2011-01-13 / Features

Winter Gardening Reads

The Potting Shed
By Carole McCray


McCray McCray The poet Edwin Markham wrote “He fed his spirit with the bread of books.” It’s that time when we settle in for winter, peruse the gardening catalogs and take the time for good winter reads.

Some suggested garden related readings:

“ People with Dirty Hands” ( Macmillan USA) is entertaining and informative. The author, Robin Chotzinoff, meets real-life people on her travels across the United States like the “ rose rustlers” who hunt through old cemeteries and abandoned structures searching for hardto find varieties of old hardy roses. You’ll meet Mike in Independence, Texas who has The Antique Rose Emporium and christened a rose he found as Red Burglar, a prickly climber because it really trapped a burglar attempting to enter an old woman’s house. Bill Palmer believes you can’t buy a tomato, so he grows 450 plus plants a year; the rest of his time he spends playing Scrabble on the circuit. Chotzinoff introduces you to these different voices of gardeners, country and city dwellers with a passion for gardening.


Amy Stewart’s book “From The Ground Up.” Amy Stewart’s book “From The Ground Up.” “Picturing Plants: An Analytical History of Botanical Illustration” by Gill Saunders (KWS Publishers, 2009) takes a look at botanical illustration from the perspective of an art museum. It shows us how the scientific discipline of botany has depended on illustrations for its development. The illustrations affirm as a substitute for plants, those which often are incapable to survive removal from their environment. Beautifully illustrated, the book explores the purpose and function of the whole range of botanical art with lovely woodcuts, Victorian lithographs, images from commercial seed packets and watercolors by the artists who drew plants and why they drew them.

“All New Square Foot Gardening” by Mel Bartholomew ( Cool Springs Press, 2006) is about gardening in a 4- by-4-foot grid divided into 12-inch squares with the planting up, not down in a raised bed. Flowers and vegetables are grown in no more than 6 inches of soil, and Bartholomew gives his recipe for soil. Lots of colored photographs and graphics throughout with growing guidelines, information for harvesting and a list of diseases and pests for specific plants shared. Designed to make gardening easy, this revised book still preaches Bartho-lomew’s premise of more gardening in a small space and less work.

“Right Rose, Right Place” by Peter Schneider (Storey Publishing, 2009) describes more than 350 dependable roses that proved to be outstanding specimens in his Ohio garden. The book is geared for growing roses in USDA Zones 5 to 9 and not like many books on the subject written from a Californian or English viewpoint. Schneider’s book provides outstanding photographs, helpful tips for fighting pests and is an encouraging resource to help gardeners choose the correct rose and the best place to grow it.

“Duck Hill Journal- A Year in a Country Garden” (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1991) is a record of a gardener’s year in the life of Page Dickey’s nine-year- old project of creating a garden on three scrubby acres where no garden existed. She vividly describes her month-bymonth account of her gardening experiences coupled with her charming watercolors and line drawings of flora and fauna. Dickey kept a detailed chronicle of garden diaries and journals for over 25 years. Lucky for us, she did. Described as a gardener’s gardener, one happiest on her hands and knees tending to her flowerbeds, she has her definite viewpoints, but never preaches. A delightful read not only for the seasoned horticulturist but also for beginning gardeners becoming acquainted with a gardener’s glossary.

“Baer’s 2011 Agricultural Almanac and Gardener’s Guide” Linda Weidman has taken over the editing of Baer’s Almanac, a position once held since 1949 by her father, the late Gerald S. Lestz, who passed away in 2009 at 95 years of age after completing his work on the 2010 edition. Detailed weather predictions for each month, phases of the moon, a guide for when to plant what and best time to go fishing are just a few of the regular features in the 186th edition of Baer’s 2011 Almanac, “The Almanac For All Seasons.” Curious about when the first Venetian blinds were installed in the U.S., when the first automobile race was held at Indianapolis or who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the answers are part of the anniversaries feature highlighting interesting milestones. You’ll learn that bananas are America’s favorite fruit, why plants are beneficial indoors and what’s the latest on the disappearance of bees. Reasonably priced at $5 the book can be ordered from, John Baer’s Sons, P.O. Box 328, Lancaster, PA 17608-0328.

Carole McCray lives, writes and gardens in the scenic Laurel Highlands east of Ligonier, Pa. She is an award-winning writer; her most recent award was the Garden Writers Association Award for her article on Native Seeds which appeared in The Christian science Monitor newspaper. She can be reached at mountain26@verizon.net.

Photo courtesy Algonquin Press.

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