Check out my blogs at Barnes & Noble's GARDEN VARIETY:
A Garden in Your Mailbox
Celebrating the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew
In 2009, Kew Royal Botanic Gardens celebrated its 250th anniversary. In October 2010, the party crossed the pond with the release of an exciting new book. Need a beautiful, reasonably priced gift for a discerning plant lover? Look no further.
Bozo Sapiens: To Err is Human
Are we hard-wired to make mistakes? An intriguing book tackles this question. Let's put it in Star Trek terms. In crisis mode, Dr. Spock is all about logic, while all-too-human Captain Kirk relies on his gut instinct. But instinct gets us in trouble more often than we'd like.
Freckles, the Limberlost and Me
As a child, I had some odd reading habits. Basically, if the book was in our house, I read it. We had children's books, sure, but my younger brothers and sisters were likely to nab those first. Since I got antsy without a book in my hands, I often read books I found on my parents' shelves. Several of those were by Indiana author Gene Stratton-Porter.
An Ode to the Meadow
Move Over Gremlins, the Gnomes are Coming
Gnomes: They eat zombies for breakfast. Meet Chuck Sambuchino, author and gnome slayer, whose book gives frightening new meaning to "the red hat brigade."
The Gold Award of Garden Writing
The Garden Writers Association (GWA), an organization of over 1,800 professionals communicating about horticulture, gardening, and the environment in the lawn and garden industry, recently announced its top media award recipients.
Gardeners—like anyone who works outdoors—need to be able to judge when it's safe to stay out in the rain, and when it's time to take shelter.
Remembering "Dr. Elm"
Dr. George Ware, dendrologist emeritus and, until last year, Research Associate at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL, died earlier this month at age 86. Seven years ago, over the course of a year, I interviewed Dr. Ware about his work and his travels.
The Secret Life of Trees
They're everywhere, but how much do you know about the trees that are such an important part of our existence?
Amelanchier: At Your Service
This native tree is lovely in spring, provides fruit for wildlife, is hardy and readily available. So why is it unfamiliar to so many gardeners? It's all in the name . . .
Ornamental Trees with a Weeping Form
Don't be sad, weeping trees can make great specimens for your landscape.
A Few Words from Old Wives
I collect books with old wives' tips for gardeners. I wouldn't vouch for their efficacy, but they make for interesting reading.
Wake Up Your Window Boxes!
If you are lucky enough to have window boxes, don't let them pass through the seasons empty or—as I frequently see—filled with plastic flowers. Give your house a face-lift with stylish plant combinations to brighten each window.
The Shady Side of Gardening
There's a reason hostas are consistently one of the top selling garden plants, but they aren't the only plants for a shady garden. Shade isn't straightforward, which gives gardeners lots of options.
What’s all the Buzz about Bees?
It's time to go to Plan bee. Author Susan Brackney tells us about the “hardest working creatures on the planet."
The Art of the Arrangement
Growing flowers is one thing; making artistic cut flower arrangements is something else. For that I need all the help I can get . . .
Everything's Coming Up Roses
Love 'em or hate 'em, roses reign as the royalty of garden flowers. Sure, some are prima donnas—maybe even divas—but others are low maintenance enough even for MY garden.
Plants that Changed the World
"To see things in the seed, that is genius." - Lao Tsu
Gardening for a Lifetime
"Live each day as if it were your last, and garden as though you will live forever." - Author Unknown
My Brother the Soil Scientist
For today's post, I thought I'd grill a soil expert from the U.S. Department of Agriculture...who also happens to be my younger brother.
Garden Color All Year Long
Color all year? Really? Okay, sure, if you count brown and gray during winter. No? You're still not convinced? Oh, ye of little faith, read on...
Flower Girls: Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice
Who can resist cute little girls in fancy dresses, carrying flowers like miniatures of the bride?
Five for Friday: Looking Up
If your plants are all on level ground, you're missing out on a beautiful dimension in your landscape design.
I Love Lilacs
"Lilacs, False blue, White, Purple, Color of lilac,Your great puffs of flowers Are everywhere" - Amy Lowell
Wedding Bell Blooms
Love is in the air, and single women eye the bride’s bouquet warily. I won’t be in line to catch any bouquets, but I’m always intrigued by the bride’s choice of wedding flowers.
It’s—ACHOO!—that time of—ACHOO!—year again. Beware the bane of many gardeners and outdoor lovers: allergies.
It’s a Dirty Business, But Someone Has to Do It
She’s baa-aack! It’s been a long strange trip for Paula Holliday and it gets even stranger in Rosemary Harris’ latest Dirty Business mystery, Dead Head.
Butterflies: Tales from the Dark Side
The ethereal beauty of butterflies makes them welcome visitors to our gardens. But their world is not all airy-fairy tales. A surprising number of authors lifted those colorful wings and found something darker hiding under the delicate façade, both metaphorically and literally.
Childproof Your Garden
You’re a good parent, and you’ve done your research. Your home is childproofed to the max. But what about your garden?
Too Much Stuff
Stuff: It’s everywhere. The right stuff; the wrong stuff. When is it too much, and what can you do when it takes over your life? The Story of Stuff, by Annie Leonard, is a story of connection and obsession, of economics and environmental responsibility. It’s intriguing and terrifying, and after reading it you’ll never look at stuff the same way again.
Our Feathered Friends
As a gardener I’ve always been interested in drawing birds into my garden. I love to watch the hummingbirds feed from tubular flowers, and I enjoy watching the cardinals, robins, woodpeckers and other birds that frequent my backyard. I’ve purchased binoculars and several identification guides, but I’m still very much a novice when it comes to my avian visitors.
Plants that Heal . . . or Kill
“Herbal” is not synonymous with “healthy." Take care before dosing yourself or your loved ones with ancient herbal remedies.
Winging It: Jenny Gardiner’s Memoir of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot, + an Author Q&A
What does a winged creature with claws like razor-sharp power tools have in common with cute kids in Lederhosen?
Five for Friday: The Secret Language of Flowers
Flower talk; it’s like a whole different language. What—you didn’t know flowers could speak? Well, sure, you probably know that red roses trill words of true love and delicate baby’s breath represents innocence, but those barely scratch the surface of this burbling pot of passionate prose.
Sleeping with Anemone: A Flower Shop Mystery—and a Q&A with the Author!
As someone who loves both gardens and mysteries, I’m always on the lookout for books that combine both. Some time ago I discovered Kate Collins’ Flower Shop Mysteries, featuring the intrepid Abby Knight, a florist who stumbles into more than her fair share of murderous plots.
It’s for the Birds: Bald Coot and Screaming Loon
Birds of a feather will flock to this fascinating volume – “Adventures in the Curious, Mysterious, and Remarkable World of Birds.”
Fairies in the Flowers
“Sunlight fades, stars appear, garden fairies gather here.” – Unknown
Getting down and dirty is half the fun of gardening, but how well do you know your soil?
Sticks and Bones
"Gardeners and crime writers have quite a lot in common, not the least that they are both fond of a good plot." – attributed to Royal Horticultural Society member Jane Bowden, writing as Avon Curry.
Friday Five: 5 Books for Budding Gardeners (at $10 or Less!)
There was a time when I was more interested in pretty pictures of flowers than the real thing. Being a girly girl, digging in the dirt just seemed gross to me. But I grew up to be a lot more interested in snakes and snails and puppy dogs (tails and all) than in cooking with sugars and spice. Now, I’m always keeping an eye out for fun garden-related books for kids.
A Rose is a Rose, But Not Necessarily a Romance
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, roses are everywhere. Roses aren’t just on Hallmark cards and in floral bouquets—they are on the covers of all kinds of books. And not just romances...
The Quirky Side of Gardening
“Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t.” While these books may not be your typical garden fare, they’ll put a smile on your face.
Five for Friday: Gardeners, In Their Own Write
There are gardeners, and there are garden writers. And then there are writers like these five, who have such a masterful way with the written word that they’ve become as well known as authors and essayists as for their gardens.
It’s a Wild Life
They’re out there. Deer, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, moles, voles, chipmunks, ground hogs, armadillos, and even wolves, bears, and mountain lions, depending on where you live. Some welcome all kinds of wildlife into their gardens. Others, like my mom, think the critters are out to get them. Love 'em or hate 'em—or maybe even fear them—it’s their world, too, and we're all in this together.
Friday Five: Garden Essays
Find a cozy spot and dig into these delicious essays, rich with all the flavors of the garden.
How Plants Got Their Names
There are two ways to look at this: the scientific classifications of plant species, and the sometimes fanciful ways both common and botanical names are derived. If you’re a research-minded horticulturist, or someone who's fascinated by history and trivia, these books are for you.
Eating the Sun: An Ode to the Miracle of Photosynthesis
The best science book you think you’ll never read—but I hope you do. I love this line: “The sun’s energy, stored by plants, keeps us alive moment by moment, heartbeat by heartbeat, thought by thought. Our bodies are stardust; our lives are sunlight.”
Friday Five is Back: Breathtaking Books
If a picture is worth a thousand words, these gorgeous books are priceless.
Gift Books for Young Gardeners
Plant a seed and watch it grow: give garden-related gifts to the children on your shopping list. It’s never too early to instill a love of gardening—and reading—in your kids or grandkids!
Gifts for Gardeners Who Like to Read
Looking for a gift for the gardeners in your life? You can’t go wrong with these collections.
A Touch of Winter Magic
December is the month of Winter Solstice and the ancient Yule holiday (not to be confused with Christmas). I thought this would be a good time to look at myth, magic, and legends that relate to our plants and gardens.
Deck the Halls
‘Tis the season to go wild with holiday trimmings—be sure to include a taste of the outdoors in your decor.
Christmas Trees: The Real Deal
I bet you thought Christmas trees date back to Europe a couple hundred years ago—I know I did. I was surprised to learn how long trees have been part of our festivities, and not just the familiar Christian holiday.
O Christmas Tree
“O Christmas Tree! O Christmas Tree! Thy leaves are so unchanging; Not only green when summer's here, But also when 'tis cold and drear.” Whether you prefer real or fake, it’s just not Christmas without a tree.
The New Garden Classics
Merriam-Webster defines “classic” as “serving as a standard of excellence: of recognized value.” These modern gardening classics reflect a shift in attitude toward our relationship with nature
Influential American Landscape Designers
Many beautiful outdoor spaces—golf courses, public parks and gardens, even cemeteries—can seem like natural oases born out of thin air, but they're actually carefully planned out and tended to by experts. It's very interesting to learn about the artists behind these spaces and it can provide endless inspiration for your own landscaping projects.
Friday Five: The English Garden
It’s a British invasion! And it’s been going on for centuries. England’s mild climate was ideal for gardening, and despite our appreciation of French and Italian gardens, England holds the garden crown. How did it all begin?
Gardens of Words
Writing and gardening are both solitary obsessions, but most gardeners will talk a blue streak about their favorite hobby. It’s only natural that some prolific gardeners have produced words as prolifically as blossoms.
Friday Five: Serenity Gardens
Healing gardens, Zen gardens, spiritual gardens, meditation gardens, Japanese gardens—there are many names for these serene spaces, but all offer respite from the hectic pace of daily life. Here are five books to help you create your own garden retreat.
Digging Into Murder
... in gardens, beauty is a by-product. The main business is sex and death ...
- Sam Llewelyn
What Fun is Gardening without the Birds and the Bees?
Roses are red, violets are blue, gardening’s hot in romance fiction, too.
Cultivating for Clues: Garden Mysteries
The planting pit that hides a grave, the freshly tilled soil revealing bleached bones—these are age-old themes in the mystery genre. Who hasn’t read a mystery that featured arsenic or strychnine in the garden shed or clues left clinging to the ivy outside the victim’s window? Like Holmes and Watson, like Poirot and Hastings, gardens and mysteries are a perfect pair.
Five Favorites: Color in the Garden
Pablo Picasso asked, "Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? No." If Picasso couldn't answer this, I sure can't. That's why I collect books about color, particularly color in the garden. Luckily, there are plenty of books to choose from.
Five Favorites: Conifers
What is a conifer? If that question makes you wrinkle your forehead and hesitantly think of pines and Christmas trees, these books may not be for you. On the other hand, if you know that conifers come in many colors—far beyond "ever green"—and that some are even deciduous, at least one of these books deserves a place on your bookshelf.
The Origin of [Plant] Species
Trees and shrubs are a pleasure for many homeowners. They're aesthetically pleasing in the landscape, and they offer shade, fruits, flowers, and—especially this time of year—dazzling leaves. But have you ever wondered where those trees and shrubs came from? Before they make it to the nursery? I'm curious about the actual origins of trees and shrubs. Aren't you?
Trees speak to us, if not with words. Dr. Seuss’ Lorax talks to the trees, and even William Shakespeare “finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.” Some trees have more to say than others, and their words are hard to ignore.
Five Favorites: Garden Reference Books
No matter how much experience a gardener has, there is always more to learn. Nowadays, a lot of information can be found on the internet, but I like to have a good-sized library of reference books that I can call upon when I have a garden-related problem to solve.
I’ve always loved the fall, even if it does carry the underlying chill of winter days to come. It’s the season for leaf peeping, bonfires, jack-o-lanterns, and hot apple cider. Where I grew up in the Midwest, fall—or “autumn,” as my British husband prefers—was signaled by dried cornstalks, bumpy globes of osage orange, cigar-like pods of catalpas, and the vivid blue skies of what we called, with no thought of political correctness, “Indian summer.”
Not Your Grandma’s Garden
There is a homey sound to the phrase "Grandma's Garden ”—even if your grandmother never planted a flower in her life. The romantic vision of an old-fashioned garden seems to fit the description of a traditional English Cottage Garden. It is possible to recreate an heirloom or period garden.
Danger Lurks in the Garden
Many people are not aware of which ornamental plants and flowers are harmful—or even deadly—to humans and animals. Are those potted plants of yours actually pretty poison?
Five Favorites: Books About Gardeners
I agree with Cicero, who said, “He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing.” My own library has several bookcases overflowing with garden-related books, a number of those by and about gardeners.
If Plants Could Kill
Wicked Plants is a nonfiction gardening book that reads like a mystery; I was intrigued the minute I read the title, and hooked from the first page! The book digs up some of Mother Nature's most evil creations—the trees, shrubs, vines, weeds, and other plants that have been known to maim, intoxicate, and even kill people (not to mention gross them out. A weed that makes you drool prodigiously? Ew!).
As summer draws to a close, the peak time for planting spring-flowering bulbs will soon be upon us. Bulbs are magical; pop those dull brownish lumps into the ground and your garden will explode with color next spring—tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths galore.
Prune Away Problems
Pruning is a gardening task that many regard as a chore. True, pruning certain plants can be daunting and tricky, but it's well worth the effort. It's beneficial—essential, even—to the health of your plants and the look of your garden. With a little help from some trusted gardening guides, pruning doesn't have to be a thorn in your side!
From miniature (we're talking palm-sized) to massive (6 feet across!), the garden hosta goes to extremes.
Labyrinths and Mazes
Labyrinths and mazes were once considered to be the same thing, or nearly so. Today the two are distinctly different, both by definition and purpose. A maze is a kind of game, designed to trick us into losing ourselves. A labyrinth has a more spiritual meaning, and is designed to help us find ourselves. These ancient puzzles fascinate us to this very today.
Their Names Live On In Flowers
Many of the flowers you know and love were named after actual people—like the granddaughter of Charles Darwin and a member of the Jameson Irish whiskey family. Who's living in your garden?
More Than a Hint of Mint
It's an herb, it's a garnish, it's...taking over your herb garden? From backyards to bubblegum, mint is making its mark.
Black Magic with a Metallic Twist
Black, bronze, and metallic plants add drama and sophistication to a garden's palette.
Make Your Garden a Hummingbird Haven
These pretty little hummers hypnotize and enthrall gardeners and photographers alike. With a little planning, your flower garden can easily be turned into a hummingbird habitat. An upcoming book, World of Hummingbirds, details the history of this beloved bird—and even includes tips on watching hummingbirds and attracting them to your garden.
A Taste of the Tropics
Whether you prefer salsa, reggae, or grass-skirted hula dancers, you can bring the flavor of your favorite island destination to your own garden—even if your climate is anything but tropical.
Growing Up Green
It's never to early to start growing a green thumb.
What Flower Are You?
Flowers have long been associated with emotions and personality traits. So what flower (or plant) fits your personality—are you a shy violet, a graceful iris, a happy sunflower, or a prickly cactus?
Gnome and Garden
They’re little. They’re ugly. They wear pointy red hats. It’s a gnome invasion. . .
Landscape Visionary: Jens Jensen
Often called the dean of the Prairie style, this Danish-born landscape architect and published author graduated from the bedded gardens of Scandinavia and Germany to become the "dean of the Prairie style," bringing waterfalls, winding paths, and native Midwestern plants to the parks of Chicago—and beyond.
Sticks and Stones
Pop quiz: What toy is "found in all sizes in nature, inspires spontaneous, unstructured play, and can be used in unending imaginative ways?" Here's a hint: this same toy can be used "to draw in the sand on the beach or to use as a magic wand, sling shot, light saber, fishing rod, or walking stick." Here's one more clue: It doesn't cost a thing.
Lilies Are Not Always What They Seem
When it comes to names, lilies are often the source of unwitting confusion. Some of your most beloved lilies are not true lilies at all.
Emerge from the Ordinary with a Butterfly Garden
Want to give your landscape wings? Try making it a haven for butterflies.