Flora Mirabilis: How Plants Have Shaped World Knowledge, Health, Wealth, and Beauty


Flora Mirabilis: How Plants Have Shaped World Knowledge, Health, Wealth, and Beauty
by Catherine Herbert Howell

256 pages
National Geographic, October 2009
List price: $35.00



When National Geographic joins with the Missouri Botanical Garden to produce a book about the history of plants, you know it's going to be something exceptional. Flora Mirabilis: How Plants Have Shaped World Knowledge, Health, Wealth, and Beauty is an intriguing look at the history of plants and how they've occupied places of distinction as their value and beauty were discovered.

Catherine H. Howell has created a time line of history, coupled with reproductions of more than 200 exquisite botanical illustrations, taking us from prehistory to the present:

  • Origins
  • Discovery
  • Exploration
  • Enlightenment
  • Empire
  • Science

There have been those plants that influenced the course of history, such as cotton, coffee, and cinchona, the latter from which we get quinine, used to treat malaria. Many others are highlighted and by the time you come to the end of the book, it leaves no doubt as to the invaluable part plants have played and continue to play in our lives.

Flora Mirabilis comes along just in time for gift-giving, not only for the gardener on your list, but for those who love history and want to know "the rest of the story."


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Catherine Herbert Howell has authored a number of natural history books for National Geographic, including Backyard Wilderness, Mountain Life, and four volumes in the Nature Library series, and has contributed to dozens of other books, among them National Geographic's Book of Peoples of the World, Expeditions Atlas, and The Curious Naturalist. She holds a master's degree in anthropology from the University of Virginia and is an enthusiastic - though very amateur - gardener.

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The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

The Green Gardener's Guide


The Green Gardener's Guide: Simple, Significant Actions to Protect & Preserve Our Planet
by Joe Lamp'l


363 pages

Cool Springs Press, 2008

List price:
$16.95



I have a confession to make. I'm not a gung-ho green gardener. Sometimes when I'm among my gardening cohorts on Twitter, Facebook, or my gardening blog,
Our Little Acre, I feel a little guilty that I'm not out there being more of a cheerleader for the ecology than I am. Oh, I'm a believer in 90% of it, but I know I don't do all I could to back up what I believe.

What I also know is that everyone can do something and something is...well...
something.

"What can I do?" you might ask.

Joe Lamp'l to the rescue! In
The Green Gardener's Guide: Simple, Significant Actions to Protect & Preserve Our Planet, the key to answering that question is in the title. In Joe's book, appropriately labeled as a guide, he lays out many simple tips for being more responsible gardeners in a format that lends itself to quick reads. No single suggestion in the book is more than three or four pages long - many are shorter.

With each idea presented, Joe gives us the logic behind it and the results achieved when it's followed. When you know that things you do have an impact, no matter how small, it provides the motivation to do them.


The Green Gardener's Guide is just the type of book that gets people talking over the fence, which happens to be one of Joe's suggestions. When you find helpful tips in this book, tell your friends and neighbors! Before you know it, you'll be feeling good about taking better care of not only your little corner of the world, the rest of it will be better off, too.

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Joe Lamp'l, also known as Joe Gardener®, is a nationally syndicated garden writer and host of the PBS series GardenSmart and DIY Network's Fresh from the Garden. Joe has emerged as one of the most recognized national gardening communicators - and certainly one of the most stimulating personalities in the "green" sector, with his passion for gardening and environmental stewardship.

You can also find him on his website,
Joe Gardener: Growing a Greener World.

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The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Gardener's Latin: A Lexicon


Gardener's Latin: A Lexicon
by Bill Neal
Introduction by Barbara Damrosch


144 pages

Algonquin Books, 2003
List price:
$10.95



I have a thing for botanical names of plants. I like to say them; I like how they roll off the tongue, even when I have to use a combination of phonics and my recollection of high school Spanish to pronounce them. Sometimes I get it wrong, but thanks to
Gardener's Latin: A Lexicon, I not only get a pronunciation guide, I get a clue about the nature of the plant I'm trying to talk about.

Plants are identified by genus and species, with the latter being a descriptive characteristic of the former. One of my favorite things in our garden is the Japanese Maple tree that my grandmother gave us. It's botanical name is Acer palmatum. Acer is the Latin word for "sharp," which refers to the sharp points on Maple tree leaves. The species of my Japanese Maple tree is palmatum, which means "shaped like a hand."

Sometimes the species tells you where to place the plant in your garden. You might want to plant Bugle Weed -
Ajuga reptans - where you want a groundcover, because reptans means creeping.

Knowing botanical names can also be of great help when trying to assure that you're buying what you want to buy. Common names can be confusing, because the same common name is often used for two entirely different plants. Bleeding Heart? Could be
Dicentra spectabilis or Clerodendrum thompsonii - very different plants.

The terms defined in this lexicon are mostly those of species. They are listed alphabetically, and while this isn't a book to be read from cover to cover, it is a handy reference guide designed to take some of the mystery out of those strange-sounding names you see on the labels accompanying the plants you bring home from the garden center.


The handy-sized book (6 by 7 inches) also has entertaining quotes and gardening tips in the margins. Many might think reading this book is a bit like reading the dictionary. Perhaps, but its small size and interesting facts make it fun to learn some very useful information that will serve you well throughout your life as a gardener.

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Bill Neal (1951-1991) was widely admired as a chef and the author of four cookbooks, among them the classic Bill Neal's Southern Cooking and two other collections of Southern recipes. In Carrboro, North Carolina, his hometown, he was also well known as an avid gardener whose own eclectic garden had something in bloom every day of the year. Gardener's Latin was a work in progress at the time of his death, and Algonquin Books put the finishing touches on it before publishing the first edition in 1992.

Barbara Damrosch is one of the nation's most respected garden experts and writers. She is also the author of The Garden Primer: Second Edition and Theme Gardens, and writes a weekly column for The Washington Post called "A Cook’s Garden." She appeared as a regular correspondent on the PBS series The Victory Garden, and co-hosted the series Gardening Naturally for The Learning Channel. She is the co-owner, with her husband, Eliot Coleman, of Four Season Farm, an experimental market garden in Harborside, Maine, that is a nationally recognized model of small-scale sustainable agriculture.

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Book purchased by reviewer.

From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden


From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden
by Amy Stewart

272 pages
Algonquin Books, 2001
List price: $15.99


You know Amy from her other books, such as the recently published Wicked Plants and her eye-opening Flower Confidential (which I just recently read). She's also a contributing writer for the well-known gardening blog, GardenRant. But aside from her more recent endeavors, I have a soft spot in my heart for her first book, about her first garden.

I first read From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden back in 2005, when I was a novice gardener myself. It was the first gardening book I ever read and I've recommended it countless times since then.

The beauty of this book is that regardless of whether you only have a curious interest in gardening or you've been around the garden centers a few times, it will appeal to both. Amy lets her gardening naivete hang out here and shares her failures as well as her successes as she relates the adventures of creating her first garden in Santa Cruz, California.

"My lettuce. It was a silly thing to get excited over, I suppose. Growing lettuce is a small accomplishment; the results are fleeting, perishable. And I only had one short row to show for three months of gardening: a dozen or so plants, barely enough for two salads. In fact, I almost hated to go after them with my scissors. I'd worked so hard to grow them in the first place. They were like little works of art, these lettuce heads in miniature. It was a shame to snip off even a single leaf."


At the end of each chapter, Amy shares the knowledge she gained along the way during that first year. Gardening tips, recipes, and plant recommendations are just a few of the tidbits you'll find.

Amy has since gone on to wow the gardening world, but peeking into this little window of her early start will have you laughing and cheering her on. It's almost as if she's in your kitchen, telling her story as you share a cup of coffee. Charming.

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Amy Stewart tends a garden of her own in northern California. She is the award-winning author of four books on the perils and pleasures of the natural world.

Her essays and commentaries have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Garden Design, Organic Gardening, and elsewhere. She's been featured on NPR, Good Morning America and CBS Sunday Morning. She is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a California Horticultural Society Writer's Award.

Stewart lives in Eureka, California, with her husband Scott Brown. They own an antiquarian bookstore called Eureka Books and tend a flock of unruly hens in their backyard.

She is also the author of The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms, and the New York Times bestselling Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers. Her newest book is Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities (Algonquin Books, May 2009).

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The book reviewed in this post was purchased by the reviewer.

Gardening Nude


Gardening Nude; a Common Sense Guide to Improving Your Health and Lifestyle By Increasing Exposure to Nature, Cultivating a Green Mindset, and Building a Strong Community
by Shawna Lee Coronado

170 pages

The Casual Gardener Company (2008)

List price:
$18.95



Let's set the record straight right from the start. Shawna isn't promoting gardening in the buff. But the title got your attention, didn't it? That's just what she wants to do, to guide and motivate you to live a better life.

In Gardening Nude, Shawna tells how she went from her corporate America, high-stress job that was literally making her sick, to her current life, where she enjoys good health by doing good things. Lots of good things.


I met Shawna in person last May, when I attended Spring Fling Chicago, a convention of garden bloggers. She lit up the room with her genuine enthusiasm for life, and as such, was a convincing ambassador for what she outlines in her book. There's meat behind her concepts:

  • Increase your exposure to nature
  • Cultivate a green mindset
  • Build a strong community

She calls it the
Get Your Green On Healthy Philosophy and this book is a manual for doing just that. One of my favorite chapters is number seven: "Strip Away The Excuses - How To Make The Conservation Plan A Reality." How many of us make excuses for why we can't live a greener lifestyle? Chapter four is similar, with her steps for the Go Green Health Plan.

Appendices in the back of the book provide sources for products and more information.
Though the book only has 170 pages, Shawna has managed to pack an incredible amount of information for all of us to improve our health and our community. She shows us how little things add up to make a big difference. We can all do more.

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Shawna Coronado is an author, locally syndicated newspaper columnist, energetic speaker, and environmental and health correspondent. Shawna has been featured on ABC News (Chicago), WGN 9 News (Chicago), Oklahoma Gardening TV and Local Access 10 TV. Special written features on Shawna can be found on CNN Health, Chicago Tribune Local, and The Daily Herald.

She lives in the Chicago area with her husband, daughter, and Harry the Pug, and can be found online at The Casual Gardener.

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The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Bulb


Bulb
by Anna Pavord

544 pages
Mitchell Beazley/Octopus Books USA (November 1, 2009)
List Price: $39.99



When my doorbell rang and Fed Ex handed me a hefty padded envelope, little did I know what a treasure was contained within. It was a book. A thick, beautiful tome that made me sit right down with it as soon as I got it out of the envelope.

Bulb is written by Anna Pavord, British author of the bestselling Tulip. Released on November 1st here in the U.S., Bulb features 600 of Pavord's favorite bulbs - "more than enough to sustain a gardener through a lifetime of growing them, " she tells us.

The book is beautiful. It has a cloth spine and the photo of the 'Prinses Irene' tulip on the front cover is embossed, with title and author in gilt. The pages inside are of heavy quality paper, which enhances the beautiful photography by Andrew Lawson. A nice touch is the attached green satin ribbon for marking your spot. But the best part is the content.


A concise introduction tells us the history and origin of bulbs, then we get a bit of a botany lesson before moving on to the bulbs themselves. Each bulb is listed alphabetically by botanical name (Acis to Zigadenus) and in many instances, several cultivars are also pictured. Each entry gives essential information about the bulbs (light, how deep to plant and spacing, hardiness zone, bloom period) as well as their native origin. Companion plantings are sometimes suggested.

Finally, the book concludes with a section called "How to grow bulbs," followed by a planting guide, which consists of lists such as "Bulbs for naturalizing in grass" and "Bulbs for containers." Another handy appendix lists "Bulbs by season," which is helpful when planning companion bloomers. The inside covers contain a U.S.D.A. Hardiness Zone map in the front and an AHS Heat Zone map in the back.

No one book could possibly contain this kind of information on every bulb, but if you want a resource for the ones you're most likely to buy or grow as well as some rare and species varieties,
Bulb is "The One."

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Anna Pavord has written eight books, including the internationally acclaimed bestseler Tulip, as well as The Naming of Names, New Kitchen Garden, Border Book, and Plant Partners. She was one of the founding editors of Gardens Illustrated and contributes regularly to programs for BBC Radio. She has lived in Dorset in the U.K. for almost forty years. After restoring the garden of an old rectory, she recently moved to a new garden, which she is filling with bulbs.

Andrew Lawson is an award-winning photographer, whose pictures have been reproduced extensively in books and magazines worldwide. Andrew's photos are informed by a deep knowledge of the subject of gardening. He had provided pictures for numerous books, including those written by Rosemary Verey, Penelope Hobhouse, Roy Strong, and HRH The Prince of Wales.


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The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

What's Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?)



What's Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?): A Visual Guide to Easy Diagnosis and Organic Remedies
by David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth

452 pages

Timber Press (December 2, 2009)

List price:
$24.95

I don't care how long you've been gardening, even if you do everything right, plants won't be healthy 100% of the time. Some new bug or spot eventually finds its way to your garden and then what?


You put your plant detective hat on and get to work at finding out just what the problem is. So the leaves are yellow and it's not fall. There are little green specks on the stems and leaves. And they're moving.


Thankfully, you don't have to be an entymologist with a degree in horticulture to figure this out, because David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth have done the work for you. Their collaboration to bring gardeners a simple method of diagnosing a plant's problems leaves this gardener grateful for the immense amount of labor that has gone into this book.


With easy-to-follow flow charts, you are taken through a series of identifications by both illustrations and photographs that eventually lead you to the problem and the solution. If a pesticide or fungicide is required, there's an organic remedy described.
They've also provided a list of resources for locating recommended products.

For years, we've wondered what the strange, pointy growths were on the leaves of some of our maple trees. I now know they're infected by bladder gall mites for which the solution is insecticidal soap, horticultural oil, or Neem oil. It took me no more than five minutes to find this out, using the flow charts.


This is one reference book that no gardener's library should be without.

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David Deardorff, Ph.D.
, is a plant pathologist and botanist who uses public speaking, writing, and photography to explain the science and beauty of the natural world. Naturalist Kathryn Wadsworth shares her love for gardening and the outdoors through writing and photography. Together, David and Kathryn (www.ddandkw.com) present classes and workshops with a focus on diagnosing and curing plant problems. They live and garden in Port Townsend, Washington.


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The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.



Bloom-Again Orchids


Bloom-Again Orchids: 50 Easy-Care Orchids that Flower Again and Again and Again
by judywhite


132 pages
Timber Press (November 28, 2009)
List price $14.95


Who thinks orchids are scary plants, hard to grow, and expensive? *raises hand* Judy White is here to tell you it's not true!


In her new book,
Bloom-Again Orchids: 50 Easy-Care Orchids that Flower Again and Again and Again, she attempts to debunk the common myths about growing orchids. As one who has grown orchids for about three years now and has encountered some of the difficulties commonly associated with them, I was really interested in what Ms. White had to say.

Her book is easy to understand, with the guidelines for growing orchids laid out in a concise, simple manner. She lists 50 orchids for growing that are easy to find, easier to grow, and relatively inexpensive, with information specific for each one.


When one is an expert in their field, with years of experience behind them, it's easy to say that something is...well...easy. Much of what is learned becomes instinct. After awhile, you just
know. And while I'll agree that her tips for orchids aren't difficult, following them does require a bit of vigilance and effort above and beyond that of the ordinary, everyday keeper of houseplants.

Most gardeners know that orchids aren't the kind of plants that you simply water once a week and expect to produce those exotic, luscious blooms. There are many things to consider, such as soil type, amount of light, amount of water, how to water, fertilizing, etc. Different types of orchids have different requirements.


But with this book at your side and a little effort, you too can grow orchids that will be the envy of the neighborhood.


judywhite is author and photographer of the award-winning Taylor's Guide to Orchids (Houghton Mifflin 1996). Her photography has graced many books and publications, and has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institution. A former research biologist and past editor-in-chief of one of the world's first mega-gardening Web sites, Time-Life's Virtual Garden, judywhite is married to British garden writer Graham Rice. She is proud to say she has killed orchids on both sides of the Atlantic.

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The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.




The Perennial Care Manual

Before I post a book review, I like to read the book. All of it. But I received one earlier this week that would be impossible for me to read in its entirety, digest it all, and post a review before it ever comes out in its second paperback printing. And mark my word, it will have a second printing.

Two Christmases ago, our older daughter asked for a good basic book on gardening. She was brand new to the pastime obsession - just a few years behind her mother - and she needed some basic information on how to do it. Oh, how I wish The Perennial Care Manual: A Plant-by-Plant Guide: What to Do & When to Do It by Nancy J. Ondra had been in publication then!

This book is, in a word, comprehensive. When I think of the time and effort that went into this book so that beginning and veteran gardeners would have a good manual of reference when it comes to growing perennials, the book should cost three times its list price of $24.95.

The lengthy subtitle - A Plant-By-Plant Guide: What to Do & When to Do It - is the key to the value of this manual. Taking 125 popular plants and discussing planting, staking, pruning, mulching, dividing, and propagating pretty much gives you all you need to know to grow a successful and varied perennial garden. Rob Cardillo supplies the appropriate and beautiful photography to support the information.

No, this isn't a book to be picked up, read cover-to-cover, then put back on the shelf. It's as the title touts - a manual. You'll turn to it again and again for its good advice, tried and tested by Nancy herself.

The Perennial Care Manual: A Plant-by-Plant Guide: What to Do and When to Do It (paperback)
by Nancy J. Ondra
$24.95 List Price (Amazon Price: $16.47)
Hardcover also available


Nancy J. Ondra is the author or coauthor of 11 gardening books, including Grasses, The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer, and Foliage, for which she won the American Horticultural Society Book Award. She is a member of the Hardy Plant Society and gardens on four acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She is a contributing author to the blog Gardening Gone Wild, as well as her personal gardening blog, Hayefield.


Rob Cardillo has been photographing gardens, plants, and the people who tend them for more than 20 years. He captures plants at their best for books and magazines, horticultural suppliers, and landscape designers throughout the United States.



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The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Black Plants

A few years ago, it became fashionable to create a Chocolate Garden, a trend that continues to be popular. Plants grown in a Chocolate Garden have a chocolate fragrance and/or have very dark blooms or foliage in tones of deep purple, brown, burgundy, maroon, or near-black.

A great resource book for planning such a garden is the newly-published Black Plants: 75 Striking Choices for the Garden by Paul Bonine. (Timber Press, September 2009) This little gem of a book packs a planter's punch by giving essential information on 75 stunning plants that would be appropriate for creating either a themed garden or a smaller pocket of attraction.

With each plant description, characteristics are provided that aid in making choices for the garden: soil conditions, hardiness zones, growth habits and light requirements. Suggestions are given for companion plantings that show off each plant's unique traits. On the page facing each description is a beautiful photograph of the plant.

Growing plants with such dark colors could be seen as gloomy and unexciting, but when paired with contrasting colors such as lime green, a very dramatic effect can be obtained.
Black Plants provides the necessary information to create such drama, but if you never grow a single plant highlighted in this book, it's still a fascinating read.


Black Plants: 75 Striking Choices for the Garden
by Paul Bonine

$14.95


Paul Bonine is co-owner of the wholesale nursery Xera Plants in Sherwood, OR, and has worked in the nursery industry in Oregon for almost two decades. In addition to consulting for NPR, assorted newspapers, and television, Paul has written for various gardening publications. This is his first book.


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The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Planthropology


Planthropology: The Myths, Mysteries, and Miracles of My Garden Favorites
by KenDruse

©2008 Clarkson Potter/Publishers
List price $50 / Amazon price $31.50



This is the book I wish I'd written. I'm sure it was all kinds of fun for Ken Druse, as it would be for most of us gardeners. Think of it! If you were asked to list your garden favorites, then given an assignment to find out all you could about them, how fun would that be?

The first thing you'll notice about this book is the stunning photography. From the poppy on the front cover of the dust jacket all the way through to the hosta foliage at the end of the book, it's just one fabulous photo after another. Even if you never read the book, it's worth the price (List price: $50 ... Amazon price: $31.50 and free shipping) for the photography alone.

But once you've taken a look-through of the photos, the real fun begins. Druse shares the most fascinating tidbits of trivia and information about his favorite plants (many of which are probably yours, too), all while imparting helpful tips about growing them. His obvious love and knowledge about all things gardening is apparent here and we are the benefactors.

"Living with plants is life affirming; there is something new to see, and to learn, every single day—about nature and about life. In the end, the great discovery is that gardening is a collaboration, an alliance if you will, between people and plants."

As you see, Ken is really just one of us, which is why this book is so charming. His own "love of the game" drove him to dig deeper into the history and unique characteristics of plants and he pours it out onto the pages. It's a factual book, yet there is nothing dry about it and you'll find it hard to put down.





Need a last-minute Christmas gift for the gardener on your list? I can't imagine who wouldn't be thrilled to find this treasure under the tree. All done with your Christmas shopping? Buy it anyway and pick one up for yourself while you're at it. This is truly a book that every gardener needs to have in their library. I love it and you will, too.



Ken Druse
is the author of many award-winning books, including his groundbreaking title, The Natural Garden, which initiated a design movement that continues to grow in popularity today. His most recent book, Ken Druse: The Passion for Gardening, was touted as "one of the five gardening books to own" by the Wall Street Journal. His podcast, Ken Druse Real Dirt, is available at www.KenDruse.com.

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The product or merchandise being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for testing and reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine, with no suggestions whatsoever by the manufacturer or distributor. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.