nearly all of the diseases, insects and other pests you might run into.
Bulletproof Flowers for the South by Jim Wilson
Interested in growing flowers but don’t know where to start? You can’t go wrong with the cultural information and lists of easy-to-grow flowers included here.
Garden Bulbs for the South by Scott Ogden
I never cease to be amazed at the amount of great information on Southern bulbs packed into this book.
Gardening in the South With Don Hastings… by Don Hastings
From the dean of Southern gardeners comes a compendium of practical advice and illustrated garden tasks.
The Essential Earthman by Henry Mitchell
Sometimes you get tired of reading about plants. You want to know what an experienced gardener really FEELS about the task. Mitchell, for twenty five years a garden columnist for the Washington Post, died with dirt on his hands, helping a friend plant daffodils. This book collects his funniest and most observant writings.
Earthly Pleasures : Tales from a Biologist’s Garden by Roger Swain
Naturalist, botanist, gardener and storyteller, Swain is the host of television’s “The Victory Garden”. His essays on the simple observations he made in his garden are wonderful to read. Don’t miss his description of how he and his wife met and were married.
Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs : An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Dr. Michael Dirr
Much more accessible for the amateur gardener than Dirr’s exhaustive “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants”.
Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Dr. Michael Dirr
The Bible of woody plant information used by millions of landscapers and enthusiastic gardeners. If Mike has a comment about a plant, you can trust it. Contains not only plant culture information, but witty comments on his personal experiences with the plant.
Armitage’s Garden Perennials : A Color Encyclopedia by Dr. Allan Armitage
Easy to read and understand the descriptions of hundreds of garden perennials.
Herbaceous Perennial Plants by Dr. Allan Armitage
Manual of Annuals, Biennials and Half-Hardy Perennials by Dr. Allan Armitage
Colleagues at the University of Georgia Horticulture department, Armitage and Mike Dirr have authored five of the most widely used references on landscape plants. All of them sit side by side on my reference shelf.
Common-Sense Pest Control by Willaim Olkowski
I like best their “sliding scale” of control options – from completely organic to explicitly chemical. The descriptions of insect and animal pest life cycles give great insight on whether a pest is truly a problem.
Tulipomania: The Story of the World’s… by Mike Dash
Gives both an enjoyable read and great insight on the psychology behind the great stock market boom and bust of recent years.
Sex in Your Garden by Angela Overy (yup – that’s her name!)
A fascinating primer on how plants propagate themselves. Guaranteed to start conversations at cocktail parties!
Legends in the Garden: Who in the World is Nellie Stevens? by Linda Copeland and Allan Armitage
If you have ever wondered about the person for whom your landscape plants are named, this is a great collection of answers. Features Georgia’s Jane Bath (‘Bath’s Pink’ dianthus), Vince Dooley (‘Dooley’ hydrangea) and Jane Symmes (‘Symmes Select’ magnolia). Fascinating stories about ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea and, of course, ‘Nellie Stevens’ holly.
“Tough Plants for Southern Gardeners” by Felder Rushing (Cool Springs Press, $24.99) Rushing is an eighth generation Mississippi gardener who knows all of gardening’s trials and tribulations. His plant choices almost guarantee success in any Southern garden.
“Gardening Through Your Golden Years” by Jim Wilson (Cool Springs Press, $19.99) If your back gets creaky like mine after a day outdoors, Wilson has tips to help. He suggests bringing a hoe along when you kneel to weed: “So you can climb up it by hand and stand straight again!”
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