Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Review - Plant This! by Ketzel Levine

I love books about gardening and when I came across this at our favorite  book store, The Book and Bar in Portsmouth, NH, I knew it needed a home next to all my other gardening books.

What sold me is the hysterical sidebar for each plant.  One of my garden stores uses Latin names only- not in a snooty way, just in that way that experts in their field talk their secret lingo.  My high school Latin is not always up to the task so  I can fumble with the pronunciation.  Enter the "sounds like section" in the side bar, right under the botanical name.   So  Polygonatum odoratum  sounds like "a pig done ate 'em".   When was the last time you read a gardening book that made you laugh? ( I have some that have me sleeping by page 4).

There are beautiful illustrations by Rene Eisenbart- really more artsy than for plant identification .

Ms Levine is an NPR senior corespondent who took her first job outside radio at the National Arboretum for $7.00/ hr, in what she describes as a "lateral move from public broadcasting".   She writes like someone who loves her subject and has strong opinions about what she likes and dislikes - my kind of gal.

This is a book about her 100 favorite plants, grouped by season.  She clearly likes foliage plants  and shrubs , but I found myself wishing for more flowering plant recommendations.   Lucky her - she gardens in the moderate Pacific Northwest, so many of her selections wouldn't do well here in fierce New England winters.   I wish she had included a zone recommendation in the sidebar, but that's being nit-picky.

I got a great tip to try for containing gooseneck loosestrife (oops, I mean Lysimachia clethroides).  I love this plant, but is it , to put it mildly, an aggressive spreader.  I'm going to transplant some into my new garden space, confined in a buried one gallon pot.

This is just a fun read, not an encyclopedic all-there-is-to-know gardening book. You read it for lines like this: " I am nuts about plants with perfoliate leaves.  Yes, I am a cheap date".  Then she goes on to explain just what perfoliate leaves are - good to know for dazzling my Latin-speaking garden store clerks.   And here's another,  " If Lychins were a woman, she's be the type Seinfeld would date for her figure;  then once she opened her mouth,  he'd run screaming from the room".

And she gives us this great quote from JC Raulston, "You're not stretching yourself as a gardener if you're not killing plants".

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