Dreaming of a beautiful garden . . .
The weather outside was so astonishingly warm. And now, darned if it hasn’t reverted to just … seasonable. I think everyone who gardens must have been out last weekend getting things cleaned up and ready to grow. Now we are back in that more typical spring holding pattern. So, what better time to dream of a beautiful garden than right now? Yes, it’s (apparently) too early to get your hands into warm, brown earth, but if you put an extra log on the fire, and pull on a second sweater, then maybe you can let your imagination run wild with the help of a few good books. Thanks to very generous donations from the Saco Bay Gardening Club, both the Dyer Library and McArthur Library have strong gardening collections.
From my point of view, the best of gardening books (like the finest cookbooks) include lots of photographs. Almost all of the following books share that trait. “The Passion for Gardening” by Ken Druse showcases lush photography and interesting descriptive text about wonderful gardens. But the opening photo of a gorgeous curving perennial border is a glowing combination of the most brilliant greens (to my barely-spring eyes) and pink and purple blossoms: what a feast.
No matter how hard I try, I always seem to end up with some kind of new pesky insect (don’t even ask me about those horrible lily beetles) or a weird weed – or did I plant that nasty, invasive thing? A great source for answers is “The Garden Primer” by Barbara Damrosch. This hefty paperback covers it all: details on more than 370 different plants, and maybe a thousand other little tips and ideas. The only downside to this book is that if you spend the time to read all 820 pages, you may not have time to actually get out there and grow anything.
“The Ultimate Plant and Garden Book,” edited by R. G. Turner is another one of those oversized volumes that are perfect bedtime reading when spring still doesn’t seem quite plausible. It’s a nice version of a plant dictionary: lots of color photographs and detailed descriptions of plants of all types. It also includes a wonderful index so that you can use it right along with your seed catalogues to confirm that those plants they brag about really will grow the way they say.
One of my very favorite gardening books from Dyer Library is the “Color Encyclopedia of Daylilies” by Ted Petit and John Peat. This feast for the eyes documents the best daylilies, sorted by color and flower type. And what’s not to love about this near perfect perennial? Their only flaw, sadly, is that the buds are the absolute, most favorite food of deer (except, possibly, Hosta. If this is problem for you, stop in or email for my nearly deer proof preventative.)
So, all you gardeners out there, take heart. Even though the high temperature today isn’t likely to exceed 45 degrees, spring is almost sprung. And if that isn’t true here in southern Maine, it is certainly so in the world of gardening books, where the sun always shines warmly on deep, rich, warm soil, alive with glowing blossoms, rampant foliage (never any weeds), and humming with bees, and butterflies, and gentle, fragrant breezes bringing the sweet sound of bird song …
Leslie Rounds is executive director of Dyer Library/Saco Museum.