Book Reviews

Kay Villa sorts through the myriad of newly published gardening books and suggests the best for WGCF. Educational and/or entertaining, these are worthy recommendations.

Hell Strip Gardening: Create a Paradise Between the Sidewalk and the Curb
by Evelyn Hadden, Timber Press, 2014

BookReview.HellstripGot an awful terrace between your sidewalk and the street? Or is your garden club thinking about creating a public garden in a very tight small strip of land? This is your ‘go to’ book to help you create this type of garden. A number of municipalities in the US (Portland, OR; Minneapolis, MN; San Francisco, CA; Boulder, Co; Buffalo, NY; Seattle, WA; Charlotte, NC; Boise, ID; Berkeley, CA) are leading the way in the development of gardens in these ignored and underutilized strips of land. These gardens beautify the community as well as to serve as corridor habitats for migrating birds and insects. There are four sections in the book: Inspiration Gardens – Curbside Gardens from Coast to Coast; Situations – Challenges to Address, Obstacles to Overcome; Creation – Solutions for Designing, Building, and Managing a Curbside Garden; and Curbside – Worthy Plants. Highlighted topics of discussion are: how to work with association and city covenants and regulations to get these gardens developed; not using them for potential productive (food) gardens because of pollution and contamination issues; and the minimum area requirements to have healthy trees. Trees greater than 35’ tall need a minimum of 40 sq. feet of root zone; and trees 25’ or less need 8 to 10 sq. feet of root zone. This book will help gardeners, civic groups, and home owners beautify the world one little strip of land at a time.

ISBN 978-1-60469-332-4
Suggested Retail $24.95

Fairy Gardening: Creating Your Own Magical Miniature Garden
by Julie Bawden-Davis and Beverly Turner, Skyhorse Publishing, 2013

Bookreview.FairygardeningAs a child, I was never very interested in playing with doll houses but after reading this book I know what style of garden I want to have when I grow up. Think getting older, I can’t physically work in my garden any longer; and I’ll be residing in a condo, apartment, or health care facility. A fairy or miniature garden might be the perfect gift for me, a family member, or a friend who can no longer maintain a full sized garden or is living in a building with no exterior space for a garden. These miniature gardens are captivating and creative expressions that simply reside on a table top, in the corner of the room, or on a patio. Think of any style or form of gardening that you love and enjoy and create it in miniature.

The scale of these gardens provides the mental and visual illusion of being in a full-sized landscape and that scale is created by the placement of small figures in the garden scene. The key to a successful project is the correct planning and execution – a theme, captivating focal point, proper accessories, creating action, telling a story, planting and care practices, finding the perfect container, and the miniature plant selections. The authors suggest looking for fairy garden accessories while shopping for Christmas decorations, in the cake decorating aisle at the craft store, or your children’s toy boxes. The book also does a great job of explaining how to bring balance to the container design, excitement with high contrast of plant materials, scene animation with the selection of the proper accessories; and how to change the season theme with a simple replacement of accessories. Dream big and grow small is the way to capture the magic.

ISBN 978-1-61608-833-0
Suggested Retail $16.95

Refresh Your Garden Design with Color, Texture, & Form
Rebecca Sweet, Horticulture Books, 2013

BookReview.RefreshIs your garden looking tired, unbalanced, or not quite what you envisioned? Then check out this book to help redesign, refresh, and recreate your Eden.
The book guides you through a process of studying your garden to look at it a new. The author suggests taking black and white photographs to filter out the effect of color to clearly see the forms and textures in your garden. The book also highlights how color and its echoes can be used to tie all parts of the garden together; and sometimes it’s a simple as switching out the color temperature of a specific plant (reddish blue vs. greenish blue plant). Gardens should also reflect the personality of the owner and one of the most effective ways to do this is to pick your favorite colors. These should be colors you love and the obvious first place to look for clues is your wardrobe.
Garden texture includes the tactile feel of a plant along with its visual appearance and the sounds it creates. Texture can be used to create optical illusions in the garden. Perhaps you want to give your garden more breathing room or make it feel larger; then you should use open and airy foliage. Do you want to bring more brightness in to dark corners? Then use white and yellow edged plants. Or do you want to create intimate area within in a large space? Then place large architectural plants along the front borders. The feel of the garden can also be altered by your choice of hardscaping and plants. Crazy quilt angled paving stones and loose flowers infuse a cottage feel; while Italianate columns with perfectly cut rectangular stone paver imply a formal garden. The last subject the author explores is form or the bones of the garden focusing on the layout, structure, and composition of the garden and how it relates to your home. The book also includes a large list of plant picks based on color, texture, and form.

It’s fun to deconstruct and rebuild to create a new space. Use this book as a tool to guide you through that process.

ISBN: 978-1440330407
Suggested Retail $19.99

Straw Bale Gardens
by Joel Karsten, Cool Springs Press, 2013

BookReview.StrawI’d heard family stories about my Norwegian ancestors growing potatoes in bales of straw and after reading this book it leads me to believe that those stories are probably true. This gardening technique makes it easy to grow flowers and vegetables regardless of the type of soil because you won’t be growing the plants in the soil; but in bales of straw. If you’re getting older and gardening is becoming more physically challenging; or you have a back injury which makes it difficult to work the soil; this might be the perfect technique to allow you to continue to garden.
Raised garden beds are created from bound & twined bales of straw. Be careful to only use straw as hay bales have weed seeds. The straw bales are placed in the configuration of your choosing they can even can be placed on balconies and driveways; or stacked to create a multiple tiered garden. The bales are preconditioned and allowed to age for a month before planting. The other advantages are that the bales warm up faster than native soil allowing you to plant earlier extending the growing season; there are no weeds; and you can successfully grow hot weather crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes. At the end of the gardening season the straw materials are added to the compost bin and recycled. The primary investment is purchasing or obtaining straw bales; but if you live on or near a farm you probably have this inexpensive resource readily available to you. Try this fun and easy gardening technique.

Suggested Retail $19.99

Ground Breaking Food Gardens
Niki Jabbour, Storey Publishing, 2014

BookReview.GroundbreakingI wish that this book had been published prior the creation of our ‘potager’ raised garden bed as we would have incorporated many of these ideas in to our little plot of land. I highly recommend reading it prior to the development any new garden or if you are in the process of redesigning your garden. The book includes layouts and plant selections for 73 different styles of gardens. Some examples include gardens for chickens, brewers, cocktails, bee keepers, balconies, edible hedges, recycled pallets, culinary courtyards, founding fathers, and there are many, many more. The author includes detailed garden plans and beautiful illustrations; but there are no photographs of the actual gardens. The book is easy to read and to interpret the layouts; and it also identifies the plant cultivars for each specific garden.

ISBN-13: 978-1612120614
Suggested Retail $19.95