Books for garden lovers ... and their friends

Books for garden lovers ... and their friends

Now that your garden is tucked in for winter, it is time once again to take a look at the new gardening books — either for yourself or as gifts for your gardening friends.

Gardening is an exploding field, and the gardening sections in bookstores reflect that.

Dozens of new books on urban gardening have sprouted as people seek ways to grow some of their own food on small lots or even high-rise balconies.

If you weren't lucky enough to grow up on a farm or have a parent or grandparent to pass the lore on to you, then one of the best is "Urban Farm Handbook: City Slicker Resources for Growing, Raising, Sourcing, Trading and Preparing What You Eat," by Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols (288 pages, The Mountaineers Books, $24.95).

This is a thorough book of basics, not just of gardening but of a whole lifestyle. You will find topics ranging from a step-by-step guide to slaughtering your own chickens to recipes for rose-hip and elderberry syrup to composting, canning, pickling, grinding your own grain and even making your own cheese and corned beef.

The Seattle-based authors give a Northwest perspective to the problems of sustainability.

"The New Low-Maintenance Garden: How to Have a Beautiful, Productive Garden and the Time to Enjoy It," by Valerie Easton (284 pages, Timber Press, $19.95) is written by a veteran gardener who came to a crisis in her relationship with gardening.

"I craved a little downtime," Easton writes, "more spaces in my life to read a novel, go to a movie or browse a museum without feeling guilty about time away from endless garden chores. ... How is it possible to achieve a feeling of peace and relaxation if we are always weeding, fussing, working?"

You won't find the basics here. This is, rather, a book for rethinking and relearning how to garden, with an emphasis on keeping it simple and realizing the true goal of gardening is creating a sanctuary with time to enjoy it. Many different examples of low-maintenance gardens are featured for inspiration.

In "Gardening in a Changing Climate: Inspiration and Practical Ideas for Creating Sustainable, Waterwise and Dry Gardens," by Ambra Edwards (160 pages, Anness, $27.50), the premise is that the climate IS changing and gardeners will need to learn to go with the changes. The world has been warming up half a degree per decade since the mid-19th century, the author says, and average temperatures are now expected to rise by 12 degrees by the end of this century. That may seem slow, but it is too fast for many plants and pollinating insects to adapt.

This book is "an invitation to learn from other cultures for whom heat and drought and water shortages have always been facts of life."

Italian, Islamic, Mediterranean, African Cape, Andalusian and Mexican gardens are featured. Although this book contains 400 wonderful garden photos, it is not simply a picture book. It includes detailed garden plans, project plans and tutorials, as well as a thorough plant directory.

"Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees," by Nancy R. Hugo (245 pages, Timber Press, $29.95) is not technically a gardening book although it includes sections on cuttings and seedlings. But this book will help you understand all about the trees in your yard or the nearby park. Incredible macrophotography helps the reader realize that much about trees often is overlooked. This book also teaches the reader to truly study and understand the cycles of the lives of trees with the same intensity that birdwatchers bring to learning about birds.

"Concrete Garden Projects: Easy & Inexpensive Containers, Furniture, Water Features & More," by Malin Nilsson and Camilla Arvidsson (133 pages, Timber Press, $19.95) gives step-by-step instructions for many projects made of concrete, from house numbers to planters to garden benches.

Concrete is a perfect medium for the garden, being durable and weatherproof and giving needed insulation to plants. Who knew it was so easy to use? Instructions for finding inexpensive molds and adding paint or textures are included.

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