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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

"Backyard Roots" is a collection of vignettes about urban dwellers motivated to have a closer connection to their food and their communities. There are many ways to do this, and the strength of this book is its breadth of inspiring ideas that have already been realized. Making it even better, the individuals and families profiled all live on the West Coast, from British Columbia to northern California.

Author/photographer Lori Eanes has a career in food photography and her original intent was a photo essay but, she says in her introduction, "…as I learned people's stories their dedication inspired me to write about them too." While the writing is good, her camera is particularly effective at bringing out her subjects' personalities--both human and animal.

While some of the topics, such as raising ducks or goats, are addressed in detail in other books, there are several more adventuresome projects. These include raising tilapia in an aquaponic garden and grafting food fruits onto ornamental street trees, guerrilla style. I gave a copy as a Christmas gift and I recommend it highly, especially to anyone with the spirit and resourcefulness of a homesteader.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Winter 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2014-03-12
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

Vanessa Gardner Nagel is a Portland-based landscape designer who has written two books recently added to the Miller Library. The first, "Understanding Garden Design," (published in 2010) is so well organized and structured it could easily be used as a textbook, but that may unfortunately imply dullness to what is a very readable and engaging book.

To get the best out of this book, however, the author does expect work on the part of the reader, leading you through the steps that a professional designer would follow. Much of this work is required before you reach the fun part of choosing plants. These aren't discussed until Chapter 8, and then only as elements of structure, using the analogy of punctuation to describe the different selections (some plants are commas, others are parentheses, etc.).

Building with each chapter is a hypothetical garden design using the principles discussed that effectively ties all the concepts together. Even if you decide to hire a designer, this book will help you speak and understand the language and be better at expressing your desires. You will also find very useful a whole chapter on working with contractors.

Nagel's newer book, "The Professional Designer's Guide to Garden Furnishings," identifies its primary audience in the title, but there's much here for the discriminating homeowner, too. Especially valuable are the detailed, chapter-length analyses of the many materials that can be used in furnishings, including wood, metal, textiles, and even wicker, glass, or stone. Each chapter includes the industry standards for high quality, finishing options, best maintenance practices, and the sustainability of each material.

The author is at her best in both books when--after carefully presenting a concept--she explains how she will bend the rules. In a section from "Furnishings" on Scale and Proportion, she states, "The old concept of small things in a small space simply isn't true. A couple of large objects in a small space can work splendidly…" and she goes on to explain why this works.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Winter 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2014-03-12
Link to this record (permalink)


Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

As a boy, I did not embrace the hobby of making models. Yes, I had a train set, but no desire to create a world of villages, forests, and the like to surround the tracks. Instead, I wanted to be outside in the garden and working with full-sized plants.

This makes me feel a bit inadequate to review "Gardening in Miniature" by Seattleite Janit Calvo. However it turns out that at its heart, this is a gardening book, with sound design advice and cultural tips, just all at 1:12 (one inch = one foot) scale, or even smaller.

"Using the basic garden tenets of anchor point, balance, layers, texture, color, and focal point, you can plan your miniature garden with confidence," the author states encouragingly. Step-by-step, fully planned projects provide lots of guidance for the beginner. I worried that plants would not stay to scale, and indeed they might not, but it's easy to swap plants in and out.

I learned from this that while there is some overlap in principles and techniques between miniature gardening and bonsai, they are largely distinct pursuits. However, they can be combined by making a bonsai the centerpiece of your miniature garden. Will I take up miniature gardening? Probably not. But my eyes have been opened to a whole new--and quite small--world.

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Winter 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2014-03-12
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

Constance Sidles has written her third book of essays and observations on the Union Bay Natural Area titled "Fill of Joy: More Tales from Montlake Fill". Like her previous books, this includes many excellent photographs and other artistic interpretations of the site (in paintings, poetry, and even dance) and an updated bird list, now counting 255 species recorded since the 1890s.

The heart of the book remains Connie's self-deprecating humor and philosophies about life. While the bird life is her focus, she spots humans and other visitors, too. "When the joggers wheeze by…they smile and say hello. I don't know their names, but I know them. The dog walkers who keep their dogs leashed stop to chat while I ruffle their friends' ears; the dog walkers who let their dogs run free usually head the other way…my gimlet eyes are giving them the Look."

Reviewed by Curator of Horticultural Literature, Brian Thompson. Excerpted from the Winter 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

Season: All Season
Date: 2014-03-12
Link to this record (permalink)


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June 24 2013 12:55:25