Rainy spring days may be great for newly-planted trees and shrubs but they can drive the gardener indoors for a warm drink and a look through some cool new books.
Here are the latest and greatest from some local authors and the rebirth of a best seller from a perennial gardener of international acclaim:
“The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: the essential guide to planting and pruning techniques”
By Tracy Disabato-Aust Timber Press 34.95
Perfect for beginning gardeners and considered the perennial bible for professionals and educated maintenance crews, this best-seller created a storm when it first bloomed in 1998. This completely revised and expanded edition has updated photos and even more information on not just which perennials to plant but how to prune, feed, divide and maintain them as well.
Perennials are listed with photos and descriptions and also included in various plant lists such as deer resistant perennials, perennials for dry shade, perennials for wet soil and my personal favorite, perennials that only need dividing once every 10 years. I have no more guilt about not dividing my hosta plants.
“Gardening with Foliage First: 127 dazzling combinations that pair the beauty of leaves with flowers, bark, berries and more”
By Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz Timber Press 24.95
These local garden writers from the Seattle area had great success with their first book about using foliage plants in containers and this lushly photographed encore is even more useful as the authors teach us how to see the color and texture in foliage shapes and tones and combine vegetative plant material to compose beautiful combinations.
The design of the book itself makes it easy to decode a great planting scheme by featuring small vignettes in a landscape as inspiration, then breaking down the different plants in the display to show how the design grows. One example is a design called “The Magpie Effect” that transforms a shade spot by using shiny foliage and pale colors to light up the darkness. Hart’s-tongue fern and brunnera, Solomon’s seal and Japanese painted fern turn up the lights with reflective surfaces all grouped around an ivory urn. All have a shiny finish that would of course make any magpie happy.
“The Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns”
By Richie Steffen and Sue Olsen Timber Press 24.95
If you live in Western Washington and you like plants, you need this book.
Ferns thrive in our cloudy, cool summer climate and this book teaches not just the hundreds of fern varieties useful in the garden but also how to use ferns in a rock garden (the dainty dwarf Maidenhair) how to use ferns for spots of color in the shade (the remarkable red foliage of the Autumn Fern) and some creative ideas such as planting ferns in a “stumpery” or amidst fallen trees or to design a small space fern garden on an elevated fern table.
The authors dig deeper into the roots of how to grow fern, understanding the unique botany of these prehistoric plants and then add an encyclopedia with excellent photographs of the types of ferns to use in your garden. I am so inspired that I intend to fill a single large container with my favorite fern – as soon as I can decide which fern in this book is my favorite.