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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

In "The Mushroom Hunters"! , Seattle author Langdon Cook asks what professional foragers get for their efforts: "An itinerant life on the road, continually moving with the seasons? A low hourly wage and no chance for health insurance? A garden variety of potential wilderness pitfalls, including injury, exposure, even wild animals?"

The answer is: all of the above, but that doesn't stop this from being a very big business. The collectors, those who buy from collectors, the distributors, and even the celebrity chefs who are at the top of this commercial food chain weave in and out of these pages much like in a high-energy, first-person novel. The settings, from the Yukon to California are evocative, too, but mostly somewhat vague--the secret locations of valuable hunting grounds are not to be shared.

This is Cook's second book on foraging. The Miller Library also has "Fat of the Land" from 2009. In addition to mushrooms, this book highlights the collection practices for fiddlehead ferns, dandelions, huckleberries, and a selection of animals including clams, crabs, and various fish. Several recipes will set your mouth watering.

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:

"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
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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
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Keywords: Reviews

Garden Tool:

Evolution of the Genus Iris jacket

Evolution of the Genus Iris by Robert Michael Pyle (Lost Horse Press, 2014)

The title of Robert Michael Pyle's most recent book might fool readers into supposing it a scholarly treatise aimed at the ultra-specialist in the Family Iridaceae. Look inside the cover of Evolution of the Genus Iris and all will become clear: these are poems of everyday life from the particular perspective of a Pacific Northwest naturalist.

The Miller Library has several other books by Pyle (including Wintergreen about the ecology of the Willapa Hills, and The Butterflies of Cascadia : A Field Guide to All the Species of Washington, Oregon, and Surrounding Territories). These plain-spoken poems feature garden perennials, reflections on the Palouse Giant Earthworm, longhorn beetles, butterflies, banana slugs, and—how could I resist mentioning—a paean to librarians.

One of my favorites in this first collection of poems is "Botany Lesson: Cleome." It begins, "He called it bee balm, but I heard bee bomb." The poet and his friend are on a butterfly-collecting trip, encountering specimens of wild Cleome. Pyle points out that Theophrastus's coinage of Cleome was based on a mistaken notion that the plant was related to mustard, when it is actually "a caper called spider plant, or bee / plant, for the love of honeybees—but never bee balm." It's a poem of friendship and reminiscence as well as an observation about the complexities and accidental poetry of naming things.

Reviewed by Plant Answer Line Librarian Rebecca Alexander

Season: All Season
Date: 2014-07-23
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June 24 2013 12:55:25