So Many Books…

Gardening is a hands-on activity, but books about gardening offer relevant activity, whether for gaining useful knowledge, inspiring ideas, forming plans for the future, or just “gardening” until the rains let up. Here are two new books that publishers have sent to me for review.

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The Beginner’s Illustrated Guide to Gardening: Techniques to Help You Get Started, by Katie Elzer-Peters (Cool Springs Press, 2012).

This book offers an excellent first step into the world of gardening. Anyone baffled by plant tags, seed packets, the hardiness zone map, or fertilizer labels need not remain puzzled: this book dispels such mysteries.

It also introduces beginners to gardening basics, lawn care, trees and shrubs, flowers, vegetables, and several other gardening topics.

Author Elzer-Peters has impressive credentials in horticultural studies and practical experience at several public gardens. After absorbing the basic ideas in this readable book, a new gardener will have a solid foundation for more advanced topics.

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For more advanced topics, we have Wildflowers of Garland Ranch, by Michael Mitchell and Rod M. Yeager, M.D. (Revised 2011).

The two authors of this exceptional book are retirees with enthusiasm for and expertise on the wild flowers of the central coast. Many authors and publishers target vast areas in a hunt for a large readership, and sacrifice the relevance of the work for any given reader. The book is remarkable for concise descriptions and fine photographs of the wildflowers of a specific place, Carmel Valley’s Garland Ranch. It is a uniquely valuable resource for gardeners and nature lovers who reside or visit in the Monterey Bay area.

I reviewed the first edition this book about a year ago. This is the revised edition and enlarged edition with over 60 new flowers and many other updates. The authors now report that Garland Ranch is the home of over 500 flowering plants, shrubs and trees, or about 25% of all of the flowering plants of Monterey County. Garland Ranch offers great local opportunities for viewing wild flowers and this book is an invaluable resource for learning about the plants you see. Purchase at Garland Ranch, 700 West Carmel Valley Road.

This book is about “more advanced topics” not because it is botanically technical, but because the appreciation and identification of wild flowers is an activity beyond the hesitant initial forays into residential gardening.

The home gardener engages in an exercise for taming nature: taking plants from their native habitat and cultivating them in a contrived and managed setting. The gardener succeeds best when the garden closely resembles the plant’s original habitat.

The gardener’s preparation is enriched by study of wildflowers. Garland Ranch, with this book in hand, is a convenient and good place for such study.

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