Chlorophyll in His Veins

Chlorophyll in His Veins: J. C. Raulston, Horticultural Ambassador
by Bobby J. Ward

352 pages
BJW Books, 2009
List price: $25.00

As a fairly new gardener (six years), I'd heard the name J.C. Raulston and knew it was important in the horticulture world, but never really took the time to find out just why. So when I got the opportunity to review Chlorophyll in His Veins, I enthusiastically agreed.

Those who are accomplished individuals in any field fascinate me.  Usually they've made important contributions and as I was to find out, J.C. Raulston certainly is no exception. The Arboretum at North Carolina State University bears his name and for good reason. Raulston founded it in 1976 and his relentless pursuit of his life's work has contributed a wealth of information and plants to the world of horticulture, not the least of which is the home gardener.

Ward chronicles much of Raulston's personal life, but making the story even more complete is the inclusion of several of Raulston's lectures, which allows us to hear his "voice." I especially enjoyed Raulston's "Untangling the Hardiness Question: What is Hardy and Why?"  Notes on his
plant introductions tell me I likely have Raulston to thank for the Cornus kousa in my garden.

I have a confession to make. When I first started reading this book, I wondered how I was going to make it all the way through without getting a bit bored. How wrong I was! While it's not riveting, I found myself not being able to skim through it.  Raulston's fascinating and full life was anything but boring and Ward's account of it isn't either.

Bobby J. Ward lives in Raleigh, North Carolina . He is a native North Carolinian and received an undergraduate degree in biology from East Carolina University and masters and doctorate degrees in botany and plant physiology from North Carolina State University.

Bobby is the author of A Contemplation Upon Flowers: Garden Plants in Myth and LiteratureThe Plant Hunter's Garden: the New Explorers and Their Discoveries, and is co-editor of A Garden of One's Own, a collection of the garden writings of North Carolina writer Elizabeth Lawrence.

He has written for Horticulture and Carolina Gardener magazines, as well as for the Scottish Rock Garden Club, the Rock Garden Quarterly of the North American Rock Garden Society, and the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer. Bobby was made a contributing editor at Horticulture in 2009.

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.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year-Round Gardening

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year-Round Gardening
by Delilah Smittle and Sheri Ann Richerson

336 pages
Alpha (Penguin Group), 2010
List price: $19.95

Just like the other Idiot's Guides, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Year-Round Gardening is a manual.  Assuming the reader knows next to nothing about gardening, it breaks the process down into bite-sized pieces that true beginners can understand.

Gardening is presented in six parts:
  • You Can Garden Year-Round
  • Gardening Basics: Before the Harvest
  • Gardening Under Cover: Spring to Fall
  • Gardening Under Cover: Winter
  • Greenhouse Gardening: All Seasons
  • Gardening Basics: After the Harvest

The goal of the book is to provide methods for growing a wide variety of plants all year round, including edibles and it's clear that the authors have given great thought as to how to do this.  The obvious - constructing a greenhouse - is mentioned, but other less expensive and creative ways are explained as well.
There's something for everyone here, even experienced gardeners who want to expand their growing prowess. Like most gardeners eventually do, I've longed for a greenhouse, but don't want the expense of heating it in the winter. I thought I'd just use it for extending the growing season.  It can certainly be used for that, but this book shows me that I can actually grow things in an unheated greenhouse in the winter!

This is yet another how-to gardening book with a bit of a twist to it and worthy of gifting to the newest gardener on your list. You may want to pick a copy up for yourself while you're at it.

Delilah Smittle has been a senior editor at several garden book publishers and has written articles for Flower and Garden, Fine Gardening, Organic Gardening, and Old House Journal.  She gardens year-round with a heated and an unheated greenhouse.

Sheri Ann Richerson is an avid gardener, the Region III Representative for Plant-A-Row for the Hungry, and a member of the Garden Writers Association.  She also gardens year-round.

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.

Teaming with Microbes - Revised Edition

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition
by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis

220 pages
Timber Press, Revised Edition, 2010
List price: $24.95

When I began my Master Gardener classes last week, and we were learning about soil, I thought to myself, "Everyone here should read Teaming with Microbes."  The OSU Extension Educator spoke about the Dutch farmers who had recently constructed mega-dairies in our area and how they noticed our soil wasn't "alive."  Because I'd read this book, I knew what they meant.

Lowenfels & Lewis once again share valuable information on how gardeners can improve the quality of their soil by being mindful of just what makes it great. The natural balance of living things in our soil and how our gardening practices affect it, is outlined in easy-to-understand terms.

As I read through the book, time and time again I found myself nodding in agreement and recognizing things from my own garden experiences. These were things that I had observed, but hadn't given much thought, until now. Like slime mold. (It's a good thing!)

There's no denying that the things we do in our gardens affects our success or failure. The information presented in Teaming with Microbes is relevant whether you garden organically or not. Armed with the facts from the fascinating world of such a major player in the gardening game - soil - you can't help but be a better, more responsible gardener.

Teaming with Microbes was a bestseller when it was first published in 2006. The revised edition includes two new chapters, giving a more complete picture of healthy soil and how you can have it. No doubt it will continue to be a valuable aid to the gardening world.

Jeff Lowenfels is a member of the Garden Writers of America Hall of Fame and has been writing a weekly column for the Anchorage Daily News since 1977.  A native New Yorker, he is now an attorney and businessman in Alaska and a leading proponent of gardening using the concepts of the soil food web.

Wayne Lewis is a lifelong Alaskan gardener. He has worked with Jeff on many projects over the past 25 years, including the now national Plant a Row for the Hungry program (started in Anchorage by Jeff), which encourages gardeners to donate a portion of their harvest to charitable organizations in their community

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.