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Growing Your Garden: Suggested reading for the gardener on your list

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For many garden enthusiasts, winter is the season to catch up on reading — whether you’re researching new plants and growing techniques, looking for design inspiration, or delving deep into a subject of interest (like roses or conifers) — there’s a book on the subject waiting to be read.

My office is home to an ever-growing collection of gardening, design and photography books and while it’s true that many simple questions can be answered today with the click of a mouse, there is something comforting about losing yourself in the pages of a well-written book.

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Often when researching a topic, I’ll flip the page of a book and find the answer to a question on the subject that I hadn’t even thought of asking.

No matter if you are looking for a gift for the garden enthusiast on your list, or you are the said gardener and are looking for a good read this winter, here are a few suggestions from my personal collection.

“Growing Under Cover, Techniques for a More Productive, Weather-Resistant, Pest-Free Vegetable Garden” by Niki Jabbour, published by Storey Publishing, 2020

The title says it all — this book illustrates Niki Jabbour’s successful techniques for producing a successful crop of vegetables no matter what the weather delivers. In this book, Jabbour builds on the success of her bestseller “The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener” by using protective covers to create controlled spaces for vegetables to thrive. Illustrated with images from her Halifax, N.S., garden, this book teaches us how to use a variety of covers, shade cloths and mini tunnels to protect our crop from pests, reduce disease, establish summer sowings and improve crop quality.

Jabbour begins by suggesting we start by examining our goals and which style of protection our garden needs. Beautifully photographed and written in a format that is easy to follow and understand, I would highly recommend this book if you are interested in improving the yield of your vegetable patch.

“Growing Conifers, The Complete Illustrated Gardening and Landscaping Guide,” by John J. Albers with photography by David E. Perry, published by New Society Publishers, 2021

If you ever wanted to learn more about conifers, this is a beautifully illustrated, comprehensive guide for selecting and successfully growing conifers. John Albers is an educator at the Washington State Nursery and Landscape Association, a certified landscape professional, and the creator of Albers Vista Gardens, home to 1,200 different plants.

The book reads like a fascinating course, covering taxonomy, selecting conifers for size, shape, colour and texture, best practises for placement and planting of trees and shrubs in both urban and rural sites, building healthy soil, integrated pest management, minimizing water stress, growing needs and low-input maintenance, all of this along with the benefits of conifers including habitat, esthetics and food.

Known for his intuitive and beautiful images, photographer David Perry’s images take the book from instructional to inspirational, by illustrating the incredible range of colour, texture and form available in this under-used family of plants. This book will open the door to a world of beautiful, well-designed, sustainable gardens.

“Plant Parenting, Easy Ways to Make More Houseplants, Vegetables and Flowers,” by Leslie F. Halleck, Published by Timber Press, 2019

Leslie F. Halleck, a dedicated horticulturist with a masters in horticulture from Michigan State University and more than 25 years of green industry experience, details the basic tools necessary, demystifies seed starting and saving, and shares easy-to-follow instructions for the most practical techniques for cutting, layering, dividing and more. The book also includes helpful information on controlling pests and diseases and transplanting seedlings and cuttings. Richly illustrated with step-by-step photos and easy to follow instructions, “Plant Parenting” is for anyone looking to make more of their favourite plants.

“Seed to Dust, Life, Nature and a Country Garden,” by Marc Hamer, published by Greystone Books, 2021

“Seed to Dust” is an introspective, poetic and down-to-earth look at a year in the life of a gardener who tends an estate garden in Wales. Born in the north of England and moved to Wales more than 30 years ago, Marc Hamer was once homeless, then worked on the railway, before returning to school to study fine art. His varied career includes working in art galleries, marketing, graphic design, magazine editor and teaching creative writing in a prison, all before becoming a gardener.

His powerful writing style quickly draws the reader into his psyche: while tending the garden, his mind drifts back through his past life, his distant relationship with the isolated widow who owns the garden, and the rhythms of nature. Month by month he reflects on the cycles of birth, growth, life and decay in nature, on the aches of his aging body, the meditative and repetitive nature of gardening, the fleeting beauty of each plant and on the daily rituals that keep him whole. I found this book to be a fascinating read, from the bits of horticultural wisdom to poetic descriptions of rain outside his window to his dreams for the following growing season.





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