Good Bug Bad Bug & Good Weed Bad Weed

by Jessica Walliser

95 pages
St. Lynn's Press, 2nd Edition, Updated, 2011
List price: $17.95

The fact that this book is in its Second Edition (Revised and Updated, previous edition 2008) speaks of its popularity and value as a guide for the home gardener when it comes to the love/hate relationship we have with bugs. We struggle with them, knowing that some are good and some are bad, but how do we tell the difference?

Once again, Jessica Walliser gives us the lowdown on 41 of the most common bugs that we come face-to-face with in our gardens. Three new ones have been added as a result of climate change's effect on the insect world and ours. I really like the spiral, vertical format of this book, with its sturdy and coated pages, making it durable enough to take to the garden with you. But besides its physical traits, the information it gives about each insect is thorough enough to give gardeners the confidence to identify the good guys as well as the bad, and how to deal with all of them organically, if we find it necessary.

Hooray for this concise guide that should be on every gardener's reference shelf!

Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh.  She is a contributing editor for Organic Gardening magazine where you can read her 'Good Bug, Bad Bug' feature in each issue.  Her column ‘The Good Earth’ appears weekly in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and she is a regular contributor to Urban Farm, Popular Farming, Hobby Farms and Hobby Farm Home magazines.

by Nancy Gift

95 pages
St. Lynn's Press, 2011
List price: $17.95

With the successful format of Good Bug Bad Bug, Nancy Gift tackles that other nemesis of gardeners everywhere - the weed. Every garden has them and Gift sorts them out for us - 43 of the most commonly found.

At first glance, I cringed when I saw a couple of weeds listed as good, when they clearly are not good in my garden. But Gift expects that reaction and says so.  Disagreement over what constitutes a weed has been going on for a very long time. But as the subtitle says, some deserve a second chance and Gift explains why. Mostly it's about changing our habitual and cultural thoughts and being open to seeing the attributes of what we think a weed is.

Take purslane, for example. Purslane grows easily in my northwest Ohio gardens and is a nuisance to farmers. But in some cultures, it's highly prized for its edible properties. It's gaining in popularity in this country as well, and after seeing it sold in a farmer's market in Seattle this summer, my view is changing. Weeds are plants too, and Nancy Gift helps us sort them out organically, even including recipes to make use of them on the dinner table.

Again, the spiral binding and coated pages make this a book that will stand up to practical use.

Nancy Gift is an assistant professor of environmental science and acting director of the Rachel Carson Institute at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, four chickens, one cat, and a lawn full of many beloved weeds.

The publications being reviewed in this blog post were the sole compensation for reviewing the products. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like something, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that,too.

"Seeing Trees" Book and Print Giveaway!

I've not yet received my review copy of Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo and Robert Llewellyn (it's on the way), but I wanted to share this awesome giveaway that the publisher, Timber Press, is doing RIGHT NOW. You can win a signed copy of the book as well as a signed print by the photographer, Robert Llewellyn.

Seeing Trees is a brand new release (August 16, 2011) and delves into the intimate world of some of the best-known trees. You'll learn details about trees that you didn't know before and paired with photography by Llewellyn, you'll know what to look for as you're out and among them. You're guaranteed to never look at trees the same again. (Gosh, what will I say in my review?)

This is the signed professional quality print from Robert Llewellyn that the
winner will receive. It captures emerging American beech (Fagus grandifolia)
leaves, stretching free of their golden bud scales.

It's easy to enter. Just click here to go to the contest page and enter your information. You only have until September 9, 2011, so get on over there and enter! And if you just can't wait to see if you win a copy, you can purchase one now at Amazon.

My Garden, the City and Me

Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London
by Helen Babbs

144 pages
Timber Press, 2011
List price: $18.95

I’ll admit that I like to read chic lit now and then. It’s mildly entertaining when I want to relax and not try to tax my brain figuring out the meaning of life. Most books of this genre (that I’ve read anyway) take place in Britain and while the nuances of difference in language and culture may not affect the outcome, they do flavor the story in a unique way. Besides being a book about gardening, it was the fascination with the British voice that spurred me to read My Garden, the City and Me: Rooftop Adventures in the Wilds of London by Helen Babbs.

Photo courtesy of Timber Press
This isn’t chic lit and I didn’t expect it to be. It’s a charming story of a year in the life of Babbs’ apartment…err, flat…rooftop garden.  But it still has that British essence that I enjoy.  I chose bedtime to read this book, not to help me find sleep, but to escape from the day to that rooftop far away in London. The rooftop served Babbs and me well in this respect.

Reflections of her year as a gardener and her views of her city make My Garden, the City and Me a pleasant read. I empathized with her trials, but because I'm a rural gardener, I especially cheered her success at growing so much in the middle of a metropolitan city. It’s a sweet memoir.

Helen Babbs is a freelance journalist and writer in her mid-twenties. She has worked for the BBC, Associated Press, and Time Out, and is editor of the London Wildlife Trust's magazine, Wild London. She has a monthly nature notes column in Kitchen Garden magazine and blogs on their website about her roof garden, in addition to writing for Organic Garden and Home magazine.

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.

A Recipe For Continuous Bloom

A Recipe For Continuous Bloom
by Lorraine Roberts

316 pages
Plant Paradise Country Gardens™ (self-published), 2011
List price: $29.95 + tax and S&H = $40.40 CAD

As our gardens reach the midpoint of the growing season in many areas and begin the decline into what some of us look forward to as a break from it all and others become depressed that it will soon be over, we take a more serious look at what has bloomed when.

The dream garden is one that has constant bloom throughout the growing season, but that's easier said than done. Things such as soil type, moisture requirements, growing zones, and other factors all play a part and it can be frustrating and difficult to plan such a garden.

Garden center owner Lorraine Roberts has written a "recipe book" that makes this task easier. A Recipe For Continuous Bloom organizes perennials by bloom time, giving us just their very basic needs. It's a picture book (and more), with outstanding specimen photos, which simply inspires plant lovers to grow more in general.

But at the back of the book is a plant guide that gives suggestions for what to grow if you want a particular type of garden, such as a hummingbird garden. Other lists include plants for attracting butterflies, drought-tolerant plants, long-blooming perennials, North American native plants, plants that attract beneficial insects, and more.

A Recipe For Continuous Bloom is based on Roberts' home growing zone of Zone 5 in Ontario, Canada, but being in the middle of the spectrum makes this a useful book for those of other zones as well.

The book could have been better though, with just a bit of tweaking. Roberts gives us only the cold end of the zone in which the featured plants will grow, but not the warmer limit.  She labels the plants by their botanical name, but including the common names would have been a nice touch, too.

She has divided the book into sections by their light requirements, and at the top of the page in a green-colored bar that can also be seen at the pages' edges, it gives their months of bloom. Color-coding this bar by month (instead of them being all the same color) would have been a help to the reader in finding all plants that bloom in June, regardless of whether they're a shade plant or a sun plant or somewhere in-between.

Still, it's a handy book and I like its spiral binding. The photography is Roberts' and the images show off the plants well. I'll find it useful in my garden planning. For more information and purchasing information, visit her website.

Lorraine Roberts has a wealth of knowledge in the field of horticulture and has written many gardening articles for magazines. She is a speaker at Canada Blooms, the Successful Gardening Show, and horticultural societies on a wide range of topics. Lorraine and her husband, Robert, own and operate Plant Paradise Country Gardens™, an organic perennial nursery and garden centre in Caledon, Ontario, Canada, featuring extensive perennial display gardens of continuous bloom.


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.