I love to read gardening books during the winter; they remind me of gardens of summers past and give me hope for gardens of summers future. I don't read how-to gardening books, but rather books about gardens written by gardeners about the good, the bad and the ugly experiences in their gardens.
Old books about gardens are the best - another winter read was Garden Open Today by Beverly Nichols , published in 1963. How else would I know that in the 1960s the Fire Department (at least in charming old England) would come and hose out the gunk from your garden water feature? Pretty sure even in England this charming service is no longer available. Mr. Nichols thinks that every garden should have a "water feature"- maybe our back 40 swamp can be re-branded !
Back to Earth Works by Nancy Hugo - what a delight! The book is a month-by-month treasure of gardening insights, opinions, and just great writing. She starts by recommending old gardening books, beginning with my favorite, Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katherine White that I talked about here.
I like people with opinions and this book is full of them. On hollyhocks: " Grow the single- flowered ones, not the doubles. A double-flowered hollyhock is like a 7-foot man who's changed his hairstyle to attract attention". For July : "What most gardeners want in July are flowers that need no attention. They want flowers they can smile at on the way to the air-conditioned car". Her go-to flower for July is Echinacea, one of my all-time favorites.
From our back garden - sans water feature!
It's not all snappy comments - I learned that toads don't drink water, they absorb it through their skin. And that the American lawn is the largest crop in the world, using more fertilizer than all of India and Africa do. Any one who has seen our lawns knows we are most definitely NOT contributing to that scary stat! I also got a recommendation for a plant for our problematic front slope, Fire Pink, that apparently isn't fussy about its growing conditions. It does have the downside of being red (I have opinions, and one of them is that most red flowers are hideous), but since I can't really see the slope from the house, I may give them a whirl.
I'm going to go though Ms Hugo's list of "must-reads', looking for her sure-sign of a great one - a dried pressed flower between the pages.