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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: An important contributor to our Pacific Northwest literature has been Steve Solomon, now with his 6th edition of "Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades." Each edition reflects the author's on-going learning in his craft, the major change in this edition concerns the cultivation of asparagus. He now advocates growing these from seed, rather than starting with root crowns.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: Ann Lovejoy has updated her popular 2004 "Handbook of Northwest Gardening," with a new appendix entitled "What's New in Sustainable Gardening." Here she discusses rain gardens (that capture as much of naturally occurring water as possible), dry gardens (plantings that survive and even thrive with no supplemental watering once established), and the importance of bees and their current peril -- and ways that gardeners can help their cause. All good additions.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

John Charles Olmsted made numerous visits to the Pacific Northwest from 1903-1911. This nephew of Frederick Law Olmsted was himself a highly regarded landscape architect and noted for his attention to fine detail. The chronicle of his many projects in the region is written with this same, careful attention to detail by Joan Hockaday in "Greenscapes: Olmsted's Pacific Northwest."

Olmsted was a prolific writer, both in his professional records and in his correspondence (5,000 private letters survive), especially his daily letters to his wife Sophia and their daughters at home in Brookline, Massachusetts. Hockaday uses this wealth of sources to create a book that works on several levels: as a history of a important time in the development of our region, as a biography of a skilled landscape architect working in the shadow of his more famous uncle, and as a glimpse of a by-gone era through garden design.

While his work took him from Vancouver Island to the University of Idaho and south to Corvallis, much the book's focus is on Seattle, where he spent some 300 days during those nine years. Hockaday convincingly argues that Olmsted is responsible for much of what now defines the city, especially with the park system, Lake Washington Boulevard, the University of Washington campus (including Rainier Vista), and many private residences.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

Portlander nurseryman Sean Hogan addresses a neglected part of the garden palette in "Trees for All Seasons: Broadleaved Evergreens for Temperate Climates". And he does it with great enthusiasm; being quite candid that one of his goals is increased planting of these excellent but underused plants.

First, he defines his scope. Conifers, or monocots such as palms, are not included. He's also strict about evergreen, subjects must "...keep their leaves year-round, or nearly so, but also remain attractive while doing so." Icons with each entry give size and shape, and emphasize these are trees, not shrubs (he's saving those for his next book).

The typical A-Z encyclopedia -- with some bunching of closely related genera -- is written for horticulturists (not botanists!) in temperate zones, and gives considerable gradation to the cold-hardiness and other exacting, cultural needs. For example, I learned that a favorite tree of mine from trips to the southwest, the Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) would "...experience imperceptibly slow growth, or even lose ground..." in my Seattle garden without heroic efforts to match its preferred "swamp-cooler" climate.

Always the nurseryman, Hogan gives detailed notes about propagation and the habits of young nursery stock, always written in an easy to understand manner. Need to propagate your olive? Historically this was done by "chopping the heavily burled bases into pieces, pulling chunks out of the ground, then dragging them to the next area where, eventually, an olive tree would grow." He goes on to say that with less effort similar results can be obtained from well-ripened cuttings with a high...ish level of hormone...along with a steep wound."

This book will certainly enhance your appreciation of the Arboretum's collection of broadleaved evergreens.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

Lorene Edwards Forkner tackled a huge task. She took the 900 plus pages of the late Carla Emery's "The Encyclopedia of Country Living" and distilled out of this sometimes wandering magnum opus (in 10 editions over 35 years) the essentials of vegetable gardening.

The resulting "Growing Your Own Vegetables" is a well organized and very readable work (at a comparatively slim 179 pages) that still captures the enthusiasm and down-to-earth charm of the original. While the authors both have Pacific Northwest roots, this book is written for a general audience, and so the section on okra is best skipped in planning your Seattle P-patch.

That said, there are still lots of useful and practical cultural tips. But I found it most charming in the somewhat quirky side boxes, such as that on Draft Horses and Power Tools: "Pat the animal and let it know you appreciate it after a good hard pull."

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: Briefly, gardeners should read "The Weather of the Pacific Northwest" by Cliff Mass, as the local weather is our constant companion. While this doesn't specifically address the concerns of gardeners, it will help you make sense of forecasts and appreciate the unpredictability of our weather.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: In the "Timber Press Guide to Gardening in the Pacific Northwest," Carol and Norman Hall give considerable detail and nuance specific to weather, climate, and other local factors impacting gardens west of the Cascades.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: "The Northwest Green Home Primer" is a helpful book for planning your garden. While the emphasis is on the home, a chapter entitled "Site Choices" has good advice for the surrounding landscaping, especially how and where to plant trees, and briefly addresses other green practices such as rain gardens to maximize the use of runoff.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: As a resident of Montréal, Linda Rutenberg does not qualify as a Pacific Northwest author, but the collection of her photographs in the 2007 publication "The Garden at Night: Private Views of Public Eden" includes PNW subjects. The Washington Park Arboretum and the Butchart Gardens are both featured, as are several other west coast gardens. The Italian Garden at Butchart is particularly enchanting at night, and one simply must experience Azalea Way -- after dark!

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

"Edible Heirlooms" is a great little book! Little only in dimensions and number of pages, as the author carefully defines his purpose and limits his scope, but within those parameters shows you how to grow an outstanding vegetable garden in the maritime Pacific Northwest.

Most important, he sees this endeavor as part of a larger picture. "The challenge for me is to somehow integrate my vegetable-growing practices into a diverse ecosystem and, if possible, enhance biodiversity." The key for this is to use heirloom varieties that can be regrown from collected seeds. Besides the mouth-watering descriptions, you will also get an excellent history lesson.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: For an encyclopedic approach to vegetable gardening, consider the "Sunset Western Garden Book of Edibles." Like most Sunset books, this encompasses the entire west in its scope, so ignore the entry on macadamia nuts, but with the fine tuning that the Sunset zones allow, you can zero in on what will grow for you, including fruits, nuts, berries, and herbs.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

I have long enjoyed the folksy but information packed annual catalogs from Gossler Farms Nursery in Springfield, Oregon. It is a great pleasure to now have the first book by the family (mom Marjory and sons Roger and Eric Gossler), "The Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs." Here the very practical, learned-by-experience descriptions of the catalog are expanded to 350 of their favorites, and all would make a good choice for local gardens.

The highlight of the introductory chapters is "How Not to Kill Your Plants" with lots of advice on how to select, buy, plant, and nurture your new shrubby children. "Consider it an open adoption: you want to know about the birth parents, what neighborhood the plant came from, whether drugs were involved, and so on." This same professional insiders advice continues in the A-Z listings, where I learned that a favorite of mine, Enkianthus perulatus, is rarely found in nurseries "...because it grows too slowly to be profitable."

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: Bill Terry, from the Sunshine coast of British Columbia, has filled a small book ("Blue Heaven") with an ode of praise to Meconopsis grandis, the Himalayan Blue Poppy. His cultural advice will encourage the favored few living in a climate that will nurture this hard-to-please jewel (along with some more easily managed companions like candelabra primulas and other poppies), but anyone can enjoy this display of plant passion at its highest level.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: From Oregon, Timber Press editor-in-chief Tom Fischer has created his own book, "Perennial Companions," that demonstrates 100 design combinations using herbaceous perennials and ornamental grasses. I found it best to look at the right hand, full page photographs first (almost like a flip book), then stopping at my favorites to read the interpretive material on the matching left hand page.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

Enjoy it. These final two words of the sub-title to Valerie Easton's new book, "The NEW Low-Maintenance Garden" are the key to her message. Other low maintenance manuals treat the garden as a bothersome necessity to having a house; here the emphasis in on the joy of the garden, without it taking over your life.

Organized by broad themes, including "Design with Maintenance in Mind" and "Nature's Rhythms", Easton augments her points with interviews of an impressive list of designers, gardeners, and home owners who have created a successful outdoor space. She completes each chapter with a list of books and other resources (once a librarian...) and throughout there are oodles of tips for simplification. Best of all, she gives the type A gardener permission to relax, and to find the pleasure of it all again.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

Linda Chalker-Scott debunks many gardening practices that don't work in "The Informed Gardener Blooms Again," a sequel to her excellent "The Informed Gardener" from 2008. The format is very similar to the first book, built around a series of short chapters with Sherlock Holmesian titles ("The Myth of the Magic Bullet", "The Myth of Nitrogen-nabbing Wood Chips") that analyze horticultural fads and home remedies from an applied, scientific perspective. After a thorough discussion of the research, a helpful summary ("The Bottom Line") follows, along with references to support her conclusions.

Chalker-Scott clearly has a passion for bringing science based, best practices to both home gardens and professional landscapes, as she has also edited and published "Sustainable Landscapes & Gardens: Good Science-Practical Application." Divided into five, separately bound units--all housed in a three-ring binder--this work has contributors from major universities throughout the Pacific Northwest.

The audience here could be either the home gardener or the professional who designs, installs, or maintains landscape plantings. The writing, while technical, is well-edited for readability for the non-academic reader and teaches not only better horticulture, but also about the research process that generates this advice. The format is designed for easily added updates and additions, so this is likely to be an important reference for our region for a long time.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: "The Climate Conscious Gardener" is the latest in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Guides for a Greener Planet. While most of the contributing authors live in the Northeast, one of the five chapters, "Turning Your Landscape into a Carbon Sink," was written by Arboretum Foundation staff member Niall Dunne. To give an objective perspective, I'll quote from a review in HortIdeas (published by Greg and Pat Williams in Gravel Switch, Kentucky -- so no regional bias here): "Dunne's chapter alone is worth getting the book...with valuable information on numerous techniques for sequestering carbon in backyard gardens. Wouldn't it be great if amateurs throughout the U.S. could keep a really huge amount of carbon out of the atmosphere?"

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: "Greening Cities, Growing Communities" is a case study of community gardens in Seattle. Written by landscape architects, this book is an excellent tool for supporters of community gardens in making their case in language understandable to urban planners and policy makers. For those of us already convinced, the breadth of activities at the profiled gardens will be surprising, and you could use this book as a unique travel guide to the Emerald City.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: "Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest" is another in the fine series of Timber Press Field Guide. Like earlier works on wildflowers and insects, it's well designed to be a good field companion with a coated cover, a ruler on the back, and frequently needed facts easily found on the inside covers.

Particularly good is the long introduction which addresses subjects from the ecology of mushroom-fungi, the hazards of hunting in the Pacific Northwest, to "How to avoid becoming a poisoning statistic." Unlike many field guides, the text in the descriptive encyclopedia is in narrative form, rather than having set descriptive elements for each species. Not being a mushroom hunter, I can't vouch for the effectiveness at identification by this approach, but I found it enjoyable reading.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: While there have been earlier guides to our regional mushrooms, "Sedges of the Pacific Northwest" is breaking new ground by being "an illustrated guide to all 163 species, subspecies, and varieties in the genus Carex that occur in Oregon and Washington." According to Katie Murphy, manager of the Otis Douglas Hyde Herbarium of the UW Botanic Gardens, this book is far better than other floras at distinguishing between these often very similar species, and fills a much needed gap in the botanist's reference shelf.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: For a total change of pace, pick up Jack Nisbet's "The Collector." Although written in the third person, the story-telling is so good that it reads like a memoir by one of the most influential of the early plant explorers to our region. David Douglas was a keen observer of all things in the natural world, but especially the plant kingdom, and had a natural talent for the recording, collecting, and preserving what he found. And what energy! From 1823 until his tragic death in 1834, Scotsman Douglas was almost constantly exploring the new world, risking many hazards of travels and meeting many interesting people in both academic and frontier life.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: "Pacific Northwest Native Plant Habitat Garden Manual" is a short, loose-leaf bound notebook intended to give the basics for teachers and students establishing school gardens using natives.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: "Living With Bugs" concentrates on the critters that find their way into your house, but there are valuable tips on co-existing for gardeners, too.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: "In My Nature: A Birder's Year at the Montlake Fill" describes the wonderful bird life of the area also known as the Union Bay Natural Area at the Center for Urban Horticulture.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

Sarah Reichard, the recently appointed Director of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, is also the author of an important new book for gardeners: The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic. In reviewing this book, I must make a full disclosure--Sarah is also my new boss and someone I've known and worked with for many years.

Reichard rightfully challenges gardeners to think outside of our individual gardens and see our role in the bigger system of both human endeavors and the natural world, and to see both the good and bad we can do. But she knows that being "good" isn't easy! And being a long-time teacher, she uses a skillful blend of storytelling, humor, and breaking things down to easy steps to make her message understood but not overwhelming.

For example, in her chapter "Aliens among Us", Reichard begins with the story of her concerns about introducing invasive plant species during a seed collecting trip early in her career. The scarcity of existing research led her to become a leader in the study of what makes plants invasive and the establishment and advocacy of guidelines for plant introductions in horticulture.

Recounting all this could be pretty heavy going, but she keeps it succinct and lightened with side boxes such as the role of the automobile ("Driving the Daisy") in seed dispersion. Then, she both encourages, "Gardeners, take action!", and tells how to do it, "Read on to plan your attack!" Like all chapters, this one ends with a set of Guidelines, very practical and doable steps each of us can take.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

Most field botany guides help with identifying the most common trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. Field Guide to the Rare Plants of Washington takes a very different approach by choosing as its subjects over 300 of the rarest plants, ferns, and lichens in the state.

Why do this? Editors Pamela Camp and John G. Gamon, and the many contributors, anticipate that by helping both professional and amateur botanists in recognizing and identifying rare plants, this will promote conservation of these plants. The hope is also to engage more "...nature enthusiasts, opening a window into the beauty and diversity of Washington's rare flora."

That said, this book takes a solid base of botanical knowledge to appreciate. Selections are arranged alphabetically by genus within four broad plant types (lichens, ferns, dicots, and monocots). This means you must identify an unknown plant to the genus level before you can make use of the detailed plant and habitat descriptions to determine if you've found something rare. Most entries have line drawings and both close-up and site photographs, but these are for fine-tuning identification and not for the beginner.

Besides its value to the keen botanists, this book makes an important contribution to keeping pace with changes in taxonomy and nomenclature, and in linking different resources for this information. For example, each entry includes the name (if different) used in the standard reference Flora of the Pacific Northwest (Hitchcock and Cronquist, 1973). It also preserves in a book format much information that was only available in "...earlier loose-leaf and online treatments of many the species included..."

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

Among my favorites of recent new books is Lakewold: A Magnificent Northwest Garden. It reminds me of a well-crafted exhibit catalog, beginning with detail from an oil painting of the garden on the cover.

Inside a rich history of photographs--dating from the early 20th century and drawing from most decades since then--tell the story of a dynamic garden. As a gardener, I appreciated seeing the old and the new, the changes and what stayed, and the large scale, formal plantings that gave way to simpler plans.

The style and quality of the book is not surprising as the editor is Ronald Fields, Emeritus Professor of Art History at the University of Puget Sound, who has been a docent for Lakewold since it opened to the public in 1989. The choice and layout of photographs is quite engaging, and includes unexpected hardscape details, many close-ups of signature plants, and the people who shaped the garden--primarily Eulalie Wagner and Thomas Church.

Several short essays provide their own history, including those written by local horticultural luminaries Valerie Easton, Dan Hinkley, and Steve Lorton, recounting visits to Lakewold early in their careers. Other sections highlight the vitality of the garden that continues today and its importance amongst the great estate gardens in the country.

If nothing else, this book will make you want to visit Lakewold. We are very fortunate to have this garden close-by, open to the public, and continuing the vision and spirit of those who developed and shaped it.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

David George Gordon wrote a delightful booklet (48 pages) in 1994 titled Field Guide to the Slug. After chuckling over the concept, I found there was a lot of information packed in those few pages.

The Secret World of Slugs and Snails greatly expands the earlier work by not only including snails, but also the natural and cultural histories--yes, including cooking suggestions and even shell collecting--of these incredible creatures. For the even more adventurous, there is a short essay on keeping slugs as pets. For example, banana slugs have a good temperament for this (the author has a pair named Chiquita and Dole) but they will overheat in the typical household.

The final chapter is where most gardeners might begin: "Sharing Our Gardens: Coexisting with Slugs and Snails" but unlike in most gardening books, slugs and snails are not portrayed as an indisputable enemy. Yes, there are suggestions on how to both discourage and eliminate them, but the gardener is urged to have a heart and not apply salt as "...salting causes undue pain for the slug."

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

The Gardener's Color Palette at first glance is a pretty book, but I was prepared to dismiss it as having little information of consequence. However, like with most books, it is important to read the author's introduction. Tom Fischer's second sentence summarizes his intent: "Flowers are nature's most direct and accessible route to enjoying the pure pleasures of color."

As an experienced gardener, I was already familiar with almost all of the one hundred flowers (mostly herbaceous perennials) profiled. I know their size, habits, foliage, texture, and even fragrance, or lack of one. And color, of course. Or so I thought. Fischer, and the superb photographs of Clive Nichols, invites you to isolate color from all other qualities.

This is best done on the beginning page of each of the ten color groups, with thumbnail style, tight close-ups of the full view examples that follow. Here, the shape of the flower is gone; all that is left is the color. It's quite a change in perspective.

The text gives a brief but insightful and often witty description of each plant, but the most valuable advice is for suggested companions, complimentary color ranges, or little gems like this entry on joe-pye weeds: "Their pinks and purples have a slightly dusty quality, which isn't necessarily a drawback; in fact, a hot fuchsia joe-pye weed would be terrifying--what on earth would you do with it?"

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool: Thru the lens: 50 years of the Japanese Garden is a nearly hour-long documentary that explores both the history and current activities in the garden. Several docents, gardeners, and supporters are interviewed. I found the in-depth presentation of the tea ceremony particularly interesting. This documentary has a limited availability, but can be viewed with headsets at the Miller Library.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2013-08-14
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December 12 2014 11:33:49