As winter arrives it is time to settle in with some great garden reads. Garden lovers have been using the winter dormant season to read up on new plants, explore new ideas and study seed catalogs even before Thomas Jefferson made it popular among the aristocrats of the new world.
This year consider getting lost in another time by reading some gardening classics, become inspired by trying a new garden magazine or fall hopelessly in love with a plant you discover on the pages of a garden catalog.
Head to your local library or computer and look up Beverley Nichols. This opinionated, snobby and always entertaining author was popular in 1940s and ’50s in post-war England, but then forgotten as suburban gardeners preferred convenience over the perennial borders that Nichols brags about or his scolding tone on what flower colors may clash in a vase.
Today his series of books about his own garden and the visitors he loves to gossip about have been reprinted for a new audience by Timber Press. The first book in the series “Down the Garden Path” centers on buying his first thatched cottage and making a garden in the English countryside, followed by “Merry Hall” and a list of other books that celebrate his rambling, name dropping and out-of-date methods of garden making.
If you like English gardens, history and reading about people that have manservants and drink tea, then Beverly Nichols should be on your list for winter reading.
The trade and shelter magazines struggled to adapt when new media arrived on the garden scene but things have settled down and you can still subscribe to “Horticulture,” “Fine Gardening” and my personal favorite “The English Garden – For Everyone who loves beautiful gardens.”
Blame it on reading those Beverley Nichols books but spending money on this glossy imported magazine is a luxury that rivals chocolate on a cold winter night. If you can’t find these garden magazines on your local newsstand you can subscribe online by googling the name.
Another favorite is one you would never find on local store shelves. It is called “Green Prints” and there are no glossy photos or “how-to” articles. Instead this small, homespun, quarterly publication from North Carolina celebrates the personal side of gardening with stories about garden chores, pruning mistakes and furry garden companions. GreenPrints magazine is a relaxing read that provides an escape from a too busy world. www.greenprints.com
Many seed catalogs such as local Ed Hume Seeds have gone to online only ordering formats and this is an efficient way to order seeds. For winter escapism however, the seed catalog that inspires the most edible gardens has to be the Oregon based Territorial Seed Company.
The offerings of vegetables, flowers and fruits keeps getting more numerous and there are full color photographs of all the unusual leafy greens, colorful tomatoes and quirky squash they offer.
For gardeners that might want to purchase beer- and wine-making supplies, herbs, vegetables for gourmet cooking and even Oregon Pioneer Sourdough starter there is the family run Nichols Garden Nursery catalog that has recently transitioned from paper to a downloadable PDF catalog. Like Territorial Seed, Nichols is based in Oregon so the varieties they sell play well with our climate.
So now I realize I have started and ended this column by recommending both a garden author and a nursery owner with the last name “Nichols” – I’d bet 5 cents that these green thumbed Nichols are related – by plants if not by blood.