Kelly Seaman

Learn to Garden: A Practical Introduction to Gardening opens with a pair of chapters titled "The Garden You Want" and "The Garden You've Got," and can equip the new gardener with the skills needed to transform the one into the other. There are answers to questions a novice might be terribly curious about but afraid to ask: Why in the world is she tipping that nursery plant upside down to look at what's inside the pot? Why did he pick this plant instead of that one? How do I plant this tree now that I've brought it home? The book's how-to photo spreads are particularly welcome. Pruning, for example, is often a daunting business even for gardeners with experience. I like the way a series about thinning an overgrown shrub shows a newly vigorous plant in the final "after" shot; it's reassuring to see that it all can come out well in the end. Although revised for North America, Learn to Garden retains its native British accent. Think of it as putting a U.K.-trained expert at the reader's disposal.

PLAN ON IT
Sunset's Big Book of Garden Designs by Marianne Lipanovich offers a fine mix of show and tell. Photographs, watercolor-style illustrations and color-coded planting maps work together with compact commentaries on the designs and annotations to the garden plans. Those notes include plot measurements, plant names and the number of each variety required – all the information you'd need to recreate a design just as the book presents it. But you don't have to stop there. The designs are also well suited to be a springboard for your own reinterpretations of them. That adaptability makes the Big Book of Garden Designs useful for both the newcomer in search of straightforward guidance and the experienced plantsman or plantswoman able to ring the changes on a design.

LOOK AT THIS!
There are few quicker ways to make garden writers cranky than to heap praises on the lovely illustrations that accompany a piece they've written, especially if they didn't even have a hand in composing the captions. With Stafford Cliff's 1000 Garden Ideas: The Best of Everything in a Visual Sourcebook, though, we probably needn't worry about upsetting the author and book designer by privileging the pictures. The hundreds of photographs here, which depict multiple versions of almost any garden element you could imagine, were taken in gardens around the world, nearly all of them by the designer's own camera. That gives the project a remarkable coherence; in spite of its size, this collection couldn't be farther from the jumble of images you might find searching online for ideas for your garden. It's a visual education merely to think through one of Cliff's layouts – added value to a fabulous wish book. I dare you to look a page and not point and say, "That one, please."

REVOLUTIONARY COMPOST
If you think compost is what happens in that pile around the back, Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin would like you to reconsider. They're out to encourage you to blend "gardening" and "composting" so thoroughly that the distinction between the two vanishes. The Complete Compost Gardening Guide glories in the details – where to get good sawdust and coffee grounds, the pluses and minuses of a whole range of animal manures, what plants grow best in what sorts of compost – as it provides countless tips for making and using compost in dozens of different ways. Even if you don't sign up for the whole composting lifestyle, there's enough good information here for any gardener to extract a crop of wisdom.

Kelly Seaman will soon be searching for signs of spring in her New Hampshire garden.

Learn to Garden: A Practical Introduction to Gardening opens with a pair of chapters titled "The Garden You Want" and "The Garden You've Got," and can equip the new gardener with the skills needed to transform the one into the other. There are answers to questions a novice might be terribly curious about but afraid […]

It's not quite a life list, of the sort that birders keep, but 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die feeds the same sort of drive to go out and look. Its immediate effect on me: I really, really want to go to Kyoto. Even at just shy of a thousand pages, 1001 Gardens does not aim to be encyclopedic; general editor Rae Spencer-Jones marshals garden profiles by dozens of garden experts (horticulturalists, designers and writers among them) into a collection organized geographically, a benefit for readers plotting a grand garden tour. As you might expect, that team approach gives some eclectic results: How else a could a garden gnome reserve in the UK end up on the same must see list as Versailles? I'd argue that's part of the charm of 1001 Gardens, all the better for opening the book at a random page and following the path where it leads. Do note that the entries and appendices offer only the slimmest of details on the logistics of actually visiting the gardens so if you mean to travel beyond your armchair, consider the book an invitation to dig further, in a volume on a regional garden style, or in a travel guidebook. The same goes for the photos they're only glimpses, but as alluring as a peek through a gap in a garden wall.

It's not quite a life list, of the sort that birders keep, but 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die feeds the same sort of drive to go out and look. Its immediate effect on me: I really, really want to go to Kyoto. Even at just shy of a thousand pages, 1001 Gardens […]

In my previous garden, I had been doing my best to colonize the grass for more ornamental plantings. I've been in gardens that had already evolved a long way in that direction I'm thinking in particular of one garden in North Carolina where what was once a sweep of suburban lawn had evolved into a labyrinth of berms and island beds. But most of us don't want to do without a lawn entirely, and most gardeners have to share their turf (so to speak) with romping dogs, soccer-playing children or lawn sports fans (croquet or badminton, anyone?) Paul Tukey's message in The Organic Lawn Care Manual is that a lawn doesn't need to be chemically dependent any more than a flower or vegetable bed does. You might not expect to hear right plant, right place in a lawn care book, but there it is. The essentials for a healthy organic lawn, Tukey suggests: Choose the right grass, water wisely, mow well. Beyond that, the same concepts apply whether you're cultivating tulips, tomatoes or turf, and we'd all do well to listen. Nurture the soil; it will nurture your plants, and they in turn will nurture you.

In my previous garden, I had been doing my best to colonize the grass for more ornamental plantings. I've been in gardens that had already evolved a long way in that direction I'm thinking in particular of one garden in North Carolina where what was once a sweep of suburban lawn had evolved into a […]

Where you garden matters enormously, of course, for what you can grow, and how well. The Pacific Northwest is a Shangri-la of sorts for gardeners, and although that's where co-authors Susan Carter, Carrie Becker and Bob Lilly gained their vast collective garden expertise, I'm pleased to say that there's no gloating to be found in Perennials: The Gardener's Reference not even about being able to grow Meconopsis only the voices of hands-on gardeners who know and love their plants. Together, they have assembled an accessible, information-packed treasury of garden-worthy plants, more than 2,700 of them. An essay on general maintenance complements plant-specific recommendations in the A-to-Z directory, and accompanying lists offer other ways into the data. There are suggested collections of plants for specialty gardens (spring ephemerals, meadow plants, plants too tall for words ), and my favorite, a list which sorts the plants from the directory into their plant families. That list, I think, has the potential to be very useful, especially for gardeners looking to meet less familiar cousins of plants they already know and grow. I also love the user-friendly tables that accompany each entry, which chart hardiness zones and heights and spreads, details on flowers and foliage, and even notes on the quirks and particularities of individual species and cultivars exactly the sort of information you need to choose among them. The photography in Perennials is fabulous, too. This book is an appealing new acquaintance which appears quite likely to grow into a very best friend.

Where you garden matters enormously, of course, for what you can grow, and how well. The Pacific Northwest is a Shangri-la of sorts for gardeners, and although that's where co-authors Susan Carter, Carrie Becker and Bob Lilly gained their vast collective garden expertise, I'm pleased to say that there's no gloating to be found in […]

Big Ideas for Small Gardens has its roots on the West Coast, thousands of miles away from the Haywards' New England, and, just as a plant might be, is adapted to a notably different niche in the gardening world. Authors Emily Young and Dave Egbert present a very visual take on translating large-scale garden schemes into smaller quarters. The heart of the book is an abundance of inspiring photos, all of which are helpfully and thoroughly captioned. But there's plenty of garden smarts beyond the eye candy, and in fact, if you can manage not to be distracted by the gorgeous pictures, the section Big Concepts offers a lucid overview of essential landscape design principles that are relevant to any garden, of any size, anywhere.

Big Ideas for Small Gardens has its roots on the West Coast, thousands of miles away from the Haywards' New England, and, just as a plant might be, is adapted to a notably different niche in the gardening world. Authors Emily Young and Dave Egbert present a very visual take on translating large-scale garden schemes […]

Gordon and Mary Hayward have one of those gardens, the sort you marvel at and wonder how in the world. Their answer, in its simplest form: time and effort. But that's just the point: Maintenance, they begin, is gardening. That spirit fills Tending Your Garden: A Year-Round Guide to Garden Maintenance. Photo essays put you right there with the Haywards and their assistants, documenting step-by-step how to keep a beautiful garden. The book is packed full of professional techniques, the sort of traditional skills handed down from gardener to gardener. To-do lists from their Vermont garden are keyed to seasons (early spring, late fall) as well as to specific months, for ease in adjusting the calendar to your part of the world. Spending time with this book might be the next best thing to digging in alongside the masters themselves.

Gordon and Mary Hayward have one of those gardens, the sort you marvel at and wonder how in the world. Their answer, in its simplest form: time and effort. But that's just the point: Maintenance, they begin, is gardening. That spirit fills Tending Your Garden: A Year-Round Guide to Garden Maintenance. Photo essays put you […]

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