Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gifts for gardeners: Books (part 1)

With the holidays just around the corner, I thought I would share some of my favorite gardening books (and a few I hope to see under the tree this year).

This list is focused on native gardening. I will post another list focused on vegetable gardening and local food.

1. Noah's Garden and Planting Noah's Garden, by Sara Stein. Noah's Garden is the first book I read that really got me thinking about native plants, their role in the local environment, and their potential role in my yard. Planting Noah's Garden takes the concepts in the first book and gives you practical advice on how to plant a meadow, build a bird house, etc. I refer back to both of these books constantly, to get both inspiration and ideas.

2. Bringing Nature Home by Douglas Tallamy. I got this book last year for Christmas and it really opened my eyes to the incredible importance of native plants for our local wildlife. Where Sara Stein is an enthusiastic and knowledgeable lay person, Douglas Tallamy is an entomologist and has a vast understanding about how insects rely on native plants for food, and birds and small mammals rely on insects as a food source, so if we don't feed the insects, the whole food chain collapses. This book includes lists of which plant feed the widest variety of insects and so are most useful in the landscape.

All three of the above books are incredibly readable, but they are not filled with glossy photos like many garden books. If that is what you are looking for, I recommend:

3. Natives Trees, Shrubs and Vines, by William Cullina. This book contains beautiful photos and wonderful descriptions of plants native to the U.S. The author writes in a very conversational style and his passion for native plants shines through. The book also includes helpful information on plant needs (light, moisture, etc), propogation, and interesting varietals. This is not an inexpensive book, but it is a great reference.

4. Native Ferns, Moss, and Grasses and Wildflowers, by William Cullina. I don't own these books; they are both on my Christmas list this year. But based on reviews, and the fact that I love the other book by William Cullina, I can't wait to get my hands on them, and I feel comfortable recommending them without having read them.

5. Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants by Brooklyn Botanic Garden. It is sad but true -we are often more familiar with invasive plants such as Bradford Pear or Butterfly Bush, than we are with native plant options. This book is an excellent resource to help us make better plant choices and still get the look we want in the garden. The pictures are not huge, but the book provides a lot of information that can be supplemented by the web or other sources.

What have I missed? Are there other books on native plants that you think are "must read"? If so, I would love to hear about them and add them to my Christmas list!

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