Everybody's a Critic, Unusually Clever People

A book is great, but make sure it’s one that will get USED

Three men I’d never leave on the shelf

This year, I’ve found myself giving things like feeders, solar lighting, and other backyard accessories that promote sustainability in the domestic landscape. I still think books are a good gift, but they need to be books that the recipient really needs, or that carry a message other gardening books have not included. Of all the books we’ve reviewed, previewed, or just mentioned on Garden Rant over the past year or so, there are 4 that I find essential for any twenty-first century gardener.

Doug Tallamy’s Bringing Nature Home still fascinates me with its extraordinary grasp of how insects matter and the difference between providing food and providing habitat. I do not take it as a rigid polemic for installing an all-native garden (nothing is ever that black and white for me), but it inspires me to do whatever I can to spread the word about alternatives to the lawn/foundation planting monoculture I see throughout Western New York’s suburbs. This book affects me more as an editor of a regional home/garden magazine than it does me as a lawn-free urban patio gardener—but the information in it should be at all gardeners’ fingertips.

A good plant encyclopedia is a must, and unfortunately they do need to be updated. Plant names change, and what we know about them changes. New cultivars are always being introduced. I love Allan Armitages’s Herbaceous Perennial Plants, Third Edition. It’s opinionated—thus, fun to read—discusses more native plants than previously, and if there is anyone who has his finger on the pulse of the plant industry, it is Armitage. Great book, great gift.

Finally, if you or your giftee does not have Jeff Gillman’s two slim but fascinating exposes about how all the crazy things we do in our gardens affect us and our plants, then now is the time. I revere The Truth About Garden Remedies and The Truth About Organic Gardening equally, and I think they should be bought as a set.

I recommend buying these directly from their publishers, Timber(Gillman, Tallamy) and Stipes(Armitage), or from your local bookseller, if they have them.

And that’s it. You’ll hear no more talk about holidays, parties, or gifts from me. As long as I can find ten quails by Saturday and my liver makes it through the month without too much damage, I’ll be fine.

Posted by on December 10, 2008 at 10:13 am, in the category Everybody's a Critic, Unusually Clever People.
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3 responses to “A book is great, but make sure it’s one that will get USED”

  1. Katie says:

    Jeff Gillman’s books are invaluable. If I could:

    Tomato starts from garden center: $12

    New hori-hori for weeding/planting/digging: $25

    Jeff Gillman’s two “Garden Truth” books: $26

    Not wasting time on gardening treatments that don’t work or affecting “holier than thou” attitude re: gardening after reading Gillman’s books: Priceless

    There are too many things that money can buy. For everything else, there’s Garden Rant.


  2. Bob Vaiden says:

    Loved Tallamy’s “Bringing Nature Home”…

    And…although not a gardening book, Louv’s “Last Child in the Woods”; which to me was full of good reasons as to WHY gardening is so important to me. My daughter was out helping me plant peas and collect prairie seed when she was 2 years old:)

    And I’ll mention 2 others. They’re a much older books; from the 60’s, I think. The first really turned me on to thinking about making gardening and the land a major focus in my life. It’s “Two-Acre Eden”, by Gene Logsdon.

    Gene is my hero: “my fences almost don’t lean, my sidewalks almost don’t crack, my doors almost don’t stick”…

    …And the book that really caused me to seek quiet places of nature: “Land of the SnowShoe Hare” by Virginia Eifert.

  3. Barbara says:

    For any urban would-be or wish-they-could garden folk on your gift list – “Garden Your City” .com

    For great, clear, and true plant descriptions and lists of varieties I turn to “The White Flower Farm Garden Book” – together, any new gardener can grow and design!