Recommended Reading

Our Master Gardeners have reviewed the following books:

Consider the Leaf: Foliage in Garden Design, Judy Glattstein
Timber Press, 2003
ISBN: 0-22192-571-3
Contributed by Doreen Gow

img_1733-2I have to admit that the name of this book caught my attention, and the contents did not let me down.  Judy Glattstein is a garden consultant, author and lecturer.  This combination is quickly apparent as the book is written in a first person, conversational style that is perfect for sitting down and getting comfy for an extended read.  Don’t forget to make yourself a cup of tea first!

Glattstein presents foliage as the often missing link in a well designed garden; the link that allows the garden to look fabulous even when plants are not in bloom.  It is quickly obvious from the detailed descriptions, that the author knows her plants and how they can best be used as companions to each other by using different leaf shapes, textures, sizes and colors.   If you also know your plants, you can easily imagine how the combinations would appear together.  The downside is that if you don’t have this encyclopedic knowledge, the photos in the book are fewer than you would like and are gathered into galleries rather than intermingled with the descriptions.  This often means that you are reading with a plant reference book or a good catalog nearby so that you can look up a particularly enticing description.  Hmm….maybe she works in collaboration with the nursery business….



The Tallgrass Prairie Center Guide to Prairie Restoration in the Upper Midwest
Smith, Williams, Houseal & Henderson
University of Iowa Press, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-58729-916-2
Contributed by Doreen Gow

img_1730-2This is a serious reference volume for those interested in restoring or planting a prairie.  It covers planning, implementation, management, dealing with special cases, and seed production.  It is full of excellent information but is written in textbook style and so can’t be approached as a casual read.

I checked out this book as I was trying to determine what went wrong with the prairie planting that we seeded over our septic mound when we first built on our property 15 years ago.  In spite of starting with bare soil, selecting seed mix from a reputable source, and alternative burning and cutting over the years, we have gotten an influx of non-native plants that have mostly obliterated the plants I wanted.   Now we see mostly smooth brome and Canada goldenrod, and continually fight off giant ragweed and thistle.    Obviously we have made some mistakes, one of which was not establishing a buffer zone between the wild areas of the property and this planting.  Everyone just moved right on in!  The information this book contained was enough to convince me that I don’t have enough interest in managing such a feat on my own, so if I really want prairie, I’ll need to have a professional take care of it.   Sometimes acknowledging one’s limitations is very freeing!



Attracting Native Pollinators: Protecting North America’s Bees and Butterflies
The Xerces Society
Storey Publishing, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60342-695-4
Contributed by Doreen Gow

img_1729All of the talk about pollinator woes has peaked my interest on the subject.  I’ve purchased some books, and checked out others.  This volume, written by authors from the Xerces Society, is by far the best I have read both in containing great information and overall readability.  It could be used by a homeowner, teacher, farmer, master gardener, or city planner.  The volume makes increasing plantings for pollinators to be much more approachable than the extensive effort needed with a full-blown prairie.  It encourages the reader to get out there and start!  Start small if needed with annuals favored by pollinators planted in a pot, or think big by turning a portion of your property into a pollinator habitat.

Dr. Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota has written the foreword for this book and engages the reader from the beginning:  “This book is much more than a resource on how to improve habitat for native pollinators.  It is a step-by-step guide for changing our stewardship of the earth; it is a tangible way for people of all ages to make a difference.”

I think this volume would make a great gift!



Plant Propogation, Alan Toogood, Editor, American Horticulture Society, DK Publishing, Inc. 1999
Contributed by Marykay Haas

If you have ever wondered how to propagate plants by other than simple division or seeding, this book is for you! This book has many full color pictures of propagation techniques with step by step instructions. (The photography is outstanding!)

For example, do you know how to identify the best way to take cuttings (below a node); or how to use hormone rooting compounds to increase success; or which no soil or soil mixture is best for rooting? This book will get you started on many interesting experiments in propagating fruits, vegetables, shrubs, flowers etc.

There is also a large section devoted to individual plants and how to propagate them from annuals/biennials to trees to shrubs/climbing plants to perennials to cacti to bulbous plants to vegetables. These general categories are the chapter headings (i.e. Shrubs) with A-Z sections on the specifics of individual plants (i.e. Spirea).

The book is a veritable encyclopedia for plant propagation. It will give the reader a good starting place to understand some of the online resources and research on plant propagation of particular plants. And you can have great fun trying some of the propagation techniques! This book is used as a textbook at the University of Minnesota for the Plant Propagation class in the Horticulture department.

Gardening at Sissinghurst, Text and Photographs by Tony Lord
Macmillan 1995
Contributed by Joanne Rogoff

As winter begins to loosen its hold on all of us– yearning as we are to once again play in the dirt– and the seed catalogues fill our mailboxes, do not despair, fellow MGs. Spring will soon arrive, yet in the waning days of winter your time can be productively spent by getting to the Resources Center and checking out the beautiful and amazing volume noted above.

Many of us have grown up as gardeners having heard about the storied gardens at Sissinghurst and some lucky members of our group have even visited these gardens in Kent, England. If you are like I was, the tales doubtless were centered on the fabled “White Garden.” Yet this volume shows us, in fabulous technicolor, that there is more, SO MUCH MORE! The incredible series of gardens were built around the original orchard and filbert tree plantings in 1900 in the “Nuttery”, and then expanded upon by the legendary literary pair of Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville-West for over sixty years, are known collectively as Sissinghurst.

What the pages of this beautiful volume reveal is the history of the evolution of the gardens, and its stunning photography will take your breath away. While many of the plants are off-limits to Minnesota gardeners, much will look familiar and the juxtaposition of the plantings in the Sissinghurst gardens will suggest countless ways to add amazing pizazz to all of our gardens. Design concepts abound, as do valuable and numerous gardening tips.

If you seek inspiration and excitement, this is the book for you! Check it out!

Roses Love Garlic:  Secrets of Companion Planting with Flowers
Louise Riotte, Storey/Garden Way Publishing, 1983
Contributed by Diane Coderre

This book is a treasure trove of knowledge regarding companion planting.  It was not anecdotal as I expected.  The first 188 pages of the book are written in dictionary style.  This isn’t entertaining reading, but is extremely helpful if you are trying to figure out what flowers to plant along with vegetables in your gardens.  It also contains information on insects, garden tips, and plant ailments.  Everything is in alphabetical order, so getting information on specific plants is very easy.  The last 33 pages is written in narrative style which is more fun to read.  The section includes information about rose hips, drying flowers, artificial lighting, growing wildflowers from seed, roses, making plant based dyes, butterfly bushes, dying Easter eggs, night blooming gardens and adding silver or gray plants to colorful gardens to add contrast.  An interesting mix of topics.

While the book wasn’t what I expected, it is a great reference book and would be useful to both new and experienced gardeners.

The Healing Garden:  A Natural Haven for Body, Senses and Spirit
Sue Minter Curator of the Chelsea Physic Garden
Charles E. Little Co., Inc., 1995
Contributed by Diane Coderre

This book goes well beyond the scope of expectations for information regarding healing gardens.  There is abundant information on the types of plants that can be used to heal body and spirit.  This book also goes into the history of the healing arts.  It contains information on healthy eating, including fruits, vegetables and herbs and also includes recipes.  There is a lot of good information on garden design using various color combinations, plant textures, water features and hardscaping.  Various types of gardens are also discussed:  secret gardens, formal gardens, Japanese and Mediterranean Gardens.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for ideas about garden design in general, as well as those interested in healing gardens.  The pictures are wonderful.  The only downside is this book references plants that readily grow in England and may not survive our Minnesota climate.  But I consider this minor.  The concepts apply to all gardens, regardless of the location.  We can always find varieties of plants suited to our climate.

Plant Driven Design: Creating Gardens that Honor Plants, Place, and Spirit
Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer Ogden
Timber Press, 2008
Contributed by Doreen Gow

Once in a while you come across a book that you thought would be a browse-through, coffee table book and you find yourself sucked in and reading the entire thing page by page with a notepad in hand.   That’s what happened to me with Scott and Lauren Ogden’s beautiful volume, Plant-Driven Design.   This book hit on several levels for me.  The title first caught my eye because of all of the advice we hear on Right Plant, Right Place. I also like the idea of design that honors and enhances the place the garden inhabits, blending into the larger ecological community rather than picking up a design out of a catalog and plunking it into whatever setting you happen to live in.  Finally, the authors share the frustration I felt when trying to choose between a college degree in design or horticulture–neither satisfied my need to be able to do both successfully in order to create the best spaces.

The authors start their preface on a captivating note “This book is for lovers of plants, nature, and gardens — in particular those who are inspired by this love to make wonderful gardens.  … A troublesome gap exists between those who tend gardens and those who design them.   Certainly some people do both these things with joy and ease, but most do not…this book is for gardeners who want the confidence to design, and designers who want the confidence to plant.”  What follows is a volume full of inspiration, advice, years of experience both good and bad, gorgeous plant combinations, and detailed plant lists for specific uses all discussed in flowing prose that feels more like a conversation with the gardeners than reading a book.  Granted, these gardeners live and work in the south and southwest, but their concepts and even plant choices span the various ecological zones on the planet and focus on how to work within those spaces.

Pick up the book and settle in with a cup of tea.

Orchids of Minnesota, by Welby R. Smith
University of Minnesota Press, 1993
Contributed by Joanne Rogoff

Did you know that there are 43 species of native orchids growing in Minnesota?  If you are tempted to observe some of these treasures in their natural habitats, prepare to subject yourself to hordes of gnawing black flies, tramp on human-swallowing squishy sphagnum bogs, or slog through the remotest corners of the state.   Your guide on the journey should be this wonderful volume, Orchids of Minnesota.

Even though an updated version of this volume is now in print (and one would expect the new volume to contain the same carefully considered topics), what makes this Smith volume incredible for anyone seeking these beautiful and mysterious plants is not only the maps pinpointing in-state locations of known populations, a detailed chart with bloom times, but also the remarkable botanical drawings of Vera Ming Wong. Anyone who has ventured into the complex and exacting world of botanical drawing– as I once naively did as a new resident of Minnesota–will appreciate and rely on her beautiful drawings. For the serious seeker of native orchids, this volume will prove an invaluable fellow traveler.

Should you come up empty in your quest, at very least this book will expand your knowledge of the vegetative regions of the state, lead you to protect our fragile environment for even its tiniest inhabitants, and reinforce the importance of treading lightly wherever we venture. Enjoy your trip!

Our Life in Gardens by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd
2009 Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Recommended by: Joanne Rogoff

For those of us who read and own books, you doubtless have a space reserved on your bookshelves mentally designated as “Pride of Place”— books you treasure and recommend to others sharing the passion–books you will often revisit, yet never, never give away.

One inhabitant on such a shelf in my library is the magical volume coauthored by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd entitled Our Life in Gardens. Joe and Wayne had a lifetime in gardens. Wayne followed his gardening interests from the age of three and, once paired with Joe, they went on together to eventually create the acclaimed North Hill Garden in Readsboro, Vermont. Luckily for us, they also collaborated on numerous garden books, my favorite being Our Life…

You might own others of the books they wrote both separately and together, but Winterrowd, who unfortunately died in 2010 at the age of 68, is, in my opinion, the better of the two authors. It is his beautifully crafted prose that largely illuminates the pages of this wonderful book, outlining in detail the construction, design, beauty and sheer wonder of their gardens at North Hill. I have read and reread this volume many times and even today there is scarcely a page I turn to—no matter the subject being covered (willows, bananas, the garden trowel)—where I am not engaged by the words and descriptions, and inspired and seduced anew to garden.

With all of the incomparable text of this beautiful volume, enhanced by the simple and striking botanical line drawings of Bobbi Angell, don’t think for a moment you won’t be educated in the process of reading. There is so much sound botanical and horticultural information packed in these pages you’ll feel you’ve been to school.

Enjoy this wonderful read!

Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy
Recommended by: Nona Cummings
Reading this book completely changed how I look at home landscapes, both personally and professionally. It opened my eyes as to how very sterile our home landscapes have become – maybe even yours. It exposed why these sterile landscapes have caused a ripple effect in the decline of pollinators and the balance of natural biodiversity. If you want to be instrumental in advocating change for the way we interact with nature and becoming a leader in preserving the balance of nature, READ this book!

The Essential Garden Design Workbook by Rosemary Alexander
2nd edition
Recommended by: Ann Wolgamot
This book is an excellent resource for the novice landscaper.  Ms. Alexander goes into tremendous detail about every step of the process of designing a garden.  She begins with a thorough explanation about how to properly measure and evaluate the space right down to the instruments to use.  As she moves you through the design stages, she raises many thought provoking considerations often emphasizing the use of locally sourced products and sustainable methods.  The reader is encouraged to look at a potential garden area in a whole new light.

Gardening with Conifers by Adrian Bloom
Recommended by: Doreen Gow
For fans of Victory Garden on PBS, horticulturalist Adrian Bloom is a familiar face.   Gardening with Conifers showcases the over 500 evergreens Bloom has planted in his own garden in England, as well as many others.  After an initial chapter explaining conifers generally, Adrian writes extensively about the many ways to use evergreens in the garden.  Backdrops, mixed borders, specimen plantings, groundcovers, and even gardens totally made up of conifers are discussed and beautifully photographed across the seasons.  Adrian’s experience as a designer is obvious on page after page of gorgeous borders with artistically mixed shapes, colors and textures.   The last half of the book is an encyclopedia of his favorite conifers, sadly many are out of our zone.  Regardless, living in the frozen north as we do, this book ignites serious garden envy and makes you wonder why we don’t include more conifers in our own gardens.   Check it out!

Guide to Minnesota Vegetable Gardening by James A. Fizzell
Cool Springs Press, 2007, ISBN: 9781591864035
Recommended by: Diane Fredrickson
This “go to” book would be perfect for all home vegetable, fruit and herb gardeners in Minnesota. It recommends seed varieties as well as proper planting conditions to successfully grow many vegetables, fruits and herbs in Minnesota gardens. The first sections of this book delve into the history of Midwest gardening and background information for establishing a home vegetable garden. But the bulk of the book gives information about when, where and how to plant each vegetable, fruit and herb; arugula through watermelon, angelica through thyme and blackberry through strawberry. There also is a page or two devoted to an extensive list of species.
Beginner and experienced gardeners will learn tips regarding when, where, and how to plant, diseases and pests, as well as suggestions for care and maintenance. For each species, additional information such as how to harvest, a list of recommended varieties and a recipe for using vegetables is provided. At the end of the book is a list of suppliers, glossary, bibliography and index which make this a very user friendly and practical book for the home gardener.

Hillside Landscaping
Sunset House, 2007
Recommended by: Doreen Gow
I checked out Hillside Landscaping for inspiration on what to do with my goat prairie–aka my back yard.  I have a south and east facing backyard slope that just isn’t sustainable for mowing any longer–at least not by us!  A couple of trial-and-failure attempts to establish a garden in this space made it clear that I really needed to do my research in order to make this part of our landscape work.  This book displayed examples of a variety of sloping situations from urban to rustic.  It broadened my idea of what gardening on a hill could mean: from requirements of movement, to how hills can invoke curiosity of what might lay at the top or bottom of the slope, and how resting points at various levels of the hillside can give us a different view of the surrounding landscape.  It includes information on retaining walls, stairs, decks, and using water in the garden.  Finally, it provides information to help decide if your situation is a DIY project or requires a contractor.  A few negative points were an illustration of how to get water flowing off of your property to the street drainage system– which is in exact opposition to the rain garden concept—and it has the usual informational limitation of books that try to address a lot of concepts in a short number of pages.  That said, Hillside Landscaping was helpful enough that I added it to my personal collection.  Did I mention that we also have a strong slope on the side of the house?

Minnesota Trees by David M Rathke
University of Minnesota Extension
Recommended by: Nona Cummings
This is my favorite Minnesota Tree Identification Key!
A key is a tool that reduces the process of identifying something to a series of steps. This particular book is a dichotomous key. Meaning you’re led through a series of two choices – 1a or 1b, then 2a or 2b etc. This particular key is subdivided into three sections:
1) Key to Coniferous Trees
2) Key to Deciduous Trees with leaves
3) Key to Trees without leaves including larches (Winter identification)

I really like that this reference is a spiral bound book so I can lay it flat as I work through the key. It also has a very small stature measuring in at 9″ x 7″ so it’s easy for me to throw it in my backpack and take with me on hikes. There’s also a measuring ruler printed on the laminated back cover just in case I need to take a measurement as part of the identification process.

If you’re not carrying this tree identification key with you during your outdoor adventures, then you’re missing out on some great learning opportunities. Especially in the winter!

The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible by Edward C. Smith
Storey Publishing, 2011, ISBN: 9781603429757
Recommended by: Diane Fredrickson
Far beyond simply growing tomatoes and herbs in containers, thisook shows how to grow an amazing variety of food crops on a patio or deck.  Smith expands traditional thinking of a container by using a myriad of buckets, tubs and pots.  Lovely photographs aid the reader in each section of the book.  Whether it is time to downsize vegetable gardening to containers, or it is time to begin vegetable gardening, this book offers lots of ideas. Care of plants through the entire growth and harvest season is carefully presented.  Tools of the trade are thoughtfully explained.  The author shows how to construct inexpensive containers, make self-watering containers and repurpose other tubs and buckets.  One important section, with clarifying photographs, is devoted to pests and diseases.  Smith devotes another section to his most recommended container vegetables, ensuring that the reader will have a successful venture into container gardening. The reader will certainly want to try growing food crops in a hanging pot or new container after reading this reference book.

The Well-Designed Mixed Garden by Tracy Disabato-Aust
Timber Press, 2003
Recommended by: Doreen Gow
The Well-Designed Mixed Garden tempts me to donate a large chunk of my gardening book collection and replace them with this single volume because it is so comprehensive. The author packs the volume with a huge amount of information starting with design concepts and creating a plan. She includes examples of plans she has created and explains her thought process while designing them. There are numerous photos of plant combinations with explanations of why they work together. Last but certainly not least, she put together a group of Appendices that gathers extensive information on plant design and maintenance characteristics that are invaluable to any designer. Finally, this book is written in a conversational tone that is easy to digest. I would love to see this volume spiral bound because it is a fantastic reference book and at my house would be found open on the desktop more often than on a bookshelf.

Low Maintenance Gardening Techniques by Barbara Ellis
Rodale Press
Gardening Weekends: Strategies for the Busy Gardener by Olwen Woodier
Better Homes & Gardens
Recommended by Kathy Carroll
Knowing that my own gardens are sometimes the last to get worked on, I checked out two books on low maintenance techniques from our library: Rodale’s Low Maintenance Gardening Techniques, and Better Homes and Gardens Gardening Weekends: Strategies for the Busy Gardener. While both had valid information, I found that I learned more from the Rodale volume.

Gardening Weekends placed a lot of focus on the three golden rules of low maintenance gardening: 1) right plant for the right place; 2) sustainable design; and the hardest for me 3) setting realistic goals and expectations. I always think I have more time and energy than exist in a 24 hour day! Interestingly enough, the book transitions from the introduction of discussing these rules to water gardens, which I have never thought of as low maintenance. The book states that any style of garden can be low maintenance with proper planning. This may be true, but like many gardeners I have to admit that I have difficulty trying to stick with just one kind of gardening, and this volume didn’t really meet my needs or encourage me to do anything differently.

Low Maintenance Gardening Techniques was much more helpful to me. Organized in four parts of Basic Techniques, Fruits and Vegetables, Lawn and the Landscape, and Smart Plant Choices, this volume has no color plates but is full of easily digested mini topics. For example, the chapter on composting has 15 segments–one or two pages each–covering information such as comparing compost bin types, composting in winter, low maintenance composting, problems, etc. I found this format allowed me to read a few pages at a time and absorb what was being taught without being overwhelmed and automatically lured into the next segment. If anyone has experienced the modern textbook, this is very similar in format. This volume allows you to look up what you need to, and get back to the garden or off to the nursery. One tip I need to try is using more mechanical tools for large bed cleanup. Why am I still bent over in the garden with my hand pruners when I have 40 feet of perennial bed to cut back? I want one of the tools I’ve seen the pros use—it looks like an electric hedge trimmer on a long pole like a string trimmer. Boy does that cruise through ornamental grasses! If I can find one of those for my Ryobi multi-tool, I would be a happy gardener! If anyone has experience with this, pro or con, let me know! And check out this book—it just went on my Christmas list.