Garden Lover's Puzzle & Quiz Book

Garden Lover's Puzzle & Quiz Book
by The Puzzle Society™

202 pages
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2009
List Price: $9.99

Puzzles are fun.  Gardening is fun. Puzzles about gardening are really fun!  I've only had this book for two days, have done a handful of puzzles and quizzes and already I've learned several new things about plants and gardening. That's ingenious, you know - disguising facts with gaming fun.

There are over 180 puzzles in this perfectly-sized paperback and are of enough variety to keep the fun coming, right on through to the last page. Most books of this type are such a size and bound so that you feel like you have to take a steam iron to press it open to even do the puzzle. This is a little wider than usual at about five inches (by almost seven inches high), which does away with that little annoyance, yet it' still small enough to tuck into a purse or carry-on.

While I love to do crossword puzzles, most of them have a fair amount of obscure words they're wanting for those little square boxes and I end up being frustrated that I can't quite complete the puzzle without cheating and looking at the answer. This one, however, is a garden/puzzle lover's dream. I actually know most of this stuff.

What I didn't know before doing a certain puzzle in this book is that the Fuchsia group of plants was named for a Dr. Fuchs.  And now that I know this, I will never again have to waffle over where to put that darn 's' when spelling "Fuchsia."

BONUS: With the purchase of this book, you get a free 90-day trial subscription to the Puzzle Society™, their online puzzle club, where you will have access to over 70 daily updated puzzles and over 8,000 archived puzzles.

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Grocery Gardening

Grocery Gardening: Planting, Preparing and Preserving
by Jean Ann Van Krevelen
with Amanda Thomsen, Robin Ripley, and Teresa O'Connor

255 pages
Cool Springs Press, 2010
List price: $19.95

This book is the complete package.  Starting with the basic how-tos that even new gardeners can easily understand, and taking it all the way through harvest, preparing the food in
delicious ways, and preserving the fruits and vegetables for future use - what more could you ask?

Edible gardening is the new American pastime, though millions have been doing it for decades - centuries, for that matter.  Perhaps never since the days of Victory Gardens in the 1940s though, has "growing your own" been so popular.  But many of today's new gardeners did not grow up learning what it takes to put your own food on the table.

Jean Ann and her co-authors have done a superb job of providing a manual that gives essential information without getting bogged down in details that might make all of this seem daunting.  The material is presented in a logical, graphically beautiful way that invites novices to give it a go and infuses new energy into the more seasoned gardener's experience.

There's a sense of anticipation brewing as you soak up the general planting, growing, and harvesting sections, and for good reason. In the next and largest section of the book, the real fun begins.  Each fruit or vegetable is given its own "file," with tips on selecting varieties and their specific growing needs.

Several easy-to-prepare recipes are provided for each, such as Herbed Cucumber Salad, Thai Basil Fried Rice and Shepherd's Pie with Carrot and Sweet Potato Topping.  Personally, I can't wait to make the Cantaloupe Blackberry Smoothie.  There are over 135 recipes in all.

The fascinating thing about this book is how it came to be.  Its four authors have never met in real life.  They encountered each other online through Twitter.  As they discussed various aspects of gardening and cooking, the idea for collaboration on a book was born, and Grocery Gardening was the result.  Even more amazing is that it was written in 60 days.

If that isn't enough, this book has done yet one more thing. It has inspired this gardener and garden book reviewer that hates to cook, to actually try some of the recipes, and that is no small feat.

Jean Ann Van Krevelen is one of the most influential gardening communicators in the country. Follow her on Twitter @JeanAnnVK or on her blog, Gardener to Farmer.

Amanda Thomsen is a garden designer and contributing editor and writer for Horticulture magazine's website and blogs.  She can be found on Twitter @kissmyaster and on her blog, Kiss My Aster.

Robin Ripley is a writer, prolific cook, and a garden speaker in great demand. Find her on Twitter @robinripley or on her blog, Bumblebee Blog.

Teresa O'Conner is a Master Gardener and garden writer who reaches thousands of readers through her articles she writes for for national publications. Teresa can be reached on Twitter @seasonalwisdom and on her blog Seasonal Wisdom.

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars

Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars: Grandma's Bag of Tricks
by Sharon Lovejoy

205 pages
Workman Publishing, February 4, 2010
List price: $14.95

Sharon Lovejoy has done it again.  The award-winning and bestselling author of Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots, Trowel & Error, and Sunflower Houses: Inspiration from the Garden, has given us yet another idea-filled scrapbook of projects that grandparents, parents, caregivers, and siblings can use to make learning an adventure and an experience your favorite young person will remember forever.

Just a few examples:
  • Make a time capsule to bury in the garden
  • Find the "bunny" inside a peanut
  • Make a caterpillar of cucumbers and carrots - then eat it!
  • Make a pinecone feeder for the birds
  • Play with the faeries

This is a delightfully illustrated (by Lovejoy) treasure trove of memory makers, with 130 ideas for doing just that.  Some are clearly better experienced with a child, but I found more than few that can be done without help from anyone.

The next time I buy a fresh pineapple from the grocery, the top of it is going to sit atop a jar of water for rooting, instead of going into the trash or compost pile.  And what about the toad cottages mentioned in the title? I've always wanted one of those.

Thanks, Grandma Lovejoy, for showing us the way.

Sharon Lovejoy is an author, illustrator, lecturer, and teacher, and the children's garden adviser to the American Horticultural Society. She has been a guest on Today at NBC, PBS's Victory Garden, and the Discovery Channel, and speaks at educational conferences and gardening organizations around the country. She has four grandchildren and divides her time between California and Maine. Her website is and she writes a blog at

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Succulent Container Gardens

Succulent Container Gardens: Design Eye-Catching Displays with 350 Easy-Care Plants
by Debra Lee Baldwin

248 pages
Timber Press, January 20, 2010
List price: $29.95

I've  anticipated the arrival of this book for a couple of months now and when it finally arrived, I was nearly giddy with glee.  Having recently developed an appetite for succulents, this really hit the spot.  Baldwin shares her vast knowledge of succulents of all types with the rest of us in a very organized and easy-to-understand way.
This is a how-to manual of the best kind, with chapters on the various types of succulents and how to care for them. Site-specific details help readers choose those plants that will bring them the most success in their particular climate or indoor location.  More than 300 color photographs give ideas for container plantings. I particularly like the section showing vertical displays.

Watch the trailer:

It's evident that Baldwin has a heart for her subject and she uses her artistic talents to present them in wonderful ways that aid us in displaying our own burgeoning collections. What? You don't have a succulent collection?  I dare you to read this book and resist buying a plant or two. Or three or four or five.

Debra Lee Baldwin is an award-winning writer and editor based in Southern California. Throughout her 18-year career, she has authored an inspirational biography, and has written hundreds of feature articles and columns about architecture, homes, gardens, landscaping and interior design, and people who have made significant contributions to our culture. Debra has won awards from the Garden Writers Association of America, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the San Diego Press Club, and has appeared on national television.

Debra is also the author of Designing With Succulents. You may also be interested in the author's own Web sites, and

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.

Waking Up in Eden

Waking Up in Eden
by Lucinda Fleeson

310 pages
Algonquin Books, 2009
List price: $13.95

Give Ms. Fleeson credit.  She took a chance on life, leaving her job as a newspaper journalist in Philadelphia, for a position in Hawaii, helping to transform botanic gardens on the "garden island" of Kauai into the gems they were meant to be.  Offered the job by her friend and colleague Bill Klein, her venture into the world of fast-disappearing native flora changed her life.

I found her account of her work there to be fascinating in a botanical sort of way and I was left with greater knowledge of the fragility of native ecosystems.  Fleeson is a good writer, as one might expect, but it wasn't the most engaging read I've had in recent months.  As my three-star rating says, it's worth a look, but not likely one you'd require for your permanent library.

Lucinda Fleeson is director of the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. A reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer for many years, she has received an Arthur Rouse Award for Press Criticism, a McGee Journalism Fellowship in Southern Africa, a Knight International Press Fellowship, and a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard.  Before settling in Washington, D.C., she lived in Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Budapest, Botswana, and most notably, Kauai.

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing the product. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like it, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that, too.