Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Some Much Needed Inspiration

I have the Is-winter-ever-going-to-be-over-blues! Its another grey dismal day here and not even a bright bouquet of flowers is lifting me out of my late winter doldrums. Getting creative usually lifts my spirits, but with the prospect of at least four more weeks of snow and ice, it is hard to get fired up about gardening.

I have decided it is time to dig out the heavy artillery to defeat my late winter blues- books. Favorite garden books always serve to inspire me and make me impatient for those first warm days of spring.

Off the top, I have to confess that I have always been a terrible one for "reading" garden books. I am sorry, but there is something so dry as toast about so many garden books! They can be as unexciting as car repair manuals or instructional books on how to install software on your computer.

I am also mildly embarrassed to admit that there is nothing overly sophisticated in my selection of favorite books. I tend to go right for the one with the best, most inspirational pictures! Alternatively, I tend to like gardening books that are warm and personal. Garden memoirs fill this bill nicely. Finally, I like reference books that you can get in and get out quickly.

Here are some of my personal favorites from each of these three categories.

First up: Great "Picture" Books:

I own two books by Thomas Hobbs, The Jewel Box Garden and Shocking Beauty. Both books have stunning photography that will have you thinking about texture and color in a whole new way.

The Jewel Box Garden by Thomas Hobbs

As someone who was raised on the notion that perennial flowers were the most important ingredient in creating a beautiful garden, this book on conifers by Adrain Bloom was a revelation. Just look at one of the book's picture spreads below. This garden has lovely color, texture and variety of form, without a standard garden flower in sight. 

Gardening with Conifers by Adrian Bloom

Another book that changed my ideas about gardening is Grasses by Nancy J. Ondra. After looking through its beautiful pages, I can not imagine my garden without a selection of different grasses.

If you are thinking of adding a front garden to your property, this is the book for you. There are lots of different types of houses and garden styles in the pages of this book. And it is not the sort of book you necessarily need read cover to cover- simply find a garden style you like and read about it. Easy!

As for garden memoirs, I have a great one for you- The $64 Tomato by William Alexander. This book is laugh out loud funny. You don't even have to take my word on it- The $64 Tomato is also on a list of books recommended by Gardeningbren in a recent post.

Finally, a few reference books that you can get in and out of quickly:

The Harrowsmith Perennial Garden is a old book, but I still dig it out as a quick reference. In my opinion, Patrick Lima is one of the best garden writers in Canada. Lima has been gardening on the Bruce Peninsula for decades and so I know when he recommends a certain perennial, I can trust that years of experience have informed his opinion. 
 The Art of Perennial Gardening is a newer book that I would also recommend.

A final quick reference great is this book subdivided into sections on favorite perennials, favorite roses and favorite trees and shrubs. In its pages, you can read short articles from Canadian Gardening Magazine on selected plants, trees and shrubs and come away with a basic primer on each subject.

Favorite Plants edited by Liz Primeau 
From Canadian Gardening Magazine

This the fourth and final of my Stylish Blogger Award posts (I have done a post for each of the women who honoured me with a Stylish Blogger Award). This one goes out to Kelly of Fresh From the Backyard. Kelly is new to gardening and so I thought that she too might need a little inspiration during these final days of winter.


  1. I have some of those, and love especially the Bloom on conifers - very inspiring, as is the bold flair of Thomas Hobbs. The Front Yard book gave me the courage to dig up half the grass in my front yard - yay!

  2. Jennifer -- as always your photos are incredible. Looks like you have some great books to keep you out/in trouble! I would want to buy and do everything they show in the books!

  3. These are some good selections to dip into and keep your interest going at winter's end, especially the ones with the gorgeous photos. I loved the $64 Tomato (even though I am not a vegetable gardener I could relate). It was hysterical but true.

  4. Oh Look at those perfectly perfect tomatoes! Sigh... Yes, $64 Tomato was a hoot!! and so readable. TKS for the mention)).

    This is a great lineup of books..I have some..but don't think I knew about the Conifers book by Adrian Bloom...must search that one out. Like you, I love the pictures because they inspire so much.

    Do you really think there's four more weeks of snow and ice?...oh I hope not!

    Great photos, as always.

  5. Jennifer, your photos are stunning and I am a sucker for garden books, way too many. My go to one over and over is the Plant Encyclopedia how boring!


  6. I am behind in reading your wonderful posts (Attack of the Life Sucking Science Fair!) and just commented on the post about your teachers. I loved it!! I really like Sharon Lovejoy's Trowel and Error. I love her folksy gardening tips. Your photos are gorgeous, as usual! The leaves in the second one look like waves. :o)

  7. Jennifer, this is a royal dash of inspiration. I liked you book selections and the color in your images bright and happy.

  8. Oh, those bright alstroemeria are cheery. Those look like nice books to check out.

  9. Sorry about your winter blues - hope the book medication helped alleviate the gloom. The grasses book made me want to run my fingers through its cover.

  10. I am with you lamenting the slow arrival of spring. Many of the books you have I too have. They help but not enough...

  11. The "Gardening with Conifers" book looks very interesting to me. When I designed our front garden I leaned in that direction, using a few different varieties of dwarf conifers. They hold year round interest but of course, this winter, there was no interest as our front garden has been buried under a HUGE pile of snow since November. I hear you ... enough is enough, old man Winter!

  12. Hi Jennifer,
    Fantastic blog! I tried finding your email to contact you, but couldn't find one so I thought I'd leave you a note here :-) My name is Anita and I'm with Thomas Allen & Son; we have several gardening books that we distribute in Canada, none of which are dull! ;-) There's one in particular from Andrea Bellamy, a Vancouverite who started the heavypetal.ca blog :-) She has written "Sugar Snaps & Strawberries," which came out last year, and it's all about urban farming and that growing vegetables need not be relegated just to the backyard ;-) Would you be interested in featuring Andrea's book on your blog and possibly doing a Q&A with her?

  13. I agree. Garden books are the way to escape winter blues. We're lucky spring has begun here and it is delightful.

  14. You have a great collection of garden books. I like them with lots of pictures too.

  15. Nothing beats sitting in the recliner with two dogs on my lap and great garden book! I have a collection going back over 35 years.........wonderful photos!

  16. I'll confess too. I adore garden books with lots of pictures (in fact I have several of the ones you've listed!). I have a hard time following written descriptions and what I really want is a picture to inspire me. I basically divide my garden books into two categories. Picture books and reference. I can pour over pictures for hours but reference books usually get put on the shelf until I have a specific question.

  17. I go through flower withdraw too. LOL! You have a wonderful selection of gardening books to get you motivated.The "Front Yard Gardens" looks like a wonderful book.

  18. Beautiful photos! It was fun to see what gardening books are good for Canada, such a different gardening zone from where I am....


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