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Garden Tip

Keywords: Seed dormancy, Propagation, Shrubs, Seeds, Perennials, Ornamental grasses, Herbs, Ferns, Reviews

A book by Jekka McVicar called Seeds: the ultimate guide to growing successfully from seed (Lyons Press, 2003, $22.95) will help you turn your seedy hopes into plant reality. Thirteen chapters are divided by types of plant including ferns, grasses, shrubs, perennials and herbs. The practical information that applies to all kinds of seeds, such as what type of soil to use, and how to break seed dormancy, is included in the last chapter. Color photos illustrate throughout. For online tips for seed starting go to:
http://cru.cahe.wsu.edu/CEPublications/pnw0170/pnw0170.pdf from Oregon State University.

Date: 2006-03-01
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Reviews, Moles

Mole activity increases in the summer. If you have found you simply cannot tolerate "nature's rototiller" than take a look at the book Of Moles and Men: the Battle for the Turf by Patrick H Thompson (Aardvark Avanti, $29.95). With humorous chapters like Know the Enemy and Primitive Tools for Civilized Men Thompson details the pros and cons of mole control. Additional information from Washington Cooperative Extension.

Date: 2007-06-11
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Reviews, Mulching

MULCH IT! By Stu Campbell. Pownal, VT: Storey Books. 2001
Mulch: what is it, why use it, what kind should be used? If you have ever wondered about these questions then read MULCH IT! The author describes the pros and cons of all the various types of mulch imaginable from bark to oyster shells and poultry litter, and how to use mulch around flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Date: 2002-06-19
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Garden Tip

Keywords: Reviews

Straddling the US/Canadian border are the publications of Lone Pine, with authors from both sides. Three recent titles -- "Water Garden Plants" , "Container Gardening," and "Herb Gardening" -- are each addressed to Washington and Oregon but certainly are applicable further north, too. These are very useful titles for beginners, with the Lone Pine trademark water-resistant covers and easy, travel guide style presentation. Stock up for the new gardeners you know.

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

Date: 2013-08-14
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Seasons of Life in the Union Bay Sanctuary by Marilyn Smith Layton, 2011

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

Photos of the Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA) can be found in "Seasons of Life in the Union Bay Sanctuary" by Marilyn Smith Layton. This photo essay includes not only birdlife, but also landscapes, flowers, trees, and the people who come to observe it all.

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Four seasons on Bainbridge Island by Paul Brians, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

bookFour Seasons on Bainbridge Island is a photo essay by Paul Brians celebrating the flora of the island, some from his own garden, and accented with a few shots of people, animals, and landscapes. Highly recommended for residents of Bainbridge, this book also captures the essence of semi-rural, island living anywhere around Puget Sound.

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Tao of Vegetable Gardening by Carol Deppe, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-02-25

bookjacketCarol Deppe is a witty and engaging writer based in western Oregon. Her third book on vegetable gardening, The Tao of Vegetable Gardening, is particularly valuable if you are growing tomatoes in our maritime climate, hoping to maximize your output of salad greens, or passionate about seed saving. Infused throughout are her philosophies on life and gardening, and you can read about the amazing adventures of Garden Woman, while learning some great weeding techniques, too!

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Edward Bawden's Kew Gardens by Peyton Skipwith, 2014

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2015-06-06

book jacketThis book defies easy categorization. Bawden was a renowned British illustrator, graphic artist, and painter who served as an official War Artist during World War II. He and his contemporary Eric Ravilious studied with surrealist landscape painter and engraver Paul Nash, and his influence can be felt in Bawden's lively calligraphic line, and his modernist approach to landscapes and cityscapes. Until exploring this book, I was most familiar with his posters for London Transport, depicting sights and scenes around London.

The first section of the book reproduces Bawden's very early manuscript (created when he was just twenty), A General Guide to the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Spring and Easter 1923. The second section is a brief but eccentric sociocultural history of Kew, incorporating Kew-inspired illustrations, verse, and humor. The third section is a selection of Bawden's wry illustrations for Robert Herring's Adam and Evelyn at Kew. The last section summarizes his lifelong artistic fascination with Kew. Those who are interested in 20th century art and the history of Kew will find it a fascinating book to read and savor.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

bookFlowers of Volunteer Park Conservatory is one of the best examples I've seen of a book capturing the spirit of a public garden. Photographer Sara L. Chapman has created monthly visual essays, using both close-ups and panoramas to bring you into the page and remind you of a real life visit. But this is more than just a picture book. The subjects of the photos are carefully captioned, making this a useful identification handbook to conservatory plants.

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Conifers around the World by Zsolt Debreczy, 2011

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-03-12

bookIt is a nice balance that a publication of equal stature to the RHS encyclopedia on cultivated conifers has been recently published on conifers in the wild. "Conifers around the World" authors Zsolt Debreczy and István Rácz have been working together since 1975. The predecessor to this current title was published in 2000 in their native Hungarian; Kathy Musial of the Huntington Botanical Gardens provides valuable editing skills to this much expanded English edition.

The result is massive (again, in two volumes), but very manageable. The authors' intention is to "present photographs of conifers in their natural habitats in a consistent format." These larger images are breathtaking, and are supplemented with close-up photos of cones, leaves, and any distinguishing features. The accompanying text is concise but unlike some botanical descriptions is very readable and reflects the authors' sensitivity to conservation, local culture and ethnobotany.

The focus is on temperate species, and the layout is by broad geographical areas with a detailed description of the geological, vegetative, climatic and human history of each. Maps are used liberally to show topography, sites of major conifer forests, floristic provinces, and the ranges of species. The extensive introduction is a joy to read despite covering some pretty dense subjects, including taxonomy, conifer identification, morphology (lots of drawings help the reader with these), and the history of the earth's climate and other factors that have impacted the distribution of conifers we find today.

The appendix is also fun, with various essays that didn't quite fit elsewhere, and a "bark gallery" giving eye level close-ups. The Pacific Northwest is clearly dear to these Europeans, as the two photos that accompany the Preface are from Washington State, including the authors' portrait standing in front of a giant Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) in Olympic National Park. On the inside of the back cover of Volume 2 is the "Sell the Land?" speech attributed to Chief Sealth; a suitable closure to this very rigorous but also very passionate and personal publication.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-03-12

James Eckenwalder graduated from Reed College in Portland, making him a one-time Pacific Northwest resident, although he is now on the faculty at the University of Toronto. "Conifers of the World: The Complete Reference" is an ambitious effort that was years in the making. It is an excellent reference book in a single volume.

Tropical species are given equal treatment to temperate and the A-Z presentation emphasizes descriptive text--there are only a few photos and those are mostly in black and white. The introduction includes a very readable discussion of taxonomy; the author is clearly captivated by the subject but is able to make his points in terms for a general audience. "My overriding motivation behind all of these considerations, however, is to share my fascination and enthusiasm for these wonderful plants."

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Designing with Conifers by Richard L. Bitner, 2011

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-03-12

bookRichard Bitner has written three books about conifers in the garden; I think the best is the most recent, "Designing with Conifers." Organized by notable features such as shape, color, or bark, the author uses his own photographs to illustrate a wide range of planting options. He clearly detests foundation plantings: "Why this mandatory dress code? It is time to break free of this tradition and change our practices."

Specialty situations such as hedges and topiary are included, along with some unexpected chapters on recommended Christmas trees, dwarf cultivars for garden railways, and--the most curious--traditional plantings for German graveyards. Although the author is from the East Coast, I thought his best work was a case study of a garden near Eugene, with a photographic dissection of the different purposes for the plants used in the landscape--quite instructive.

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The Front Yard Forager by Melany Vorass Herrera, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-03-12

Front Yard Forager book jacketMelany Vorass Herrera is an enthusiastic and experienced forager who lives in Seattle. In "The Front Yard Forager" she identifies 30 common weeds found in North American cities that she recommends we add to our regular diet. I found her presentations, including recipes, beguiling--especially as my own garden is filled with several of her selections that until now I've tossed into yard waste.

Before heading to the garden or the vacant lot, however, the author has several cautionary topics to consider to keep you--the foraging consumer--safe and to ensure your collecting doesn't disrupt the ecology or social harmony of the neighborhood. Further caveats fill each plant entry, including "Poisonous Look-Alikes" and "Who Should Avoid It" warnings.

While most of the selections, such as dandelions (Taraxacum officinale), have general consensus in the literature as safe to eat, some of Vorass Herrera's other choices are less certain. This makes as a good companion book the new edition of "The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms" by two University of Victoria authors, Nancy J. Turner and Patrick von Aderkas.

The wild sweet pea (Lathyrus latifolius) illustrates the value of consulting at least these two sources before consuming any wild plant. Vorass Herrera recommends it when identification is certain and when eaten only in moderation. Turner and von Aderkas state that "all species of Lathyrus should be regarded with caution. However, a strong case is made for the edible qualities of wild sweet pea (L. latifolius) by wild food expert John Kallas." A discussion of the arguments by Kallas follows, leaving you--the now well-informed forager--with three distinct opinions on the safety of putting this plant on your dinner table.

The importance of this is best summed up by Vorass Herrera: "The bottom line? A good forager needs to be willing to spend a little time digging for accurate information."

Excerpted from the Winter 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Mushroom Hunters by Langdon Cook, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-03-12

 Mushroom Hunters book jacket 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.

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Backyard Roots by Lori Eanes, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-03-12

Backyard Roots book jacket "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.

Excerpted from the Winter 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Gardening in Miniature by Janit Calvo, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-04-01

Gardening in Miniature book jacket 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.

Excerpted from the Spring 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Fill of Joy: More Tales from Montlake Fill by Constance J. Sidles, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-03-12

Fill of Joy  book jacket 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."

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Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell, 2013

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2013-11-16

book jacketPart biography, part garden photo essay, and part ventriloquist's act, Marta McDowell's Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life (Timber Press, 2013) provides a window into Potter's world. If you have read her children's books, you will have a lasting impression of the charming adventures of rabbits, hedgehogs, kittens, and ducks but you may not think of Beatrix Potter as a botanical illustrator. I was surprised to discover that the highly accomplished sketch of foxglove and periwinkle on page 27 was made when she was only ten. The best feature of this book is the gathering together of selected drawings and watercolors of plants, fungi, and landscapes. Potter's natural history illustrations (particularly of mushrooms) are featured in Ambleside's Armitt museum.

Potter was also a certifiable plant addict, and was not averse to gathering cuttings and seeds in gardens not her own. Royalties from her publications enabled her to acquire property and land, so she ended up with several gardens in England's Lake District. The weakest part of the book is McDowell's attempt to channel Beatrix (as she takes the liberty of calling her) by paraphrasing from her journals and letters to feature aspects of the gardens through the seasons. The accompanying photos are glorious (I am captivated by Hill Top garden's green-painted wrought-iron gate rimed with frost), but it would have been better simply to quote Potter directly.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

Free range chickens book jacket Jessi Bloom is a strong advocate for chickens in almost any garden setting, and in "Free-Range Chicken Gardens," she provides detailed information on compatible plantings--including those that provide food for chickens--and structures that meet the multiple needs of fowl and flora. There is a lot of well-organized information in these pages on all other related topics, too, making this of value to chicken keepers at any experience level. But you can also just enjoy the profiles of gardeners and their chickens (many are local) or the many superb photographs (by Kate Baldwin) of contented hens in their gardens, proving their value as a natural compliment.

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

book Robert and Hannah Litt own the Urban Farm Store in Portland and wrote "A Chicken in Every Yard" from experience keeping their own chickens, and helping their chicken-keeping customers. While they don't disapprove of raising chickens for food, theirs are clearly pets and the book encourages this attitude with chapters like "Parenting Your Peeps." There is a lot of detail about different types and breeds, including recommendation lists such as "best for children." All stages of raising and caring are covered in depth, but the garden is only briefly mentioned. If your focus is solely on chickens, this book is an excellent choice.

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

book The Urban Farm Handbook is a blending of deeply personal accounts by two urban (Seattle) families seeking ways of becoming self-reliant in producing and preparing food. By sharing both the triumphs and failures (including persuading significant others), Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols present a lot of options for choosing your own path to provide food for yourself and loved ones. Recipes are scattered throughout, and many of those contain meat. Dealing with the angst of slaughtering various animals to supply that meat is a significant theme of the book, but here, too, the authors give you many options for finding your own comfort level.

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

bookPeter Ladner writes The Urban Food Revolution from the perspective of a policy maker--he was a two-term City Councillor in Vancouver, B.C.--and a journalist. This is not a gardening book or even an urban farming book, but it does examine issues that impact food production and distribution in an urban setting with the goal of telling policymakers "...what they can do to improve access to healthy food for all the people they represent." Subjects addressed include food deserts, childhood obesity, designing new developments with urban farming options, and the safety of locally raised food.

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Grow Cook Eat by Willi Galloway, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

Grow cook eat book jacket Many vegetable gardening books include recipes but few are as well integrated as in "Grow Cook Eat" --for Willi Galloway cooking follows sowing, growing, and harvesting as the next logical step (presumably followed by eating). In addition to the formal recipes (none are particularly complex), there are oodles of simple ideas for using the vegetable (or herbs, or even a few fruits) at hand in creative and delicious ways. Jim Henkens's photos expertly capture growing plants, the fresh harvest, and the serving plate, encouraging you to give it a try. The general culture section is brief but sufficient--the goal here is to get growing and get eating--yum!

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

Winter gardening book jacket Binda Colebrook is on her fifth edition (the first from 1977) of the classic "Winter Gardening in the Maritime Northwest," and it's still a must for any serious food gardener. The emphasis is on crops that will grow throughout the year, so no tomatoes or corn, but instead you'll discover many options that are really better suited for our mild climate. There is much emphasis on ways to reduce the impact of freezes, heavy rains, and cold winds, but Colebrook is great at encouraging experimentation even if your property doesn't have perfect conditions. An excellent reference section completes the book.

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Vertical Vegetables and Fruit by Rhonda Massingham Hart, 2011

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

bookHere is another approach to dealing with limited space: grow up. Vertical Vegetables and Fruit is one of the very few books focused on this technique of food-growing. Some of the featured vegetables and fruits are naturals (beans or kiwi), but many are not. And while the thought of a high-flying watermelon may take a bit of getting used to, the author devotes several pages to slings and other support devices to make this possible. There are many unconventional ideas here to try, including hanging bags and living walls, along with some more familiar espaliers of fruit trees and strawberry pots. The emphasis is on innovation and experimentation--and having fun with your veggies (and fruit)!

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Dirt-Cheap Green Thumb by Rhonda Massingham Hart, 2009

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

Massingham Hart has re-engineered another of her older titles with "Dirt-Cheap Green Thumb". This is essentially a general gardening book (including ornamentals) packaged in short, snappy bits of information and is perfect for the newer gardener who is anxious to get started right now. The reader who is frugal will even be more pleased as there are lots of tips (400 according to the sub-title) for saving money while growing the garden of your dreams.

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Apartment Gardening by Amy Pennington, 2011

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

book Apartment Gardening takes the whole concept of gardening in your available space a step farther, or I should say, smaller. Amy Pennington has considerable gardening experience in a setting with plentiful space, but now confined to a Seattle apartment, she wasn't about to stop. She distills her plant selections to a short but well-tested list. Some surprised me (zucchini on a balcony?) but overall I was impressed by the what-works approach. Large compost bins are out, but worm bins are still possible; she even advocates a beehive on the deck. But check with the neighbors first! Hers nixed the idea. Helpful recipes use only the plants listed, and include making lip balms and lotions, and herbal teas.

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Lavender Lover's Handbook by Sarah Berringer Bader, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

Lavender lover's book jacket Many urban farming and vegetable gardening books include lavender as a staple plant, but "The Lavender Lover's Handbook" provides much greater detail on the particular needs and benefits of these sub-shrubs. Sarah Berringer Bader is a lavender farmer in western Oregon and shares her expertise on selection, planting, maintaining, harvesting, and--yes!--cooking with lavender. Best is her selection of cultivars for various purposes such as best scent, richest color (in various hues), or in a landscape. She even includes the best choices for using in her recipes. An encyclopedia of available varieties is quite thorough and enhanced by Janet Loughrey's skilled photography.

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Handmade Garden Projects by Lorene Edwards Forkner, 2011

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

bookLorene Edwards Forkner has addressed a real need on the Garden Library bookshelf. While there are a handful of books (none of them by local authors) about using foraged materials for garden decoration, none adequately take the next step of using these materials to create useful yet attractive objects that we all need in our gardens. Handmade Garden Projects has everything from fountains to potting benches with clear instructions and lots of encouragement to build these yourself, at a fraction of the cost of having someone else be your handy man or woman. Another plus: many of the examples are from gardens created by familiar people in the Seattle area horticultural community.

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Edible Landscaping by Senga Lindsay, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-04-01

Edible Landscaping book jacket "Edible Landscaping" is not your typical vegetable gardening book. You will not find an A-Z encyclopedic listing of popular vegetables, nor is there much cultural information specific to each crop. Instead, this is a garden design book with an eye to making edible plants the key feature.

Author Senga Lindsay, a landscape designer and gardener in North Vancouver, B.C., challenges and encourages you, the home gardener, to take charge of your garden's appearance and assumes that you don't want your "...yard to look like a 'dog's breakfast'--messy, unkempt and utilitarian." After outlining basic planning steps, she presents fifteen different model gardens, each with detailed plans, lists of needed supplies, and step-by-step procedures for installation.

These plans range from the traditional row garden to green roofs and walls to parking strips. Your garden may need to satisfy a gourmet chef, or accommodate a disabled gardener, or engage young children--all are addressed with the same level of detail. While you can follow one plan to the letter, the elements from the plans can easily be blended as needed.

Excerpted from the Spring 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Gardens Aflame by Maleea Acker, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-04-01

Gardens aflame book jacket Gardens have taken many forms, depending on the time and culture nurturing them. "Gardens Aflame" considers the gardens created by the indigenous people of the greater Victoria area before the arrival of Europeans. At first, we might not recognize these spaces as gardens, but the Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) meadows were carefully maintained to provide valuable camas roots (Camassia quamash and C. leichtlinii), a staple of the native diet.

Maleea Acker takes a keen interest in the history of these meadows and the efforts to preserve and restore them. As one would expect, these are under threat from expanding development and invasive species. But another challenge comes as the native people can no longer provide the management that kept more aggressive native species (especially Douglas-fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii) from encroaching.

"Meadows were kept clear by the Coast Salish for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans, and served as a food source for many First Nations up and down the west coast and into the Interior." While camas was the main crop, other plants were also harvested, and the gardens became important places for people to gather, just as they are today.

Excerpted from the Spring 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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From the Hands of a Weaver by Jacilee Wray, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-04-01

From the hands of a weaver book jacket "From the Hands of a Weaver" is a history of basket making on the Olympic Peninsula, edited by Jacilee Wray. Gardening was an important part of this craft as "...sophisticated techniques conducted by indigenous cultures altered the landscape, the species composition, and individual plants, ensuring that the highest-quality basketry materials were continuously available for use."

Several plants were used in this craft, ranging from the mighty cedars (Thuja plicata) to more humble beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax), but all required intimate knowledge of these plants for the best results. I found the practices used by the different tribes, from plant selection and harvest to the design and production of the baskets, very engaging.

Excerpted from the Spring 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Garlic! Grow West of the Cascades by Frank Parente, 2006

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-04-01

"Garlic! Grow West of the Cascades" is a charming and infectious little book--that will make you eager to grow lots of this culinary staple. At least, that was my reaction as Frank Parente has an enthusiasm rarely matched by other garden writers. Based on Whidbey Island, but channeling his garden loving, Italian ancestors on both sides of his family tree, he writes to "...cover some pointers that will ensure success in wet and humid Western Washington."

You will need these pointers, as the many varieties of garlic require specialized handling for optimum results. But don't worry; the author takes you carefully through the many selections. He also spares no detail on soil preparation, planting, harvesting, curing, and storing, all supplemented with his instructive photographs and diagrams. You're in good hands!

Excerpted from the Spring 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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City Goats by Jennie P Grant, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-04-01

City Goats book jacketJennie P. Grant brings a full measure of enthusiasm to "City Goats," a combination how-to manual, goat keeping manifesto, and love story, made all the better by its Seattle setting. While much of the care-giving information would apply to goats anywhere, the author's campaign to legalize her herd is especially compelling because of its local connections.

I'm not likely to start my own herd, but I couldn't help getting hooked by the exploits and personalities of Brownie, Snowflake, Maple, and Eloise. Is this a gardening book? Perhaps not, as the author makes it very clear that your goats and your roses are not good companions. However as the model of the urban farm continues to flourish, you may embrace having your own source of milk and veggies, from securely separated sites, of course.

Excerpted from the Spring 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The One-Block Feast by Margo True, 2011

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-04-01

bookFrom a publisher a bit out of the region but very familiar to us all is The One-Block Feast by Margo True and the staff of Sunset Magazine. Essentially this is a scrapbook of the an on-going experiment to grow, harvest, prepare, and cook a full menu, all from very local sources--the Menlo Park, California campus of this long-time fount of wisdom for gardeners throughout the west.

While one must make modifications for the Pacific Northwest (a calendar of regionally adjusted planting and harvesting dates in the appendix will help), you can't help but come away from reading this book full of ideas. The staff formed teams by food type, and weren't afraid to tackle almost anything from honey to cheese, or beer to olive oil. I thought the stories of Team Salt and Team Escargot were the most intriguing.

Excerpted from the Spring 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Guide to Pruning by Cass Turnbull, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-04-01

Guide to pruning book jacketCass Turnbull needs no introduction to our readers and a new book by her is a cause for celebration. Her "Guide to Pruning" is now available in its 3rd edition with three added chapters, including a much needed essay on Taming the Native-Plant Garden. She also addressed an impressive list of new plants not considered in the earlier editions, including "whackables" such as Lavatera and Perovskia. Oh, how I wish I had read about the dangers of whacking too soon--before making my mid-February cutbacks in my own garden.

Excerpted from the Spring 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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It's a Jungle Out There! by Cass Turnbull, 1988

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-04-01

"It's a Jungle Out There!" is a collection of essays by Cass Turnbull from the time of the founding of Plant Amnesty. It give some perspective and appreciation for the success of her efforts in educating the public and professionals on proper tree and shrub care. While not available to borrow, this book is worth looking at for its history and, especially, the charming diagrams.

Excerpted from the Spring 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-01

David Douglas book jacketJack Nisbet's first book about David Douglas ("The Collector" from 2009) was a very popular, journal-like life chronology of the intrepid plant explorer. The enthusiastic response led the author to realize "...I had only begun to touch the dynamic worlds he [Douglas] saw. So I went back on the trail, revisiting places he had described, checking on species of flora and fauna he had collected, following any lead that might reveal additional facets of his career and character."

The result is a new book, "David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work." Instead of a year-by-year account, this is a delightful collection of essays that explores themes as they played out over Douglas's entire, all-too-short career. Several chapters explore the different groups of people he worked or lived amongst including Native Americans, fur traders, sea farers, and members of the scientific community in England and North America. He did his best to fit in with all and this may explain much of his success as a collector--his eager personality encouraged others to share their knowledge or provide help with explorations.

This new book also incorporates observations from current day researchers that are influenced by Douglas almost two centuries later. For example, he was very enamored with the Garry Oak (Quercus garryana) and the communities it formed in the Pacific Northwest. Present day biologist Peter Dunwiddie has tried to understand why these communities are so rare today. While Dunwiddie concludes there are several factors, the most important is "...the way Native Americans throughout the region systematically set fire to these open oak woodlands," a practice that did not continue after the early 19th century.

Excerpted from the Summer 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-01

Vegetable gardening book jacketIn "The Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening in the Pacific Northwest," Lorene Edwards Forkner gives a whole calendar of ideas of what to plant and what to harvest every month--what's unusual is that the chapter on January, while having fewer pages, is still on equal footing with June, rather than be relegated to an off-season category.

Does year-round engagement with your garden sound daunting? Relax. Further reading encourages a steady but gentle approach--no more herculean "putting in the garden" effort in the spring--instead be strategic and realistic about how much garden you can handle and thankful for the bountiful resources of our region to provide what you leave out.

While this book is packed with information, it will work well for the novice, as Forkner is good with pointers for getting started. "If you are a beginning gardener, I recommend you learn to love your hose. Time spent at the end of it is the best education and the most accurate barometer of your garden's needs." I totally agree.

She also has some interesting ideas for the experienced gardener. She divides her veggies by flavor profiles, and then considers what fits into, for example, "sweet leaves" or "hearty greens." Within each category there are plant options that which will give you a similar taste result, but some are easier to grow, or provide a harvest at different times of the year. This can simplify the planting list enormously.

Excerpted from the Summer 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Cool Season Gardener by Bill Thorness, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-01

Coll Season Gardener book jacket Most vegetable gardening books have a long, encyclopedic listing of favorite crops with a relatively short introduction to general cultural. In "Cool Season Gardener," Bill Thorness takes a very different approach--the A-Z listing is confined to a short chapter near the end of the book. While these few pages do contain some excellent recommendations for the late summer-to-spring garden, the heart of this book focuses on the practices of vegetable growing, especially for the cooler months.

To do this, the author invites you to change some of your basic concepts, including dividing the year into only four seasons. "Wanting to tend my garden continually throughout the year in our mild climate has made me chop up our seasons into a few 'miniseasons' so I can more easily plan and plant." Spring stretches into three parts from mid-February to mid-July. Summer is a short two-month season. Fall, in two parts (early and late), extends until Thanksgiving, while winter fills the dark months until early spring.

This is an interesting way to revamp the calendar, but more importantly it gives structure to the planting and harvesting schedule. Sadly, it also emphasizes that short summers are a fact of maritime Pacific Northwest life. But don't despair; the goal of this book is to help you make a success of those long, cool seasons.

Much of this is accomplished with techniques. One whole chapter discusses simple steps for extending the growing season. The next chapter (the longest in the book) covers advanced practices--to a depth of detail not found in other veggie books. Once you've absorbed the theory, the appendix gives you the specifics for numerous building projects. This makes it the perfect book for a handy-with-construction gardener--or perhaps the partnership of a handyperson and a gardener.

Unlike some do-it-yourself books, Thorness keeps everything upbeat and sprinkled with practicality and humor--and always with options depending on your skills and resources. "My brain agitates crazily like an old washing machine when I walk through the secondhand stores. Sometimes I take home a box of treasures; other times I leave with just ideas." You will leave with a treasure of ideas from this book.

Excerpted from the Summer 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Slow Flowers by Debra Prinzing, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-01

Clow flowers book jacket"Slow Flowers" is something of a sequel to "The 50 Mile Bouquet," Debra Prinzing's previous book (co-created with photographer David Perry) about local and sustainable cut flower vendors. In this book, she uses the produce (flowers, leaves, seedpods, cones, and other plant material) from those vendors, plus cuttings from her own yard and those of friends to create a calendar full of arrangements, one for each week of the year.

The process for creating each week's offering is carefully recorded, both in narrative and with an ingredient list complete with sources and a count of each stem. I found the detailed descriptions of the vases, some quite historical, particularly interesting. Tips on design, finding materials, assembling your bouquet--without the use of environmentally unfriendly florist foam--and preserving it when done are sprinkled throughout the book, and in a helpful reference section at the end.

What I like best about this book is the author's teacher-like approach to everything. No detail is missed, but each is gently mixed with encouragement, practicality, and a sense of fun that makes you want to participate, too.

Excerpted from the Summer 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Fine Foliage by Karen Chapman, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-01

Fine Foliage book jacket Two Seattle area garden designers discovered they have a shared passion for leaves. The result of this synergy is "Fine Foliage," a rare garden design book in which almost no flowers are allowed. Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz fill their book with a gallery of plant combinations highlighting leaf color, patterns, size, and shapes in both intimate and large-scale settings.

For each example there is a memorable name (like "Down the Rabbit Hole" or "Deer Be Damned!"), a summary of combined cultural needs, and a "Meet the Players" highlight of the selected plants. Most useful is the "Why This Works" paragraph that highlights the design principles behind each combination and stressing the importance of foliage first in any planting plan. Readers of "The Bulletin" will be interested to see that three of the designs for shady locations were created by Rizaniño "Riz" Reyes, a gardener on the University of Washington Botanic Gardens staff.

Excerpted from the Summer 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Passionate Slugs and Hollywood Frogs by Patricia K. Lichen, 2001

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-01

With a title like "Passionate Slugs and Hollywood Frogs," it's hard to know what to expect from the 2001 book by Patricia K. Lichen, but the sub-title helps: "An Uncommon Field Guide to Northwest Backyards." This is mainly a guide to the birds and other animals--natives and non-natives alike--who may call your backyard home, plus a few plants including iconic trees, some troublesome invasives, and even your lawn and its "three million tiny plants." The essays are short and full of whimsy, but also plenty of good information and the incentive to appreciate what you have in your own, well, backyard. The book concludes with an invitation to look up and appreciate rainbows and the stars at night--charming.

Excerpted from the Summer 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-10-01

Quiet Beauty book jacket "Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America" is itself a book of quiet beauty, and an excellent introduction to Japanese-style gardens throughout Canada and the United States. Photographer David Cobb, from Mosier (near Hood River), Oregon, is particularly adept at emphasizing the contrasts between light and shadow, the subtle reflections in still waters, and the energy of moving water in his subjects. I have visited many of the 26 featured gardens and he captures the spirit of these very well.

Text author Kendall Brown is an Asian Art historian at California State University, Long Beach. His introductory essay places these gardens in the context of what he sees as five distinctive, historical periods beginning at the end of the 19th century. The Seattle Japanese Garden, along with gardens in Portland, at the University of British Columbia, and at the Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, are all placed in the second of these periods, a time of "Building Bridges" following World War II.

Feeling regional pride, I read the chapter on this period first, and I wasn't disappointed. Brown is good at telling (what are often) convoluted histories. He underscores the importance of our local gardens in the development of the Japanese style in North America: "The Seattle Japanese Garden also set a new standard as the earliest major permanent garden built in North America by well-established designers from Japan." He further compliments it as being "...arguably one of the finest in North America."

Featured in a later chapter is Spokane's Nishinomiya Garden in Manito Park, while another ten gardens from throughout Washington (including the Kubota Garden) and British Columbia are briefly described in the appendices, making this an important garden book for the Pacific Northwest. Brown's earlier (1999) book, "Japanese-Style Gardens of the Pacific West Coast", is also worth reading for a more in-depth general history of this style.

Excerpted from the Fall 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Gardening for Sustainability by John J Albers, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-10-01

Gardening for Sustainability book jacket "Gardening for Sustainability" is almost two books in one. The first part takes you on an intimate tour of the Albers Vista Gardens near Bremerton, approximately four acres lovingly crafted by author John Albers and his wife Santica Marcovina over the last 15 years. I kept a post-it note on the garden map for frequent reference as I walked page-by-page through the 14 garden rooms; the history, purpose, and plantings of each made very real by the considerable descriptive detail and excellent photographs.

"As visitors stand among the Three Islands dreaming of distant lands, they have the choice of proceeding through the open sea of crushed granite or continuing up Madrona Lane." Transitions like this hold your interest as you continue your tour, while picking up ideas to use for your own garden such as, "...the underutilized Chaste tree [Vitex agnus-castus]...is an ideal substitute for the [invasive] butterfly bush [Buddleia davidii]."

The author's enthusiasm is especially apparent in a chapter on special collections, including dwarf conifers, striped-bark and Japanese maples, and viburnums. Much of his interest in the latter genus was sparked by the collection at the Washington Park Arboretum, which he studied and described while taking classes through the Center for Urban Horticulture in the 1990s.

The second part of the book is a concise essay on landscape sustainability--excellent reading for any gardener. These principles and practices are the basis for the design and maintenance of the Albers Vista Garden, but despite best intentions the author freely admits that errors do happen. He concludes that it is best to "...learn from your mistake and move on to the next joyful garden project."

The garden is open to visitors by appointment or for special events. More information is available at www.albersvistagardens.org.

Excerpted from the Fall 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-10-01

How to buy book jacket Jim Fox is a consumer advocate. More specifically, a gardening consumer advocate. His goal is "...to educate you to be a savvy consumer so you can be confident that your gardening dollars are well spent." To achieve this goal, he has written a shopping guide: "How to Buy the Right Plants, Tools & Garden Supplies."

Many general gardening books touch on plant buying or tool selection, but typically at the back of the book, or in a brief introduction that the reader hastily skims over to get the real excitement--an encyclopedia of plants in glorious color. Fox recognizes how critical this basic information is for all gardeners, experienced or not, and uses clarity, broad experience, and considerable wit to engage the reader, leaving the colorful photos and plant bios to the several other books that he recommends.

I found the author's insights into the process of buying and selling plants particularly engaging, demonstrating his perspectives as both an avid collector of specialty plants, and as a long-time nursery worker. "To get good service, you need to be a good customer," he strongly recommends. For example, spouting your own expertise is a quick way to shut down any helpful advice you might have received from the true expert.

After reading this book, I have a much better appreciation for the dedicated men and women who own and run nurseries and must be skilled at managing both plants and people. All so that we can have the cool plants we really, really want.

Excerpted from the Fall 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-10-01

Seattle's orchards book jacketAudrey Lieberworth enjoyed an active, outdoor childhood in Seattle, but not until she left for Scripps College did she realize "...just how much the connections I made with these [Seattle] landscapes as a child had shaped the person I had become." The result of this revelation is her senior thesis, "Seattle's Orchards: A Historic Legacy Meets Modern Sustainability."

The heart of this work is a survey of eleven orchards--some historical, others recently planted--including their history, their setting in the neighborhood, and types of trees. Also reviewed are the communities supporting each orchard, broad-based programs that support the preservation of trees throughout the city, and the role of the Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation. This engaging report is available in print at the Miller Library, but also online from Scripps.

Excerpted from the Fall 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-04-01

Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker: Traveler and Plant Collector (2001) by Ray Desmond is a marvelous travelogue, masking as a biography. Our hero took two multi-year expeditions (to Antarctica, New Zealand, and Australia from 1839-1843; and to India and the Himalayas from 1847-1851) as well as shorter trips to Morocco, Palestine, and the United States.

All the while he was observing, documenting, and collecting plants, leading to the publications of the native floras of these regions. Even better for us today, he was sketching the plants, landscapes, native peoples, and many other attractions. These sketches, and the botanical illustrations made by others from them, make this a richly illustrated book.

The text is engaging, detailing the trials of travel for both man and plants. Hooker "coped remarkably well with the rigours of botanising in the Himalayas. This he attributed to abstinence...a diet of meat and potatoes, and never over-eating."

"His problems as a plant collector did not cease with the boxing and parceling of plants and seeds. Sometimes they were lost or dropped into rivers on the journey to Calcutta; often they died before they reached the port." He tried wrapping seeds in "tins, oilcloth wrapping, paper packets. Sometimes he posted them in letters. But...too often they reached their destination damp or rotting or eaten by insects."

Excerpted from the Spring 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Fruits and Plains by Philip Pauly, 2007

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-04-01

Philip Pauly was a professor of history at Rutgers University. His book, Fruits and Plains , was published by Harvard University Press. These are high academic credentials for a book that at first glance appears to be about gardening. But this is no ordinary gardening book. As suggested by the sub-title, The Horticultural Transformation of America, this is a serious study of the importance of horticulture to all aspects of American life particularly from the founding of the country well into the 20th century.

The key here is the term horticulture. To Pauly, "In general conversation it is an upmarket synonym for gardening" and includes the design, selection, and maintenance of plants in private and public gardens. But he uses the term more broadly and claims that in the 1800s, "horticulture was equivalent to what is now call plant biotechnology."

The early history he recounts is focused on utility of gardens, particularly fruit producing trees and shrubs. Later he turns to arboriculture, highlighting the arguments for and against native and exotics species; century old arguments that continue today.

But of perhaps greatest interest is chapter nine, "Culturing Nature in the Twentieth Century". Here are some keen insights to focus of gardeners today and the cultural environment at the time of the founding of the Washington Park Arboretum.

Excerpted from the Spring 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime by Kenneth I. Helphand, 2006

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-04-01

Defiant Gardens: Making Gardens in Wartime (2007) is not an easy book to read. The descriptions of the front lines, prison camps, Jewish ghettos, and Japanese internment camps from the first half of the 20th century are brutal, detailed, and very unsettling.

But this is also an important book to read. For those faced with the extremes of human suffering, "Gardens conformed to the expected cycle of seasons and growth and life; a garden was a demonstration of life in order, not a world turned upside down."

Author Kenneth Helphand is a Pacific Northwest author--a professor of landscape architecture at the University of Oregon. He was motivated to write this book by an image of French soldiers beside their small vegetable gardens created while dug in at the front of World War I. His extensive research led him around the world to visit many of the original sites, even if the gardens are long gone.

While these observations give perspective, the heart of this book are the many personal narratives the author found in his research. These tell of the efforts despite great odds to nurture a garden, of the importance these gardens gave both for sustenance and emotional well-being, and the amazing strength of the human spirit.

Excerpted from the Spring 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

Wow! This may be the crown jewel of an excellent assembly of local books for this year. If you are not a fan of ferns, Sue Olsen's infectious but very informative style will convert you. While addressing a global audience, the Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns is one of the very select treasures of Pacific Northwest garden writing and must not be missed, even if you garden on a sunny, dusty slope. The descriptions, photographs (all by the author), and cultural details are all top notch, and infused with that added extra insight only available from a writer who thoroughly knows her subject.

In addition to the expected information on cultivation and propagation, Olsen covers the natural history and taxonomy of these fascinating plants, making it of interest to more than just gardeners. The many appendices are excellent, too, with the most intriguing a collection of lists of favorite species by a global who's who of fern specialists, whose gardens range from hardiness zones 4 to 11.

But the heart of the book is the tour of "Ferns from Around the World". At first glance, this resembles many A-Z listings, but there are some key enhancements not often found. Common names are listed, but these are real common names, not made up to fill a slot. The meanings of both the genus and specific epithet are given, the latter particularly useful with ferns. The description is thorough without the mind-numbing detail of many botanic writings. And the photographs are superlative, with almost all taken by the author.

This is all very good, but Olsen is at her best in the "Culture and Comments" sections. This is where you can tell what she knows is from first-hand experience, and shows of her skills as a writer, too. "Most polystichums are considered horticulturally hardy (which means temperate rather than "easy" as in some interpretations)."

Her stories will resonate with any gardener. "When my lone plant is threatened with sweeping arctic freezes, I cover it with horticultural gauze. My last carefully spread protective blanket for such nurturing was carried away by a presumably needy crow and found the following morning in the upper limbs of a neighbor's tree. The fern survived." And at carefully spaced moments, shares her passion. "This is THE species that inspired my interest in cultivation, propagation, and immersion in the wonderful world of ferns". This last sentence is in praise of Dryopteris erythrosora, the Autumn fern.

While perhaps not for the beginning gardener, I believe this book is well within the reach of anyone who has seriously embraced the craft. If that describes you, this is a must for your home library.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 and Summer 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Bamboo for Gardens by Ted Meredith, 2001

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-07-01

Bamboo for Gardens is written by Washington State resident, Ted Meredith. While most of the photos are close-ups of their subject, it's fun to see rhododendrons or a Douglas fir lurking in the background of wider shots.

Wherever you live, this would be an important and useful book. While there is the expected A-Z encyclopedia of species, it is unusual that the introductory material--such as culture, propagation, uses in the landscape--fills more than half the book. Some unexpected treasures can be found here, including the use of bamboo in both traditional and modern economies, and tips on eating bamboo.

You will learn, for example, that the shoots of Qiongzhuea tumidissinoda "are considered exceptional." The fun continues in the encyclopedia section as we learn that this same, nearly unpronounceable species, which hails from central China, is harvested for walking sticks, and "...is the subject of history, myth, and fable in Chinese culture, dating back to at least the Han Dynasty in the first or second century B.C."

While the author keeps the writing interesting, the more mundane information is very solid, including his discussions of how to deal with "...an attack from the demonic plant that invaded unexpectedly and ceaselessly, and could not be stopped or killed." With the voice of experience and fondness that one might expect to be used on an errant puppy, Meredith carefully explains the different methods of containment for running bamboo.

Excerpted from the Summer 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-07-01

In Native Trees for North American Landscapes: From the Atlantic to the Rockies , the sub-title is very important as trees native only west of the Rockies are excluded. But almost all trees that are included can be found in the Arboretum, and many are widely planted in our region and are available in nurseries.

As the title suggests, authors Guy Sternberg and Jim Wilson address their book to gardeners and landscape designers, but there is also much here to interest those who love trees for their place in the natural landscape and as interwoven with human history. The quality and diversity of the photography is impressive, and well linked with the engaging text.

Excerpted from the Summer 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Jepson Manual : Vascular Plants of California by Bruce G. Baldwin (convening editor), 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

Jepson manual book jacketMany of the over 7,000 vascular plant species of California described in The Jepson Manual can also be found in the Pacific Northwest.

The name perhaps needs clarification. Willis Linn Jepson was an early 20th century botanist who published several books on California flora, including the first that was both comprehensive and statewide for vascular plants ("A Manual of the Flowering Plants of California"--1925). The 1993 first edition of "The Jepson Manual" honored his memory, and this new edition continues that honor while incorporating new discoveries and the many changes in botanical systematics of the last twenty years.

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

bookNonnative Invasive Plants of Pacific Coast Forests is an unusual field guide that helps to identify plants you don't want to find--but you probably will--especially in the forests of Washington, Oregon, and California. In various ways, these plants are negatively affecting our native plants, animals, and ecosystems. The intent of the authors is to make these recognizable to a larger audience beyond highly trained botanists. Many selections, such as purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) and herb-robert (Geranium robertianum), are all too familiar to gardeners and visitors to the Arboretum. Others will be less familiar, or you might not know they are a problem, such as some of our popular cotoneasters (Cotoneaster franchetii and C. lacteus).

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Wild in the City by Michael C. Houck, 2011

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

bookWild in the City is an invaluable guide for an exploration of the parks and trails in the Portland metropolitan area, but it's quite readable even if you're stuck somewhere else. Scattered amongst the trail maps and descriptions of various sites and walks are essays about wildlife, history--both natural and human--and the complexities of disturbed ecosystems, with a good dose of philosophy on the value of having nature in an urban setting. Over one hundred writers and illustrators have contributed to this fine work.

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

bookWhen first picking up the fascinating Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies, I expected lots of lovely close-up photographs of our native butterflies. While I wasn't disappointed, the majority of the photos are of the early stages of their life histories, i.e., lots of caterpillars! The thoroughness for depicting each species is outstanding with typically five or more photos of the different larval stages. How did authors David James and David Nunnallee do it? By rearing the butterflies from eggs and photographing each stage of their development.

Robert Michael Pyle wrote the Foreword and he best describes the enormous scale of this work: "...this book is the apex of life history treatments to date. In the whole world, no other comparable region enjoys a work of this scale, ambit, and acuity for its butterfly fauna".

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The 50 Mile Bouquet by Debra Prinzing, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

50 mile bouquet book jacket"When Debra and David began interviewing and photographing people who grow and arrange fresh, seasonal flowers for local markets, I knew they were documenting a new movement...you could call it the slow flower movement." This quote, by Amy Stewart from the Foreword of "The 50 Mile Bouquet," well summarizes this forward-looking book by Debra Prinzing and David Perry, which leaves you with a wider perspective and appreciation of fresh cut flowers and other greenery. This is in sharp contrast to the international florist industry, making Stewart's 2007 book about that industry, "Flower Confidential," a good companion reading (Stewart--who lives in Eureka, California--almost qualifies as a local author).

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Petal & Twig by Valerie Easton, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

 book jacketValerie Easton's "Petal & Twig", tells how to find a source of material for flower arranging in your own garden. If--like me--you've ever struggled with getting your home arrangements just right, Easton will loosen you up and give you permission to just go for it, and open your eyes to more possibilities than you ever imagined a few feet from your back door. "After all, you're crafting performance art that changes hour by hour, day by day, as buds open, petals drop, and flowers droop. Imperfection engages us in the creative process."

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Intimate Garden by Brian D. Coleman, 2008

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

Consider "The Intimate Garden" for very detailed examples of highly individualized garden spaces, with an emphasis on hardscape and ornaments. While both author Brian Coleman and photographer William Wright are from Seattle and the gardens are mostly on the west coast, examples from the east coast and even England are included, making this a very diverse selection of design styles and plant material.

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Sunset Western Garden Book by Kathleen Norris Brenzel, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

bookThe grandparent of all gardening books for the Pacific Northwest and rest of the west remains the "Sunset Western Garden Book." Now in its new, ninth edition, the proven encyclopedic formula, along with essays, extensive plant selection lists for specific needs, and the much valued Sunset climate zones (all updated) continue to make this a must on any western gardener's shelf. The main addition since the last edition of 2007 is photographs in the encyclopedia--a nice update!

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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What I've Learned from Bonsai by George Bingham, 2008

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

George Bingham is based in Olympia and had been engaged in bonsai for about nine years when "What I've Learned from Bonsai" was published in 2008. This very personal book shares his observation about both the art of bonsai and the life lessons he has gained while working with his plants and living with multiple sclerosis.

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Where Lilacs Still Bloom by Jane Kirkpatrick, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-10-01

bookHulda Klager (1863-1960) was a Pacific Northwest pioneer. This Woodland, Washington farm wife survived numerous hardships, but is best remembered for the wonderful collection of lilacs she hybridized and introduced in the first half of the 20th century, and the garden now open to the public that displays those lilacs. The historical novel "Where Lilacs Still Bloom" by Jane Kirkpatrick is largely an accurate biography, with only minor liberties taken to amalgamate some of the real life personalities in Klager's life.

Excerpted from the Fall 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Holden Village Historic Iris by Roxanne Grinstad, 2008

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2008-10-01

One of the most unique books in the Elisabeth C. Miller Library collections is "Holden Village Historic Iris," the accounting of the surviving garden iris from the village of a mining camp that operated near the upper end of Lake Chelan from 1937 - 1957. Now established at a nearby Lutheran ministry known as Holden Village, these irises are a living history. Grown by the wives of the miners, many survived untended for more than 40 years in abandoned gardens.

Newer varieties were added after the village was established in the early 1960's, but like the older varieties, the "real" names are mostly unknown. Instead, authors Roxanne Grinstad and Larry Howard (the latter a garden volunteer at the Center for Urban Horticulture) share the local names that reflect the flowers' place in the community, evocative of both the present day and the history of the area.

Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Wild Plants of Greater Seattle by Arthur Lee Jacobson, 2008

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-08-14

Arthur Lee Jacobson's "Wild Plants of Greater Seattle" was received with great excitement when published by the author in 2001. In the second edition, the author has added 15 new plants to the illustrated field guide, plus more than 100 to the annotated checklist, and corrected or updated much of the nomenclature throughout.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-08-14

Growing Vegetables book jacketAn 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.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2008-10-01

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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2009-10-01

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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2009-10-01

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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2009-10-01

Growing your own vegetables book coverLorene 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."

Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2009-10-01

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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Tracy Mehlin on 2009-01-01

When authors Carol and Norman Hall started gardening in the Pacific Northwest in the 1970's they had to learn to grow their plants by trial and error, because most gardening books of the time addressed only East Coast weather conditions, such as summer rain and winter freezing.

However, perhaps it's just as well the authors had to figure it out on their own because their depth of understanding how the Pacific Northwest climate affects plants is impressive. Although the question of where the boundaries of the Pacific Northwest lie is open to debate, the Halls define them as: the areas stretching between the ocean coast and the Cascade Range, and between latitude 51° in British Columbia and latitude 41° in northern California. The northern boundary was chosen because north of latitude 51° the "difference between high and low temperatures become smaller and light intensity starts to diminish even on clear days... gardening conditions beyond this point are not those of the Pacific Northwest, but those of coastal Alaska." The southern border seems a bit more arbitrary, especially on the coast, but the authors note: "It's only after negotiating the steep descent from [the Cascade Range] to the valley floor and seeing the palm trees lining the streets of Redding, California, that you know you’ve suddenly entered a whole new gardening world." The unifying climatic conditions that defines the region are wet, mild winters and dry summers.

This large format book with 351 pages and a liberal use of color photographs is divided into 4 sections: the region, 12 month maintenance calendar, recommended plants and common problem & solutions.

Detailed descriptions of climate, soils and horticultural conditions are given about the region’s seven sub-regions, which include: the Georgia Basin/Puget Trough, the Olympic Rain Shadow, Puget Sound, Pacific Coast (northern section), Pacific Coast (southern section), the Cascade Slopes/Outflow Valleys and Willamette. The authors recommend their favorite plants that grow well in the Pacific Northwest according to plant types such as: ornamental trees, shrubs, bulbs, and others. Instructions on caring for the recommended plants always refer to specific Pacific Northwest climate considerations. For example, heaths and heathers need supplemental water during our typical regional summer droughts for the first two years, until they become established.

This is an excellent general gardening reference that focuses on the Pacific Northwest climate like no other.

Excerpted from the Winter 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Northwest Green Home Primer by Kathleen O'Brien, 2008

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2009-10-01

"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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2009-10-01

As a resident of Montreal, 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!

Excerpted from the Fall 2009 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Blue Heaven by Bill Terry, 2009

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Perennial Companions by Tom Fischer, 2009

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Informed Gardener Blooms Again by Linda Chalker-Scott, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

Informed Gardener jacketLinda 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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Climate Conscious Gardener by Janet Marinelli, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

"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?"

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

"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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Mushrooms of the Pacific Northwest by Steve Trudell, 2009

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

"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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Collector by Jack Nisbet, 2009

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

"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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Living With Bugs by Jack DeAngelis, 2009

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

"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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

"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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2011-10-01

book jacketSarah Reichard, the late Director of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, is also the author of an important 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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin, by Brian Thompson.


Professor and UW Botanic Gardens director Sarah Reichard has her finger on the pulse of the planet in this erudite and accessible book. For those who have become complacent and fixed in their gardening ways, or for those just emerging as gardeners, there is much to learn in this handsome, information-rich volume. Are native plants always the preferred choice in our gardens? Do we really need soil amendments? Are we putting things on our lawns and landscapes that pollute nearby waters? What about those worms making compost in our worm bins: might they be invasive? Readers will discover that doing the right thing in our gardens is not only simpler than one might imagine, but deeply rewarding both personally and globally.

If you have been a persistent (but always polite!) thorn in the side of less conscientious (or simply unaware) gardeners and businesses who are purveyors of ivy and loosestrife, spreaders of weed-and-feed, and sprayers of pesticides, you will feel vindicated! If you have never spoken out before, you will feel inspired to do so! Reichard's clearheaded call to action is well worth heeding.

Reviewed by Plant Answer Line librarian Rebecca Alexander, April 2011.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-03-01

Wild flowers of algarve book jacket"Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of the Algarve" introduces the rich Mediterranean flora of the southernmost province of Portugal. Several indigenous plants have become mainstays of western horticulture, including species of Cistus, Quercus, Euphorbia, and Narcissus. This is also a major tourist destination – a chance to combine fun in the sun with serious botanizing!

Published in the March 2015 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 2, Issue 3.

 

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Weeds of North America by Richard Dickinson, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-05-01

weeds of north america book jacket"Weeds of North America" is an excellent new guide to more than 600 invasive plants throughout the United States and Canada. Designed in field guide style, the photographs are a particularly strong feature of this book, with 3-5 for each plant, including leaves, flowers, and seeds. The text includes a description of the life cycle, jurisdictions that have identified the plant as noxious, and details on the reasons for concern, including displacement of native plant habitat, toxicity to livestock, and/or status as an alternative host of a serious plant disease.

Published in the May 2015 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 2, Issue 5.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-05-01

plant lovers guide to epimediums  book jacketKew Gardens has begun a very helpful series of books for gardeners known as The Plant Lover’s Guides. One of the best, partly because of the scarcity of other books on this topic, is The Plant Lover’s Guide to Epimediums by Sally Gregson. The availability of both species and hybrid epimediums has exploded in recent years, and this guide will introduce you to the new Chinese epimediums – “these are the divas” – as well as all the old favorites for dry shade. I’m especially impressed with the photographs as I know from experience the delicate flowers of this genus are very difficult to capture.

Published in the May 2015 Leaflet Volume 2, Issue 5.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-06-01

Sedges of the pacific northwest book jacket "Field Guide to Sedges of the Pacific Northwest" is regarded by reviewers across the country as one of the best field guides on any topic, and is even better in the newly released 2nd edition. Included are entries for all 169 species, subspecies, and varieties that grow wild in Oregon and Washington, with typically 4-6 photographs or diagrams of each. An extensive key helps with identification, as do detailed tips with each entry, while comments discuss habitat, ethnobotanical uses, and the significance for restoration.

Published in the June 2015 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 2, Issue 6.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-06-01

epic tomatoes book jacketCan you grow "Epic Tomatoes" in the Pacific Northwest? A challenge, perhaps, but this new book by Craig LeHoullier will inspire you to try. Yes, he's from Raleigh, North Carolina, but he lived in Seattle early in his gardening career. He's most interested in heirlooms, suggests a rainbow of color options to try (a brown tomato anyone?), encourages you to grow from seed, and enlists the help of regional gardeners in finding the best varieties for our cool summers.

Published in the June 2015 Leaflet Volume 2, Issue 6.

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Field Guide to Grasses of California by James P. Smith, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-07-01

Grasses of California book jacket"Field Guide to Grasses of California" is an excellent survey of the most common of the 603 taxa, both native and naturalized, in the state. James P. Smith is a professor emeritus of Humboldt State University and his teaching skills are evident throughout. While many species are not found in Washington (only 337 taxa), there is overlap especially with northern California. If you study grasses, this book is well worth reading for its methodology and for a confession (p. 123): “I do not want to discourage you, but you will not be able to identify every grass that you run through the key in this book…” The absolution that follows will lighten the heart of any student botanist.

Published in the July 2015 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 2, Issue 7.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-08-01

Field guide to manzanitas book jacket"Field Guide to Manzanitas" is a nearly comprehensive review of the genus Arctostaphylos, covering 104 of the 105 taxa in the world. Why is one missing? The excellent introduction to this book will answer that question and explore the origins and diversification that has led to one species (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) being found throughout the northern hemisphere, while 60% of the remaining taxa are considered local endemics within the California Floristic Province. This book is a must for botanizing in California and helpful in making horticultural selections in the Pacific Northwest.

Published in the August 2015 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 2, Issue 8.

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Reviewed by: Laura Blumhagen on 2015-08-01

rhs plans from pips book jacketWorking in the kitchen, have you ever wondered whether you could grow peppers from pepper seeds? How about a mango tree from a mango pit? This book for gardeners of all ages explains how to germinate a wide range of commonly-seen seeds most people would usually toss in the bin. The entries detail what each plant would need to grow on to maturity, while an illustrated section at the end highlights basic gardening techniques as well as common problems and solutions.

Published in the August 2015 Leaflet Volume 2, Issue 8.

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Lucy and the Green Man by Linda Newbery, 2010

Reviewed by: Laura Blumhagen on 2015-08-01

Lucy and the Green Man book jacket

For middle readers, this illustrated chapter book follows Lucy, who loves working in her grandfather’s garden over her school holidays. Together, Lucy and Grandpa Will see a magical Green Man called Lob in the garden. While Lucy is back at school, her grandfather dies suddenly, and Lucy decides to seek the Green Man on her own. Even though she can’t get to Grandpa’s garden, she works to create a space for Lob closer to home. Readers who garden, especially in the city, will reflect on the unique magic that comes of hard work close to home.

Published in the August 2015 Leaflet Volume 2, Issue 8.

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Reinventing the Chicken Coop by Kevin McElroy, 2012

Reviewed by: Jessica Anderson on 2015-11-01

bookAs a new graduate of the University of Washington’s Library and Information Science Master’s program, I began volunteering at the Miller Library in July 2011. I had some experience in academic libraries, and had worked as a student assistant in the UW’s Natural Sciences Library. After I began volunteering, I started reading and checking out several books on fruit and vegetable gardening. The books were great, and really helped me learn how to grow food.

I decided to add chickens to my urban garden, making it a small urban farm. One of the best books that helped me prepare for my chickens was "Reinventing the Chicken Coop" by Kevin McElroy and Matthew Wolpe. The book contains 14 coop designs. It covers chicken coop essentials including space requirements, roosts, ventilation, and nesting boxes. This information was very helpful to me as I was learning what it would take to keep chickens in my yard. In the Coop-Building Basics chapter the authors explained, “One of our goals for this book was to keep things simple, using ordinary shop tools and building with similar materials and repeatable processes as much as possible” (p. 21). In the end, my husband and I built our coop using their design, SYM, which is “much more than a chicken coop; it’s a symbiotic urban farming system” (p. 106). This was exactly what we needed. The step by step instructions were easy to follow and it didn’t take too long to build this simple yet stable coop for our new flock. "Reinventing the Chicken Coop" is a great resource for building chicken houses with ease and low cost. Most pre-built coops cost twice as much as the materials used for building your own coop. I enjoyed the collection of contemporary designs and my chickens love their little home in my city backyard.

Now, I am a librarian at the Miller Library, with two years of experience in chicken husbandry and a growing knowledge of year-round vegetable and fruit gardening. I take pleasure in being knowledgeable on these subjects and plan to continue learning, expanding my understanding of urban farming.

Published in the November 2015 Leaflet Volume 2, Issue 11.

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Artful Rainwater Design by Stuart Echols, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-03-01

bookStuart Echols and Eliza Pennypacker are on the faculty of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Penn State University. They have combined their academic interests in stormwater management and sustainable landscapes to write "Artful Rainwater Design".

Much of the tone of the book is captured in this quotation about changing terminology: “Stormwater—a waste product and common enemy blamed for property damage through flooding and for surface water and aquatic system damage through pollutant conveyance—has morphed into rainwater, a valued natural resource beneficial to our water cycle.” Techniques, design principles, dealing with public relations, and many case studies—including several in the Pacific Northwest—make this an important book for anyone involved with any aspect of water management in urban settings.

Published in the March 2016 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 3, Issue 3.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-03-01

Art of gardening book jacketIn June 2005, I attended a conference for plant science librarians in Philadelphia. After a long day of presentations, business meetings, and visits to libraries, I wasn’t expecting much from a visit to small garden west of the city near Villanova University.

Instead, that evening at Chanticleer was one of the most magical garden experiences of my lifetime. The weather was perfect, cooled down from the already warm and humid beginning of summer. A glass of wine and a convivial group of colleagues added to the good feelings, but mostly it was the stunning garden rooms, plantings, and artwork of this most amazing garden.

Now there is an exciting new book, "The Art of Gardening", which takes its place among the best of all garden profiles. Written by R. William Thomas and the horticultural staff of Chanticleer, this not only transports the reader to the garden, it is also an excellent source of design ideas and plant choices for your own garden. I don’t purchase many gardening books for my home library since I have daily access to the Miller Library collections, but this is one that I will get for sure.

Published in the March 2016 Leaflet Volume 3, Issue 3.

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Container Theme Gardens by Nancy J. Ondra, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-05-01

container theme gardens book jacket It’s time to plan and plant your summer container gardens. But what plants will you select? "Container Theme Gardens", a new book in the Miller Library, will help you choose, with 42 different designs that will meet almost every need: sun or shade, flowers or foliage, ornamentals in your favorite color or a mini-kitchen garden that will fit on your balcony, deck, or windowsill.

Salad greens and herbs are naturals for this treatment; more unusual are plants grown for their berries or for making tea. Other selections are designed to attract: hummingbirds, butterflies, even your kids. Best of all, this is only the newest book in our excellent collection on containers that will help you plant a garden no matter how limited your space or time!

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-07-01

Steppes book jacketThe term “steppes” may conjure up images of Russia and the wide plains of central Asia, but "Steppes: The Plants and Ecology of the World’s Semi-Arid Regions", a new book published by the Denver Botanic Gardens, brings this exotic image much closer to home.

According to the authors, the Intermountain North American Steppe includes much of eastern Washington and Oregon, and is one of five such regions in the world. In addition to the Central Asian Steppe, these other regions are in central North America, Patagonia in South America, and parts of South Africa.

This book has an even closer connection to home. One of the authors, Larry Vickerman, was a 1993 MS graduate of the Center for Urban Horticulture and the College of Forest Resources.

Published in the July 2016 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 3, Issue 7.

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Alien Plants by Clive A. Stace, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-08-01

Alien plants book jacket "Alien Plants" is a recent addition to the New Naturalist Library, an ongoing series about natural history in the British Isles. It is also a new addition to the Miller Library. While intended for a general reader, these books provide excellent overviews of the latest scholarly research, especially in the UK.

Why are these of interest to scholars in the Pacific Northwest? While the flora and fauna are mostly different, many of the practices of research, management, and instruction are relevant anywhere. These books are also fascinating for their difference of perspective.

For example, in "Alien Plants", invasives are divided into those known prior to 1500, and the “neophytes” that came later. Some of our natives have become their invasives, and I was surprised to learn that “English” laurel was introduced to the British Isles and escaped into the wild there about 250 years ago.

Published in the August 2016 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 3, Issue 8.

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Be in a Treehouse by Pete Nelson, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-08-01

Be in a treehouse book jacketThis spring I had the opportunity to visit the Cleveland Botanical Garden. Throughout this small garden are a number of treehouses, delighting the school children with whom I was sharing my visit. After climbing the steps up to one and looking out from this new perspective, I understood their enthusiasm. Later, in the Garden’s gift shop, I explored their several books on treehouses. I was surprised to learn that the most prominent author, Pete Nelson, is from the Seattle area. I quickly had his latest book, "Be in a Treehouse" (2014), added to the Miller Library collection.

At its heart, this book is inspirational. Page after page of excellent photographs will bring out your inner child. The author’s images of his own bed and breakfast of treehouses, located near Issaquah, may inspire your next vacation. If you decide to build your own, “Treehouse U” introduces the design and construction principles that one must consider for a structure typically located 10 to 20 feet off the ground and anchored to a living being.

While many of the examples are in the Pacific Northwest, Nelson also explores the world for outstanding and widely varying houses. Ranging from Austria to Zambia, this review demonstrates that almost any climate that has trees is perfect for elevated houses. In describing one favorite masterpiece, now sadly gone, the author declares it “…inspired many of us to reach for the highest branch and build our wildest dreams.”

Published in the August 2016 Leaflet Volume 3, Issue 8.

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The Nature and Properties of Soils by Nyle C. Brady, 2017

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-10-01

Nature and Properties of Soil book jacket"If you are a student…you have chosen a truly auspicious time to take up the study of soil science." This encouragement is found in the preface of the new fifteenth edition and is explained by emphasizing the growing need across many fields for scientists and managers with this expertise.

This venerable publication – the first edition was in 1909 – can be read in depth, but at over 1,000 pages more likely will be used as a reference book for learning about a particular interest or to solve a specific problem. Throughout, it is very readable, and will be of value to those at almost all levels of soils knowledge. While this new edition is restricted to use in the Miller Library, the still authoritative fourteenth edition (from 2008) is available to check out.

Published in the October 2016 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 3, Issue 10.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-11-01

Food and the city book jacketThe UW Farm is a great example of the increasing interest in urban agriculture, but this is not a new movement. Food and the City: Histories of Culture and Cultivation provides historical snapshots of food growing projects from around the world, concentrating on the late 19th century through the mid-20th century. Two global depressions and two world wars made this a particularly difficult time for city dwellers.

These essays were developed from lectures given at a “Food and the City” symposium held at the Dumbarton Oaks research institution in Washington, D.C. in May 2012 that “…sought to historically contextualize the current discourse on urban agriculture.” I found the chapter written by Laura Lawson and Luke Drake of Rutgers University particularly engaging with its focus on American cities and because Lawson was a co-author of the 2009 book Greening Cities Growing Communities: Learning from Seattle’s Urban Community Gardens.

Both books bring an academic perspective on this very human activity of gardening. However, neither is locked in a strictly scholarly discourse. At the end of Lawson and Drake’s chapter in Food and the City, the authors conclude “In cities across America, food is being grown to feed families, to enliven communities, to provide economic opportunities, and to educate young and old…it is reassuring to realize that gardening for food is a normal part of the urban landscape...”

Published in the November 2016 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 3, Issue 11.

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Planting Design for Dry Gardens by Olivier Filippi, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-11-01

Planting design for dry gardens book jacketPlanting Design for Dry Gardens is an excellent book but unfortunately is poorly titled. Author Olivier Filippi lives in the south of France and the original French title, Alternatives au gazon, or “alternatives to lawn” more accurately describes his work, a very detailed and practical study of the options for replacing resource demanding turf grass.

A translation of a different type, from the parameters of Filippi’s classic Mediterranean climate to our more modified version, will take some work on the reader’s part. I found the effort worthwhile, as it exposed me as a gardener to ideas not typically found in a Pacific Northwest oriented garden book.

For example, Filippi does not recommend using a drip irrigation system for a dry garden of groundcover plants. Instead he advocates hand watering, using temporary basins created around the new plantings, so that plants will more likely to survive without supplemental watering once established. Many other general gardening topics, from planting to attract beneficial insects to concerns about invasive plants, are addressed from a refreshingly distinctive, continental European perspective.

Published in the November 2016 Leaflet Volume 3, Issue 11.

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When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano, 2016

Reviewed by: Laura Blumhagen on 2016-12-01

When green becomes a tomato book jacketDo you read poems with the children in your life? Whether they are already poetry lovers or you would like to raise their consciousness about poetry, Julie Fogliano’s When Green Becomes Tomatoes is a gift with year-round appeal. Get ready for any weather as you enjoy the lyrical quality of these illustrated seasonal poems with outdoor themes, from harvesting tomatoes to admiring winter trees. One example: “february 3: with snowy arms sagging/the spruce seemed to know/that beautiful outweighs the snow.”

Set against a backdrop of expansive illustrations by Julie Morstad, these spare poems evoke universal moments of wonder from childhood.

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The Secret World of Slugs and Snails by David George Gordon, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2011-10-01

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."

Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Gardener's Color Palette by Tom Fischer, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2011-10-01

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?"

Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2011-10-01

Thru the lens: 50 years of the Japanese Garden is a nearly hour-long documentary on DVD 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.

Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2011-10-01

A stroll through the first 50 years of the Seattle Japanese Garden is a PowerPoint presentation with slides and narration, focused on the founding of the garden--with many historical photographs--and significant changes up to the present. This documentary on CD has a limited availability, but can be viewed with headsets at the Miller Library.

Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Cottonwood and the River of Time by Reinhard F. Stettler, 2009

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2011-10-01

Cottonwood and the River of Time by Reinhard Stettler explores an unlikely topic, cottonwood trees and their kin including poplars and aspens. A retired University of Washington professor of forestry, the author writes an engaging natural history beginning with a single tree, an old matriarch near the Snoqualmie River. While eventually global in scope, many of the examples continue to be set in the Pacific Northwest.

While many of the titles from the middle chapters may look a bit dull, e.g., "Natural Hybridization" and "Adaptation and Its Limits", the writing is quite engaging and aimed at a general audience. The book concludes with cultural history of poplars--the importance of poplars in agriculture, forestry, and landscapes.

Excerpted from the Fall 2011 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Naming of Names by Anna Pavord, 2005

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-04-01

Anna Pavord's The Naming of Names sets the groundwork for the system of nomenclature we use so freely today. More than just names, this book chronicles the development of human understanding of plants, how they live and propagate, but most importantly how we've come to identify and categorized them.

While beginning in the classical period, the core of this story is set in the revival of science during the Renaissance, from about 1400 - 1700. Pavord treats her human subjects as protagonists in a story of the development of the science of botany, and while supported with excellent scholarship, the writing is also very passionate.

The last hero of her narrative is the English scholar and plantsman John Ray (1627-1705), who she credits with the invention of the discipline of taxonomy. "No fireworks, no claps of thunder, no swelling symphonic themes mark Ray's achievement. It is a quiet, lonely, dogged consummation, and, in its insistence on the importance of method before system, critical in shaping future thinking on the subject to which he had devoted the whole of his adult life."

Excerpted from the Spring 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, 2009

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2012-04-01

Andrea Wulf, in The Brother Gardeners, starts at the beginning of the 18th century. Up to that time gardening was "traditionally the preserve of the aristocracy...now, amateur gardeners began to take an obsessive interest in their smaller plots." Her focus is on the transformation in England, but much of this was fueled by the interchange with American gardeners and particularly the importing of American plants to English gardens.

Most compelling is the four decades of correspondence between Peter Collinson (1694-1768), a merchant and avid gardener in London, and John Bartram (1699-1777), a farmer and self-taught botanist near Philadelphia. Bartram regularly shipped boxes of seeds, pressed plants, and occasionally live plants, while in exchange Collinson would ship books and tools, and even clothes for Bartram's family.

Collinson would use his connections to introduce Bartram wealthy and learned Americans, hoping to find new and different plants. These introductions came with specific instructions, "'Pray go very Clean, neat & handsomely Dressed to Virginia' and don't 'Disgrace thyself or Mee.'" As time passed, however, the roles changed as the farmer from the colonies began to assert his importance in these exchanges, forcing Collinson and his clients from the English learned class to recognize Bartram's knowledge, skills, and importance to their endeavors.

Excerpted from the Spring 2012 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Rhododendrons in the Landscape by Sonja Nelson, 2000

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-04-01

"The rhododendron landscapes in our modern gardens were first inspired by the sight of rhododendrons growing in the wild." So begins Mt. Vernon, Washington author Sonja Nelson in "Rhododendrons in the Landscape, " a book that brings both historical perspective and practical design to using these iconic plants in Pacific Northwest gardens.

Excerpted from the Spring 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Neighborhood Forager by Robert K. Henderson, 2000

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-04-01

Robert Henderson dedicates "Neighborhood Forager" to Euell Gibbons, "...who invented the genre that sustains me, literally and figuratively." This handbook for living from nature is based on the author's considerable experience harvesting and using the native and naturalized plants near his home in Rosedale, British Columbia.

Excerpted from the Sprng 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Plant This! by Ketzel Levine, 2000

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-04-01

"Fall is tough on the vocabulary of a garden writer. I don't think I have another riotous, spectacular, or gorgeous left..." But Ketzel Levine does find her unique voice in "Plant This!," an often whacky but insightful review of favorites from her Portland garden.

Excerpted from the Spring 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Wetland Plants of Oregon & Washington by B. Jennifer Guard, 1995

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-04-01

"Wetland Plants of Oregon & Washington" is a smart little guide perfect for taking into the field with its water resistant cover and handy size. Author B. Jennifer Guard's use of photographs, line drawings, plant and habitat descriptions, keys, and notes makes this a most effective book for plant identification.

Excerpted from the Spring 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-04-01

A who's who of experts collaborated on "Wild Lilies, Irises, and Grasses: Gardening with California Monocots." You ask, is nothing safe from invading Californians? Perhaps not, but many of these showy plants already have PNW residency. Our collection includes this title and others from the Golden State with relevancy for our part of the coast.

Excerpted from the Spring 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-04-01

Des Kennedy shares from the heart in "This Rambling Affair: A Year in a Country Garden," set on Denman Island in British Columbia. He knows his audience. "Gardeners are like people who endlessly take self-help courses and seminars to try make things better. We are chronic improvers, not necessarily of ourselves, but certainly of our landscapes..."

Excerpted from the Spring 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-04-01

"Going Native: Making Use of New Zealand Plants" combines the expertise of several kiwi botanists, ecologists and horticulturists. Aimed at a New Zealand audience, it is still well worth a read by Cascadia gardeners, especially the more daring.

Excerpted from the Spring 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-04-01

"From the first the Japanese garden -- whether in Kyoto or Kansas City -- has stood as a tangible antithesis to Western values." Working from that premise, Kendall H. Brown profiles "Japanese-Style Gardens of the Pacific West Coast" , including our own. The 20 gardens -- all open to the public -- are enticingly presented by Melba Levick's photographs.

Excerpted from the Spring 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Garden Art of China by Lifang Chen, 1986

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-04-01

For an immersion course in Chinese gardens, look to native landscape architect and historian Chen Lifang and "The Garden Art of China." Expertly translated by botanist Yu Sianglin, this is one of the richest introductions -- filled with plans, sketches, design principles, and many, many examples -- to any art form imaginable.

Excerpted from the Spring 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Garden Design Illustrated by John A. Grant, 1954

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-04-01

John A. and Carol L. Grant's "Garden Design Illustrated" is a historical gem. This husband and wife team is better known for "Trees and Shrubs for Pacific Northwest Gardens", first published in 1948 with help from the Arboretum Foundation. But their 1954 design book is perhaps more relevant today, teaching time-honored basics that haven't become outdated.

Excerpted from the Spring 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

Drawing on over two hundred years of local experience, authors Susan Carter, Carrie Becker and Bob Lilly are best known for the magnificent Borders at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. This encyclopedia organizes that collective plant knowledge from A-Z in a well-structured format. But what makes this especially valuable are the signed introductions to each genus (including guests authors) and the notes and comments throughout -- all learned directly in the field. Of course it's a perfect fit for gardeners of the maritime Northwest, but the on-the-job commentaries make this book useful to gardeners in almost any temperate climate.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Sunset Western Garden Book by Kathleen Norris Brenzel, 2007

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

Every new edition of the most venerable of west coast gardening publications is a treat, bigger and better than before. Since the last in 2001, there are 500 new entries, a cleaner layout, highlights by subject experts and updated climate zones (although western Washington looks unchanged). "Post cards" from each state -- short essays, Washington's is written by Ciscoe Morris -- warm up the introduction and give some personal perspective on the zone maps that follow.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Story of the Apple by David J. Mabberley, 2006

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

The origin of this commonplace fruit has long been uncertain, but David Mabberley and co-author Barrie Juniper find answers in this fascinating story. The authors use the expected DNA analysis and other traditional botanical tools of discovery, but also geology, climatology and a study of bears and horses to identify the first home (it wasn't Eden) of the sweet apple. But they don't stop there. They trace the process by which the apple has become a world-wide food crop, an iconic element in the culture of many peoples, and even a "determined, effective, subversive influence" that challenges the global agribusiness complex by its ability to easily new varieties, giving hope that even a small scale orchard or wild seedling could produce the next, outstanding variety.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane, 2007

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2008-12-04

Though I will probably never survey my surroundings from the top of a tall beech tree, or climb a frozen waterfall in the dark, I thoroughly enjoyed discovering unspoiled natural areas of Britain through Robert Macfarlane's book The Wild Places (Granta Books, 2007).

In richly descriptive prose, he leads the reader to these increasingly rare spots on the map, from saltmarshes and moors to hedgerows and holloways (tunnels of vegetation). Under the tutelage of his friend Roger Deakin (author of Wildwood, who died in 2007), Macfarlane's conception of wildness evolves over the course of his travels to include the humbler, smaller wild places that are within reach of even the most city-bound nature lovers:

"I thought about how the vision of wildness with which I had begun my journeys - inhuman, northern, remote - was starting to crumble from contact with the ground itself... The human and the wild cannot be partitioned. Everywhere that day I had encountered blendings and mixings."

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So You Want to Be a Garden Designer by Love Albrecht Howard, 2010

Reviewed by: Laura Blumhagen on 2010-06-05

Love Albrecht Howard's first book fills a gap in our collection. To my knowledge, it is the only recent book on running a garden design business that is written for plant lovers who may not have formal horticultural or business training, but who do have a fair amount of common sense and are willing to get their hands (and feet!) dirty learning. The author certainly approves of formal education, recommending that prospective designers take courses, but she knows firsthand that hands-on experience gained through internships, volunteer work, and garden shows, as well as time spent with gardening books and magazines can be even more valuable than coursework. Indeed, fifteen out of twenty chapters focus on day-to-day operations, including best gardening practices, rather than on estimating costs, hiring staff, and other money-related aspects of the business.

To its credit, this book has a comprehensive index, with topics ranging from accent plants to Rocky Mountain spotted fever to zone creep. Albrecht Howard offers a wealth of knowledge gained from real-world experience, along with basic guidelines to help ensure the fledgling business does well financially. The underlying message is one most readers will want to hear: if a new designer can perfect skills in garden design, plant care, and customer relations, the money is secondary, and it will come.

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Reviewed by: Lyn Sauter on 2010-06-05

book jacketThe genus Allium covers onions, garlic, leeks, chives and others. Their pungent odor comes from sulfur compounds they contain. Dr. Eric Block is a professor at New York State University at Albany, and has spent over 35 years studying the chemistry of alliums. His book covers an enormous range of information on the genus Allium. The "Lore" portions are fascinating, with references to archaeology, literature, painting, folk medicine, cultivation, and more. The "Science: parts are - well - scientific. For those who would like to explore the phytochemistry of alliums and its sulfur components, the long chapter on these topics is comprehensive.

For the rest of us, browsing the other chapters one can discover a 1600-1700 BCE recipe for braised turnips containing onions, turnips, and garlic and leek juice. Allium references in literature range from the Bible to Shakespeare to Rudyard Kipling. There is a whole chapter on folk medicine, both its uses and some cautions, such as this one: alliums including onion, garlic, leeks and chives are toxic to cats, dogs and monkeys.

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Backyard Bounty by Linda A. Gilkeson, 2011

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2011-04-30

book jacketAmidst the bumper crop of new food-gardening titles, Backyard Bounty : The Complete Guide to Year-Round Organic Gardening in the Pacific Northwest by Salt Spring Island, B.C. resident Linda Gilkeson stands apart. I put three recent edible plant titles by Northwest authors to the test by trying to find answers to commonly asked questions in them. Whether you are a beginning gardener or an experienced (or jaded!) old hand, this book will neither insult your intelligence nor blind you in a blizzard of technicalities. If you want to know about soil in raised beds, what to grow over the winter, or how to protect your grapes from predacious raccoons, this is the place. Though it lacks photos of primped and prinked up fruit and veggie glamour, the information is well-organized and clearly presented. I learned enough from reading it that I may just have to own a copy.

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Bug Zoo by Nick Baker, 2010

Reviewed by: Laura Blumhagen on 2011-05-20

book jacketDoes someone you know want an earwiggery? How about a wormery or a dragonfly den? If you know a child who loves bugs, this illustrated handbook of bug habitats will teach him or her how to capture, observe, and learn from these tiny animals respectfully, with an understanding of their delicate biology.

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Urban Agriculture by David Tracey, 2011

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2011-07-26

book jacketThough I personally am cheered by the sight of a P-Patch, a front garden, or a tiny apartment balcony resplendent with edible plants, there is still resistance to seeing raised beds replete with tomatoes and lettuce overtake a lawn or other underutilized space. Activist and arborist David Tracey's Urban Agriculture: Ideas and Designs for the New Food Revolution opens with an account of conflict over creating a community garden in his native Vancouver, B.C. Despite this negative note, the book is an antidote to despair. Tracey's informal and humorous style diminishes the sense of helplessness we feel in the face of corporate control over our food supply, and its attendant environmental devastation and cost to human health. Tracey does not provide detailed directions on how to grow various vegetables from seed, or how to make your own compost; his purpose is to inspire and empower the reader to begin or continue the worthwhile work of growing food (as opposed to "fuud," the term he coins for the products of Big Ag). You may not think you are engaged in agricultural pursuits but by the author's definition, anyone who grows edible plants is a farmer.

The book is explicitly organized from the smallest to largest scale of edible cultivation (sprouts on the kitchen counter to full-scale farming). There are some unusual inclusions here, such as sections on aquaponics (in case you want to grow fish and greens together!) and school farms, the self-sufficiency model of Cuba's urban farming project, and a checklist of questions to ask politicians before the next election (ask where she or he stands on the use of public space to grow food by raising the concept of usufruct, the legal right to use and enjoy the fruits or profits of something belonging to another). There are numerous quotable lines in this book, such as: "It takes food to grow a village," and "The seed knows what to do." The library also has his previous book, Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto.

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Patio Produce by Paul Peacock, 2009

Reviewed by: Jessica Anderson on 0201-04-26

bookAs a first time vegetable gardener, I was looking for a resource for planting and growing vegetables from a small space: my deck. This handy book, Patio Produce: How to Cultivate a Lot of Home-Grown Vegetables from the Smallest Possible Space by Paul Peacock really helped me start my garden. It simply showed me how to make the most out of my pots and how to plan for a reasonable crop yield. I especially enjoyed the chapters on how to grow vegetables on the patio. The author has an A-Z plant list and inside there are detailed step-by-step instructions on how to grow on the patio, including an "at a glance" table that contains helpful information on the plant's pot size, sowing dates, care, and harvest information. The short but thorough snippets on specific plants, such as raspberries, strawberries, potatoes, and tomatoes helped me understand how to plant and take care of my crops.

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American Grown by Michelle Obama, 2012

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2012-06-13

bookFirst Lady Michelle Obama's new book, American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America (Crown Publishers, 2012) has much to say about gardening as a learning process. A novice gardener, she doesn't hesitate to admit that not all of the Kitchen Garden efforts succeeded on the first try: there were raised berms that succumbed to foot traffic and were replaced with untreated wooden boxes, troubles with cutworms, and trials and tribulations with pumpkins. But her motivation to create a food garden on the South Lawn with the participation of numerous horticulturists, chefs, and schoolchildren, has resulted in a beautiful, productive example for every aspiring urban farmer (even someone without a staff of dozens or a large growing space!).

For readers who want to cultivate a closer relationship to the source of the food we eat (either by growing our own or by supporting small farms), this book is a good starting point. The book, which opens with a brief history of gardens at the White House, is arranged by season, and includes plans, descriptions of techniques and hands-on growing experiences, and recipes. Various experts on the garden staff contribute parts of the text. Seattle makes two appearances in the section on "How Our Gardens Grow Stronger Communities," with a page on Picardo Farm P-Patch, and a historic photo of Pike Place Market. The book ends with a resource list and bibliography.

If you are curious about the source of initial hesitation/opposition to the first White House beehive ever, here's a hint: the beehive is sited not far from the basketball court!

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Gossip from the Forest by Sara Maitland, 2013

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2013-07-03

bookWhy do forests capture our imagination? And why are so many fairytales, at least in the Northern European tradition, rooted in forests? Sara Maitland's Gossip from the Forest is a fascinating and freewheeling exploration of how people shape the natural world, which shapes the tales we tell, which in turn shape us.

Maitland opens with the original meaning of the word 'gossip' ("one who has contracted a spiritual relationship to another, or a familiar acquaintance or friend"). As a feminist writer, she is reclaiming a term she believes has been trivialized to dismiss the power of women's communication. (The American edition of the book has truncated the title to From the Forest, which is a shame.)

The chapters run from March through February, and in each Maitland visits a different forest in England or Scotland, and ends with a unique retelling of a familiar fairytale. There is much to ponder and to absorb. The descriptions of coppicing and pollarding were surprising to me, and I had to overcome my reflexive distaste for human interventions in the growth of forest trees. In a deciduous forest setting, these practices can be beneficial not only to humans (who need wood for fuel, building, and other uses) but to the trees as well. She notes that coppicing extends the lifespan of oaks, for example. Pollarding, which is done higher up on the tree, makes the thin branches accessible to humans but not to browsing deer and other mammals.

Another observation that intrigued me was the venerated position beech trees hold in British culture (see Richard Mabey's book Beechcombings, or the widespread use of beeches in private estates to "posh up the landscape," to quote the book) compared to the birch, which the author prefers for its aesthetic and useful qualities. Beech is thought of as native, but is widespread across Europe; in Britain it mainly grows in the southern half of the country. She recalls her father's saying that "tyranny is like a beech tree; it looks very fine but nothing grows under it."

This is a book with a wide reach. Maitland touches on the history of the powerful and the powerless as evidenced in policies like enclosure (ending public rights and access to land which was once held in common), and on the cultural and psychological underpinnings of tales in which common folk are skilled and wise while kings are fools and landed gentry are consumed by greed. Her walks through the forest evoke the mystery of the natural world and the stories we tell to understand our place in it. Adam Lee, Maitland's son (who took the photographs which accompany the text), provides a useful image which summarizes the essence of the book: fairytales, forests, and people are interdependent, like mycorrhizae and tree roots.

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The Adorable Plot by Tessa Newcomb, 2012

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2013-07-19

book jacketHere in Seattle, we have our picturesque and productive P-Patches. In England, allotment gardens trace their roots to the policies of enclosure of open fields which had been held in common, and to industrialization and burgeoning urban populations. This fencing in and privatization began as early as the 14th century but was widespread through the 18th and 19th centuries, when allotments were offered as a small compensation to villagers and city dwellers who did not own private land.

Painter Tessa Newcomb's The Adorable Plot is an exuberant celebration of the beauty and bounty of the allotments in her native Suffolk coast. The first striking thing about her art is the sense of scale. Dried poppy heads, trellis-climbing beans, and giant artichokes dwarf the humans who tend these busy and productive plots. Newcomb's use of color and space is reminiscent of Stanley Spencer, but her style is looser and more dynamic. Although Newcomb's paintings and drawings are the focal point, the text also delights with humor and poetic description. Poppies which have shed their petals are "lovely green globes, ginger cartwheels at the top and secret openings ready to disperse their seeds." Of a couple observing the fruits of their labor: "They sat in the chairs overlooking the plot which swayed like the sea." Whether or not you have an adorable plot of your own, this book will inspire you to head out to a garden with your eyes open, and perhaps your favorite garden tool or paintbrush in hand.

Related titles:

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Plants of Haida Gwaii by Nancy Turner, 2004

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

Haida Gwaii, know by many as the Queen Charlotte Islands, has a rich and distinctive history of using plants in all aspects of the life of the indigenous Haida people. Nancy Turner has completed a project of over 30 years to document these practices, which is present here in a very thorough, yet quite readable presentation. Organized using the indigenous taxonomic systems, the use of plants for food, medicine, technology, and ceremony is interwoven with narratives of traditional stories and beliefs, often told through the interaction between plants and animals. These are juxtaposed with current issues of conservation, dealing with invasive species to these fairly isolated islands, and the disappearance of a way of life.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

This collaboration of over 80 authors, most of them students at the University of Washington, is a field guide to the region's invasive species that includes not only the noxious weeds gardeners fear, but aquatic plants, animals, invertebrates and even diseases. Sarah Reichard, head of conservation for UWBG, is one of the three editors that managed the project. The inclusion of the domestic cat is sure to get your attention, but a thorough reading describes a complex ecological web that will influence the way we look at the world around, especially in our gardens. The whole discussion of what constitutes an invasive species is fascinating in itself. A special section on these issues as they pertain to the Haida Gwaii is nice companion reading to the previous book.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Restoring the Pacific Northwest by Dean Apostol, 2006

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

This book details our major ecosystems, how they've worked historically, how that work has been interrupted, and possible corrections. These systems are defined first by plant zones or geographical features, such as bunchgrass prairies or tidal wetlands, and then reexamined as large scale landscapes that cross zones, including urban natural areas and watersheds. This is not a field guide, and not a quick read (and not cheap!), but the more technical parts are brought to life by case studies from throughout the area. Invasive vegetation is given its own chapter, as is a study of ecological knowledge and restoration practices by indigenous peoples. Editors Dean Apostol and Marcia Sinclair present a good survey of this large and important topic.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

A field guide "to assist the user in identifying" the wild orchids throughout an expansion of our region that includes Alaska and western Alberta and Montana. Author Paul Martin Brown, of the University of Florida, has a series of similar titles covering all of North America except for the southwest; however he has clearly spent considerable time in our region. Appendices brim with reference materials, many trying to untangle the nomenclature of our orchids, but more romantic is the "Orchid Hunting" section with tips such as "watch for small, shaded cemeteries along the way." Essays such as "The Correct Name for the Northwestern Twayblade" add to this slightly eccentric but fun book.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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A Pattern Garden by Val Easton, 2007

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

Val Easton's warm and clear writing style is very familiar, but her subject matter in this book breaks new ground as she applies the architectural concepts of patterns, or putting "human instincts into words," to garden setting. Throughout she "helps us to understand why we feel comfortable in a space" and why, in other places, we don't. The patterns are not unfamiliar: Scale, Garden Rooms, Ornamentation, Containers, etc., but some associations may be new, such as grouping Patios, Sheds and Focal Points under destinations. This makes it important to read the book as a whole, even though you'll return to favorite sections again and again for specifics. A short review of favorite plants concludes the book, but these are just one more pattern in the larger design.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Ask Ciscoe by Ciscoe Morris, 2007

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

Ciscoe Morris writes like he talks, so you know this book will be fun. Less appreciated is his vast knowledge base that he has acquired from years of experience both as a professional and avid home gardener. That knowledge is presented in a Question (sometimes as funny as the answers) and Answer format, broadly organized into categories such as Flower Plants, Edible Plants, Garden and Lawn Care, etc. Good for the bedside table -- to foster ideas as you read as little or as much as you want, or use the excellent index to find a specific topic. There's much more here -- and its all experience based -- than first meets the eye.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Garden to Vase by Linda Beutler, 2007

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

Linda Beutler thinks every gardener should be a florist, at least for his or her own home. On this premise she has written this extensive primer addressing all aspects of filling your vases (or whatever) for any and all occasions. Or for no occasion, other than to better enjoy the bounty of your garden. And the tips are great, such as how to "rinse" your daffodils so they don't kill the tulips you add to their arrangement. The second half of the book is an A-Z listing the best cutting plants, including growing tips, harvesting tips, vase life, when (or when not) to use preservatives, and what parts of the plant -- seeds, flower, leaves, etc. -- can be used, either fresh or dried. All this is clearly illustrated with Allan Mandell's excellent photos.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

A Salt Spring Island, British Columbia entomologist, Linda Gilkeson is enthralled with the work of beneficial insects in the garden, especially in combating pests. This manual is based on her experience and is very specific to our region. She clearly gives her opinion on what works, and what doesn't. While the focus is on insects, weeds and diseases get their turn, too. Most of the information is available from other sources, but like many hands-on work, there's much valuable empirical knowledge. One suggestion caught my eye: planting alyssum amongst gladiolus to attract pirate bugs, who in turn will eliminate the thrips that devastate the glads. It's worth a try!

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

A coastal garden book, this written by a transplanted Pennsylvania Master Gardener, who took the training again in Oregon. Written to a very specific audience, a fact brought home by the second chapter: "Dune Gardening." Yes, this is for those with lots of sand in their soil. Carla Albright has designed this as a handbook, with many pages of worksheets for the reader to fill out based on experiences. The tips are very basic, too. "In my tool bucket I keep two trowels, a narrow one and a wide one. The narrow one is good for..." Following a review of native beach plants, there are suggestions for appropriate beach garden aesthetics, and an extensive list of shore tested vegetable varieties.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Bellevue Botanical Garden by Marty Wingate, 2007

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

The authors of this book were nurtured and informed by the well-known Northwest Perennial Alliance Borders at the Bellevue Botanical Garden. Here, Marty Wingate tells how the Borders are part of a much greater whole brought together by a diverse group of plant lovers. The detailed history is followed by descriptions in word and photo that highlight features and plants in each of the nine gardens, augmented with short profiles of key players. A Garden promotion, yes, but there's also some good history and enough about the individual plantings to take some ideas home, especially if this book accompanies your next visit to Bellevue.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Hortus Miscellaneous by Lorene Edwards Forkner, 2007

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2007-10-01

Whimsy, science, puzzles, construction plans, trivia, lists, do-it-yourself instructions -- it's all here in this very hard to describe book. Lorene Edwards Forkner and the late Linda Plato have created a one-of-a-kind book that, like so many other books described in this column, travels well beyond the Pacific Northwest. Turning to a random page, one finds a list of suitable plans for a knot garden, followed by the comparative definitions of monoecious and dioecious, sports teams with horticultural themes (The Fighting Okra?!?), and instructions on how to lay a flagstone pathway. You get the idea.

Excerpted from the Fall 2007 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Flora Celtica by William Milliken, 2004

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2008-01-01

If I could only have one book on Scottish plants, it would be "Flora Celtica: Plants and People in Scotland." While the main title suggests a comprehensive, taxonomic review of natives, authors William Milliken and Sam Bridgewater instead use ethnobotany as their framework to categorize plants by their impact on humans.

And there is quite a range to this impact. Besides the expected foods, traditional crafts and medicines, this book both looks to the past -- recounting much folklore and ceremony -- and to the future, exploring the role of plants as we grapple with climate change, restoration and sustainability of resources.

The genius is in the presentation -- turn to any page and find fascinating biographies, historical photos and drawings, even poetry and lyrics of traditional songs, all woven around a very readable text. But this is not just about history -- the photographs (many by author Milliken) clearly illustrate the landscape and people of today.

"We no longer fumigate our houses with juniper leaves...or tie rowan twigs onto our cows' tails to ward off the fairies. But we do still...decorate our homes with holly at Christmas and plant marram grass to hold back the sea. And, while some practices are being lost, others are being acquired..." This quote from the introduction captures the spirit of this large, complex, and thoroughly engaging book.

Excerpted from the Winter 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Scottish Wild Plants by Philip Lusby, 1996

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2008-01-01

For something to fit in your suitcase when travelling to Scotland, consider "Scottish Wild Plants: Their History, Ecology and Conservation." Authors Philip Lusby and Jenny Wright skillfully weave into some 40 plant profiles description, habitat, ecological niche, associated plants and animals, natural history, and even something of the history of Scottish botany. This is good reading straight through, yet still useful as a reference work, although you'll want a pocket field guide, too -- there are several good ones in any Scottish bookstore. This book is more for setting the mood. For example, you'll learn that Primula scotica is one of the few endemic plants in Scotland and its survival is linked to rabbits, an introduced animal to Britain in Roman times. But the relationship isn't what you'd guess. The Scottish primrose actually thrives best where rabbits are plentiful, as they eat the plants that shade this tiny, post-glacial relic.

Excerpted from the Winter 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Private Gardens of Scotland by James Truscott, 1988

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2008-01-01

James Truscott states in the introduction to Private Gardens of Scotland his hope to transport the reader to "...a temporary withdrawal from humdrum everyday life into a cloistered world of scents and colours, where half-forgotten feelings of wonderment and awe can be rediscovered." An ambitious goal, but he succeeds by having one of the best pens for garden description I've ever read. The photographs of Hugh Palmer compliment the writing, but they are not the stars. This book is meant to be read -- even if you never visit the gardens, Truscott's nuance of detail and narrative style of "touring" will teach you much, especially about design, as is befitting for an author who is also a landscape architect. He's full of fun facts, too: Did you know that Mary Queen of Scots, the Crown Prince of Imperial Japan, and Margaret Thatcher have all planted trees at Scone Palace near Perth?

Excerpted from the Winter 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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4 Gardens in One by Deni Bown, 1992

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2008-01-01

"4 Gardens in One," by Deni Bown is an excellent source for learning about the four sites of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. Written with passion and an eye for lively history -- Bown took the photographs, too -- in her details about the Younger Botanic Garden at Benmore, I learned the full truth of Rhododendron ponticum. "Even today one will encounter areas in the far west of the garden which are yet to be cleared; these are still ponticum territory and virtually impenetrable."

Excerpted from the Winter 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2008-07-01

Children's books may lead to some interesting discoveries in adult literature. The story of Billy, the little botanist, grows up in "The Art and Science of William Bartram" by Judith Magee. Here the simple leaf-drawing boy is revealed as more than an intrepid explorer and skilled artist of nature.

Despite the title and the inclusion of nearly 70 of William's drawings, many of birds, fish, and reptiles in addition to plants, this is not primarily an art book. It is a wide-ranging narrative that places the Bartrams, in particular William, in the context of the science, philosophy, religion, culture, and politics of their time.

Excerpts from publications, journals, and correspondence are skillfully woven into a narrative that I found as engaging as the simple tale in "Flower Hunter." Extensive asides profile important associates, many which were themselves instrumental in the beginnings of the American scientific community.

Throughout Magee concludes that William Bartram was not fully appreciated in his own time and place. His astute concerns about the ecology (well before the term was coined) of the natural world, and his beliefs in the equality of the Native Americans, were views shared by very few others. She sees his influence not only in botany, zoology and ethnography, but also on the European poets of Romanticism at the turn of 19th century.

When studied today, the author concludes William is "often seen as a pioneer in the field of ecology, a radical rather than a conservative in his politics, nationalism and religion, and a Romantic rather than a man of the Enlightenment." It is also noteworthy that he spent a long retirement in his garden, as it "remained the single most important thing" in his later years.

Excerpted from the Summer 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Flower Hunter by Deborah Kogan Ray, 2004

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2008-07-01

"My father, John Bartram, is a botanist. He studies plants and trees. I help him with his work. My name is William, but everyone calls me Billy. Father calls me his 'little botanist.'"

Thus Deborah Kogan Ray begins her first person narrative of the life of William Bartram (1739-1823) in "The Flower Hunter," a book written for children that can be read with enjoyment by adults as well. Much has been written about this early American naturalist and artist -- and his equally famous botanist father, John Bartram (1699-1777) -- but none can match the charm of this 40-page book, which is richly illustrated by the author.

"The Flower Hunter" tells the story of a young boy who grows up on a farm near Philadelphia and early becomes fascinated by his father's love of plants and botanical exploration. Throughout his childhood, Billy's father leads him on field trips that range farther and farther away from the farm. Eventually their roles reverse, and the son becomes an explorer who returns home triumphantly to share his discoveries about the natural world with his aging father.

Kogan Ray places her straightforward account against a wider backdrop -- the struggles of an emerging nation and the hardships and thrills of travel through a landscape and time very different from today. New plants, animals and even peoples are waiting to be found, described and - unusual for scientific traditions of the time -- cherished in their natural state.

Why do the Bartrams remain important to us now? Together they discovered the Franklin tree (Franklinia alatamaha) in coastal Georgia in 1765; a short time later the tree became extinct in the wild. An example of this beautiful tree, that blooms in autumn while its foliage is turning bright red, can be found on the east edge of the Arboretum's Azalea Way, about 100 yards north of the Winter Garden.

While today's botanic gardens and arboreta would be duller places without the Franklin tree, the Bartrams left us far more than this one showstopper. Their farm became one of the first botanic gardens in the United States, and is open to the public. (see Bartram's Garden at www.bartramsgarden.org). And they were instrumental, along with their friend Benjamin Franklin and others, in developing an American tradition of studying the natural sciences.

Perhaps best, they both wrote detailed journals of their travels. William's "Travels," published in 1791, is still in print today and is credited by Kogan Ray with having "inspired Henry David Thoreau and Charles Darwin with its observations of the world of nature."

Excerpted from the Summer 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Passionate Gardener by Des Kennedy, 2006

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-24

Based on his earlier, high-energy books, it is not hard to imagine Des Kennedy as the author of book entitled "The Passionate Gardener". With wicked humor and incredible insight to both gardens and gardeners, he warns of the seven deadly sins of gardening, and extols its ten commandments. Other chapters are more reflective, but he's always ready to see the irony and contradictions in how we conduct our favorite pursuit.

Kennedy also displays a knack for travel writing, making trips to Hawaii, Ireland, and New Zealand entertaining while packing in a lot of names and facts that would be handy for planning your own trip. This is the perfect reading companion for a winter's evening and between the laughs, you just might soak up some good, sound gardening counsel based the author's years of gardening in the British Columbia Gulf Islands.

Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Best Plant Picks by Steve Whysall, 2008

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2008-10-01

Steve Whysall has been a regular garden writer for the Vancouver Sun for 15 years. "Best Plant Picks" selects trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs, and ferns from his more recent columns and organizes them in a gardening calendar, including tips on monthly chores and seasonal highlights. While not a major departure for the author's earlier books, there are some interesting juxtapositions here. A good choice for a new gardener who is willing to experiment.

Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Uncommon Beauty by Neil L. Jennings, 2006

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-24

Excellent photographs are the outstanding quality of "Uncommon Beauty", a new field guide focused on an underexplored part of the Pacific Northwest -- southeastern British Columbia. Written by an enthusiastic outdoorsman and native of the area, Neil L. Jennings provides a very readable description of over 200 plants, many who have ranges that extend southward into eastern Washington.

Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-24

For the serious student of native plants, "The Flora of Mount Adams, Washington" will be an important work. Considered to be the most diverse flora in the state, Mt. Adams hosts several, quite distinct habitats and over 800 distinct species of plants. As there are no photographs and only botanist-oriented descriptions and identifying keys, this is not for the casual seeker of wildflowers. Instead, look for co-author Susan McDougall's "The Wildflowers of Mount Adams, Washington."

Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2008-10-01

For gardeners, the most important new book of the year will be the "Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes". A trio of southwest Washington writers brings extensive experience in botany, propagating and growing native plants, and photography together in this very comprehensive and extensive book that will be a standard reference for many years to come.

A brief introduction lays the ground rules: only natives -- nothing naturalized since the arrival of "non-indigenous human explorers". Plants that are rare and nearly impossible to grow in cultivation are out, too. An example being the various lovely but sensitive slipper orchids.

There are some seeming exceptions to this last rule, such as Erythronium montanum, the stunning but notoriously difficult-to-cultivate avalanche lily seen at Hurricane Ridge. However, the authors note, it can be grown by gardeners who live at higher elevations.

The heart of the book is a listing of over 500 species that gives a basic description, cultivation requirements, native range and habitat, plus notes about related species, ethnobotany and selected varieties. Propagation tips are included, with a strong emphasis on conservation of plants in situ.

The excellent photographs make this a pretty good identification book, too, and will convince you to add more natives to your home garden, including ferns, shrubs, and trees, both broad leaf and conifers. The appendices include helpful lists of plants to meet various gardening needs (for shade, for wildflower meadows, for hummingbirds, etc.). This book is a must have!

Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Last Oasis by Tom Reese, 2007

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-24

"The Last Oasis," by Seattle Times photographer Tom Reese extends a bit beyond the Arboretum in its scope, including human subjects and their impact, some of it benign but much that's troubling. However the message is much the same -- these urban wetlands are a treasure that is critical to preserve.

Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Wild Within by Joan Burton, 2007

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-24

"The Wild Within" is a photo collection highlighting the wetlands -- with a special emphasis on the animals of the Washington Park Arboretum. It is a real page-turner, but pages that you'll return to and savor frequently with an even deeper appreciation of the value of our Arboretum.

Essays provide occasional breaks in the photographs and they are well worth reading. Notables Dale Chihully, Dan Evans, Peter Steinbrueck, William Ruckelshaus and others shed their public faces to give very personal accounts of the importance of the Arboretum.

Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Emily Dickinson's Herbarium by Emily Dickinson, 2006

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-07-24

"Emily Dickinson's Herbarium" is a full-size, facsimile of an album of pressed flowers, leaves, and other plant parts created in the 1840s when Dickinson was a student at Amherst Academy. There is no stated purpose or obvious order to this collection, which includes both native plants of western Massachusetts and specimens that could only come from a garden or conservatory. As a traditional herbarium the value is limited, as none of the important collection information (date, exact location, etc.) are recorded.

Over 400 specimens survive, some accurately labeled by the author using botanical guides of the day, others with descriptive if incorrect Latin binomials (for example, Petunia alba for a white petunia). Others have lost their labels. The Harvard University Herbaria staff has identified nearly all despite numerous challenges. A detailed catalog records all this detective work.

But the value of this book is not as a traditional herbarium. I see it as a piece of history, and of an early glimpse of the life of one of our country's most valued poets. And, if you've ever attempted your own collection of pressed plants, you will appreciate the considerable effort taken not only to produce this book, but also to preserve it for over 160 years.

Accompanying essays document the herbarium's conservation, the history of the family battles over Dickinson's legacy, and securing the Dickinson collection for Harvard. Best is the article by Richard B. Sewall, "Science and the Poet: Emily Dickinson's Herbarium and 'The Clue Divine,'" in which he begins, "Take Emily's Herbarium far enough, and you have her." Perhaps. In any case, he argues for the close connection she found between science and art -- an argument that could be equally well applied to William Bartram.

"Emily Dickinson's Herbarium," because of its size, cannot be checked out, but is available to all to study and view in the Miller Library.

Excerpted from the Summer 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Wild Flowers of the Undercliff, Isle of Wight by Charlotte Grace O'Brien, 1881

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2016-11-05

book jacketThe Miller Library receives many donations of books each year, and sometimes we open a box and a particular book enchants us. A recent example is a small volume entitled Wild Flowers of the Undercliff, Isle of Wight, published in London in 1881. It is a field guide to a small area of the southern coast of the Isle of Wight, England. The region is prone to landslides and possesses a unique microclimate, as it is protected beneath an escarpment, facing south. The authors, Charlotte O'Brien and C. Parkinson, hoped the book would enable temporary residents of the Undercliff to acquaint themselves with the various plants blooming throughout the year. "As a rule, they are very timid, these 'wildings of Nature,' and recede before the advances of man and his bricks and mortar,” and this book seeks to help “seekers after one of the purest of earthly pleasures" [wildflowers] find them.

As a librarian, I have absorbed a concern for 'bibliographic control,' the attention to details that help people find the information they need. I was troubled by the lack of a first name for the co-author, and curious about the note in the preface in which the two authors thank "Miss Parkinson" for her colored drawings [8 plates] that illustrate the book. Our copy of the book was inscribed by M. Parkinson, with a dedication to "Miss Prince." Who were these nameless Parkinsons, I wondered, wanting to give bibliographic credit where it was due.

I asked assistance from a friend who is a gardener and genealogist in England, and she found a reference to an article by David E. Allen (affiliated with the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland), "C. Parkinson, A mystery Wight Botanist identified," which was published in the 2009 proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History & Archaeological Society. We could not obtain a copy, and that made both of us even more eager to solve the mystery.

The initials F.G.S. after Parkinson's name on the book's title page might stand for 'Fellow of the Geological Society,' and that led to a discovery of an obituary for a "Cyril Parkinson" in the Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London Vol 26 (1920): "Cyril Parkinson was born at Hesgreave [Hexgreave] Park, near Southwell (Nottinghamshire), and died in London on August 20th, 1919, at the age of 65. During five years' residence in the Isle of Wight (1875-¬80) he made a collection of fossils, which was acquired by the British Museum (Natural History). He became a Fellow of our Society in 1880. He was a member of the Worcester Naturalists' Club, and an occasional contributor to 'Borrow's [Berrow's] Worcester Journal' on natural history subjects. He also contributed articles to various periodicals on natural history, geology, and botany, and brought out a handbook of the Isle of Wight Marine Algae in collaboration with Mrs. O'Brien, of Ventnor."

book jacketNow that I had birth and death dates and a first name, I used genealogy resources like Ancestry.com and found that Cyril had a sister Marian who lived with him for a time, and she was undoubtedly the illustrator whose signature is in our copy. Census records indicate that she was a woman of "private means," and this squares with the family's history as landed gentry with their own coat of arms. At the time of the book's publication, the 1881 census lists Cyril as a tile manufacturer living with his unmarried sister Marian in Bournemouth, not terribly distant from the Isle of Wight. Their parents were John and Catherine Parkinson of Southwell, Nottinghamshire.

A review of Wild Flowers of the Undercliff appeared in the October 11, 1901 edition of The British Architect and it makes special note of the illustrations: "There are eleven different species of the orchid tribe growing in the Undercliff, and this guide helps one to find these 'wildings of Nature.' The beautiful coloured drawings were executed by Miss Parkinson."

It is very satisfying to list the full names of the co-author and illustrator in the bibliographic record for this book. I would love to discover whether Marian Parkinson illustrated any other botany books, but that is still a mystery.

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Lemon: A Global History by Toby Sonneman, 2012

Reviewed by: Rebecca Alexander on 2013-11-27

book jacketI've always wondered about the warty etrog (citron, or Citrus medica) used as part of the Jewish observance of Sukkot (etrog represents one of The Four Species mentioned in the Biblical description of this festival; the others are palm, myrtle, and willow): what purpose did the fruit serve beyond the ritual, and how was this odd-looking fruit related to lemon? The answers to these and many other citrus-related questions may be found in Toby Sonneman's Lemon: A Global History, a volume in the Edible series from Reaktion Books (2012). It was a surprise to discover the important role of the citron (probably a wild species from northeast India) in the development of a 'citrus culture' that eventually gave rise to the lemon we use for its flavor. Citron, thick-skinned and inedible, was valued for its fragrance (mentioned in a Hindu text from before 800 B.C.E.). Its centuries-old use in Jewish ritual would eventually lead to cultivation in different parts of the world after the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E., when so many Jews dispersed across North Africa, into the Aegean, Spain, and Italy.

The lemon was probably an ancient natural hybrid, and its route to the Mediterranean is difficult to trace because of the confusion in written and visual depictions: lemons and citrons are hard to distinguish, and common names can be unreliable. Lemons hold an important place in Arab culture, and were also prized in Persia. Because of the lemon's need for water, farmers developed ingenious irrigation canals with stone tiles to regulate and direct water flow, these methods were widely adopted.

The first recipes using lemon appeared in a 12th century Egyptian treatise called On Lemon: Its Drinking and Use by Ibn Jumay, a Jewish physician in the court of Saladin. He devised a way of preserving lemons with salt, and mentions the fruit's medicinal uses for a wide range of conditions. Ibn Jumay's writing was translated, and lemon's culinary and medicinal fame spread.

Other points of interest:

  • Lemons were scarce and costly, and therefore a status symbol, in Northern Europe. You will find them in many 17th century Dutch still life paintings.
  • Cosimo III de'Medici grew 116 varieties of citrus in his gardens. The name Medici is possibly related to the name for citron, Median apple (Media being the Greek name for ancient Persia).
  • It took a long time for sea voyagers to figure it out, but lemons were an essential preventive against scurvy. (If you think about the term 'ascorbic' acid--something which is found in lemons and other citrus--you can see that it is anti-scurvy!) British English does not use 'lemon' in the pejorative sense of American English, perhaps a bow to the fruit's life-saving properties.
  • Harvesting lemons is a thorny business but the Meyer lemon has fewer thorns.

This pocket history reaches from antiquity to the present time, and is packed with colorful details and illustrations. You may also want to try making Ibn Jumay's preserved lemons, included along with several other more recent recipes.

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Stonescaping by Jan Whitner, 1992

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-07-01

Two traits stand out in Jan Kowalczewski Whitner's collected writings: her passion for stonework and her considerable skill at using words to describe a garden. Both are apparent in her first book from 1992, “Stonescaping.” Also apparent is her training as an historian as she expertly traces the history of stone in gardens as it has been used in Chinese, Japanese, and European traditions. She then presents simple but engaging descriptions of home-scale gardens that adapt and meld these traditions.

This would be plenty to fill the first book by most authors, but Jan had more to offer. She continued with an extensive practicum on building everything from stone hardscapes to rock gardens and even hypertufa birdbaths. This combination of history, design, and construction is what makes this book so unusual.

One paragraph from the chapter on rock gardens demonstrates this synergy. “If you have a flat site on which you wish to build a rock garden, use a construction technique first developed by ancient Chinese gardeners to introduce different levels to the composition by digging out low areas and then mounding the excavated earth into ridges and plateaus above them. Use half-buried, weathered stones to replicate outcrops, and work from the bottom of the rock garden toward the top.”

Excerpted from the Summer 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-07-01

You may wonder why a tour book more than 20 years old would still be useful and of interest. Details such as opening times and admissions are out of date, most of the gardens described have gone through significant changes, and, sadly, some outstanding gardens—like the Berry Botanic Garden in Portland—are gone.

The answer is the quality of the descriptive writing. Jan Kowalczewski Whitner had an ability to bring gardens alive, for example this opening about the Arboretum: “At first glance, it looks simply like a tranquil Northwest woodland garden, but Seattle’s Washington Park Arboretum actually contains exotic horticultural treasures around every bend in the path…”

I’ve read a lot of garden touring books and the layout for many is reminiscent of the Yellow Pages. By contrast, this book is a series of vignettes, stylishly inviting you to keep reading, even if the destination is not on your travel itinerary. Her description of the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, British Columbia was an excerpt for the Winter 1992/93 issue of the “Bulletin” and includes such descriptive gems as “…the twisting papery branches of the deciduous hydrangeas show off well against the berried hollies in winter…” or “a magical woods…bordering a shallow lake dotted by uprooted snags that look like drowned bonsais.”

Tucked between the major gardens are fascinating bits on minor parks, noteworthy plantings in public places, and private gardens that were—at that time—viewable by the public. If nothing else, this is a walk through garden history, and will leave the reader with a richer sense of our region’s gardening heritage.

Excerpted from the Summer 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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A Handbook of the World's Conifers by Aljos Farjon, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-01-01

A Handbook of the World's Conifers, by Aljos Farjon, was published in 2010 and is described by the author as "not a monograph purely for taxonomists. Its content aims at a much wider audience." This is accomplished in part by discussing the ecology, conservation, and uses of all species along with the etymology of the botanical name and vernacular names in local languages. Calling this a handbook diminishes its stature; this is a set of two hefty volumes with entries more typical of an encyclopaedia.

It includes all tropical species (about 200, which accounts for nearly one-third of all known conifers in the world) and an emphasis on description including--despite the author's stated intentions--extensive taxonomic notes. The images and illustrations that are included are of good quality, but are comparatively few and collected on photo pages separated from the related text.

The introduction to "Handbook" is relatively brief, but that's because Farjon regards his 2008 publication, "A Natural History of Conifers," as the real introduction. This is a book to be read cover-to-cover, and is a selection of essays on subjects "sometimes communicated at the coffee table in the staff room of your institute, but that would not have been allowed through by the editor of a scientific journal." This suggests light reading, and the author does show a flair for storytelling, but he also chooses pretty meaty subjects. If you are confused by cladistics, phylogenetic relationships, and other concepts of modern taxonomy and systematics, these terms are explained in language that a lay reader can--with a bit of work--understand.

Excerpted from the Winter 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2010-10-01

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."

Excerpted from the Fall 2010 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-01-01

bookThe Seattle based authors of Food Grown Right, in Your Backyard operate a business that gets homeowners started growing their own vegetables (along with herbs, edible flowers, and a few berry fruits) no matter what the challenges may come from inexperience or a difficult site. Colin McCrate and Brad Halm advice is great for beginners, providing a lot of structure and many details while including a teaching element with every entry. For example, by growing radishes you'll learn how to harvest at the right time for the best taste, while planting corn will teach you about wind pollination.

Excerpted from the Winter 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Orchard Mason Bee by Brian L. Griffin, 1999

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2013-06-01

The Orchard Mason Bee by Bellingham author Brian Griffin has long been my go-to book on this subject, but from just across the border in Coquitlam, B.C., is a slightly newer book (2002) on these fascinating garden helpers. "Pollination with Mason Bees" by Margriet Dogterom, takes a bit more of a do-it-yourself approach to creating and maintaining your bee nests, but if you're interested in this subject, I'd recommend referring to both books.

Excerpted from the Summer 2013 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Tracy Mehlin on 2003-02-05

Once you've spent a pretty penny on a new hellebore you will want to protect your investment by learning exactly what they need to thrive. Read The Gardener's Guide to Growing Hellebores by Graham Rice and Elizabeth Strangman for details on cultivation, propagation and essays on hellebore species and hybrids. Color pictures will whet your appetite for more of these delightful winter bloomers.

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Reviewed by: Tracy Mehlin on 2009-07-12

Start healing the planet right in your own backyard! Learn about the principles of ecological garden design, water conservation strategies and supporting wildlife from Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture. Inspiring anecdotes make this book fun to read, while practical advice, illustrated examples and long lists of useful plants help gardeners start transforming their backyards right away.

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Reviewed by: Ann Hobson on 2017-03-22

These books profile, or are written by, three of the best-known artists in the American bonsai community. Two of the artists are based in the Puget Sound region.

Principles of Bonsai book jacketDavid De Groot was the curator of the Pacific Rim Bonsai Collection (now the Pacific Bonsai Museum) in Federal Way for 25 years, until his retirement in 2014. His book Principles of Bonsai Design is the long-awaited new and expanded version of his 1995 classic Basic Bonsai Design. In his new book the author enlarges on his view that bonsai should be considered as a fine art rather than a horticultural novelty. Interestingly, he was a classical musician before becoming a bonsai practitioner, and is a collector of Asian art. There is little information here about how to train trees as bonsais or how to care for them. The emphasis is on choosing a design that references nature, but is a work of art in its own right. The book has many very clear drawings illustrating his points about proportion, balance, container selection and display options. Photographs show examples of trees in nature that can act as inspirations for bonsai design. This is not the book to page through for awe-inspiring pictures of bonsai, but rather to use as a reference when deciding how to convert starting plant material into an aesthetically-pleasing bonsai.

Gnarly branches book jacketThe second book, Gnarly Branches, Ancient Trees profiles the life and work of Dan Robinson, written by a friend and fellow bonsai enthusiast, Will Hiltz, with additional photography by Victrinia Ridgeway. Dan Robinson is the owner of Elandan Gardens near Bremerton and is known to many local residents through his display gardens at the Seattle Flower and Garden Show. He trained in forestry and worked for many years as a landscaper. This work, and his posting to Korea while serving in the army in the 1960’s, inspired an interest in bonsai. His bonsai creations are highly original—naturalistic and free-form, in contrast to the refined style of traditional Japanese bonsai. Many originated with trees collected locally from sites where they were surviving under stress, such as in bogs or on rocky mountain peaks. The appeal of this book is not just the story of a local personality in the bonsai community, but also the beautiful photography of the bonsais he has created.

Classica bonsai art book jacketFinally, Classical Bonsai Art by William N. Valavanis is both an introduction to the basic techniques and design of bonsai, and also a detailed description of the development of 100 of his bonsai creations over several years. The author is the founder of the International Bonsai Arboretum in Rochester, New York, the organizer of several U.S. National Bonsai Exhibitions and a nationally known bonsai teacher. He relates that his interest in bonsai began when he was 11 years old, and continued through his undergraduate studies in ornamental horticulture. He subsequently made many trips to Japan and apprenticed with famous bonsai masters there. The most fascinating aspect of the book is the insight it gives into the way the author plans a design from his starting material and then manipulates the tree to achieve his goal. He documents the process with detailed photographs often spanning periods of up to 30 years. Along the way we see how he tried out various containers or different orientations of the tree. Each sequence ends with a beautifully-staged photograph of the bonsai in its current state.

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Reviewed by: Karen Fardal on 2010-06-03

book jacket Have you ever passed by a patch of barren, overgrown or otherwise neglected ground and thought, "Someone should plant a garden there?" Richard Reynolds not only did, he established and nurtured a garden at his housing block's previously bleak site. And then he went one better, and founded a movement that has spread worldwide. He fervently believes that gardening should not be the exclusive province of those who own property or manage to score a coveted spot at the P-patch. Instead, he advocates taking over landscape installation and maintenance anywhere it is not already being done, or done well, in public and private spaces alike.

Despite his almost comically serious reliance on the language and "lessons" of actual guerrilla warfare (the book starts out with Che and Mao, shows a photo of seed "bombs" in the shape of a 9mm pistol, and gardeners can sign up at www.guerrillagardening.com to get a "troop number"), Reynolds aims to inspire beautification, so half the book is devoted to practical advice. He addresses the myriad issues an aspiring guerrilla gardener must face, from site selection to plant choice for hardiness and maximum visual impact, the non-availability of water, how to discourage vandalism, and, eventually, perhaps legitimize the established garden.

Of course, humans have been sneaking seeds and plants into spaces that are technically not their own for millennia - Reynolds just gave their actions a name and labeled it a cause.

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The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour by Donald Olson, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-04-01

Donald Olson brings extensive experience as a writer of novels, plays, and travel guides along with his passion as a gardener to “The Pacific Northwest Garden Tour.” He also brings the zeal of a convert. As a native Minnesotan and world traveler who now lives in Portland, he extols our gardens, our native landscapes, and our climate – yes, even the grey of winter.

The focus is on the three major metropolitan areas of the region: Seattle/Tacoma, Vancouver, B.C., and Portland, and this book is essential to consult for travel to any of these. Even as a nearly life-long Seattle area resident, I discovered there are local treasures awaiting my discovery, including the Evergreen Arboretum and Gardens in Everett and the newer gardens of PowellsWood in Federal Way and Soos Creek in Auburn.

Donald Olson praises the 1915 design by the Olmsted Brothers of the Dunn Gardens in Seattle, noting how the “essential Olmsted aesthetic remains intact” a century later. He notes that reds, purples, and whites were favored in the design, while yellow was “severely frowned upon.”

At the end of this Dunn Gardens entry, Olson mentions the newer Curators’ Garden, tucked in behind the visitor center and created by co-curators Charles Price and Glen Withey “…using a bright, brilliant palette of plant color decidedly different from the muted tones favored by Olmsted Brothers. There’s even yellow.”

No trips in the planning? This is still a book easily read cover-to-cover, especially for the history and the author’s often witty turns-of-phrase. The Lake Wilderness Arboretum “…rescues old gardens that have lost their owners and moves them phlox, stock, and marrow to new digs at the arboretum” while at the Elisabeth Carey Miller Botanical Garden it was “…Betty who wore the plants in the family.”

Like most garden tourists, I enjoy visiting destination nurseries, and many are included by Olson, especially those which have lavish display gardens. Of course, you’ll read about the gardens and nurseries you know, but don’t skip over the unfamiliar; I’m already thinking of a garden tour in the Portland area to share the author’s special passion for several of his recommendations there.

Excerpted from the Spring 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Walking Washington’s Gardens by Angie Narus, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-04-01

Angie Narus brings a tremendous attention to detail in “Walking Washington’s Gardens”, which is the perfect size for keeping in the car for quick reference. She limits her scope to non-profit or public gardens in Washington, and hopes her book ”…encourages more people to not only visit gardens, but also join the effort to preserve them for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Each garden narrative is supplemented with a page-length table of all the important facts, including nearby gardens and other attractions to batch together on your tour. She does the best I’ve seen of any “outsider” in understanding the scope of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens and its spread over two sites, the Washington Park Arboretum and the Center for Urban Horticulture.

The activities of each garden, including annual events, plant sales, and education programs, are well documented, encouraging the reader to think of these gardens as year-round resources. For example, did you know that the Meerkerk Gardens on Whidbey Island offer a class on “fairy house-building” or that the Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden has an annual Ice Cream Social? More immediate questions like “Can I have a picnic?” or “Do you have restrooms?” are also answered—faster than you could ever find on your smart phone.

Excerpted from the Spring 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Garden On, Vashon! by Karen Dale, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-04-01

“Garden On, Vashon!” is a most intriguing book, and one that’s hard to categorize. In some ways, it’s a basic gardening book, tailored to the specific soils and microclimates of Vashon and Maury Islands. At the same time, author Karen Dale is telling the history of the islands from a ground-up perspective, beginning with the last ice age, but rapidly moving to the human history of the last 100 years or so.

She easily moves from history to present day, from accounts she has researched to her own style of memoir. The result is charming and recommends this book to readers of regional history as well as gardening. Throughout there are lots of gardening tips, such as when to plant for winter crops and when/how to prune your apples. Or not. “All over the Island these old apple trees stand—carpeted with green moss, shagged over with lichen and mistletoe, into their second century but still bearing fruit.”

Vashon is famous for its history of fruit growing, with the Strawberry Festival a fixture of every July. Unfortunately, there are very few strawberries grown on the island anymore, even though the crop was a mainstay in 1909 when the Festival began. Why has this happened? This is a fascinating story, which this book addresses from a historical perspective, but also from the author’s empirical efforts to understand the difficulties of growing a good crop of this luscious fruit.

The stories of island nurseries—such as the Beale Greenhouses, once one of the largest producers of cut-flower roses and orchids—are thoroughly documented, as is the Vashon Garden Tour. This latter chapter includes a lot of names, but even a casual read through shows how closely tied the island horticultural community was and still is to Seattle and the rest of the mainland.

Excerpted from the Spring 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Real Gardens Grow Natives by Eileen Stark, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-04-01

Eileen Stark has a mission: to convince other gardeners of the Pacific Northwest to embrace the native plant palette in designing and planning our gardens. In this pursuit, she is not alone, but “Real Gardens Grow Natives” is one of the most thorough efforts to review the benefits of native plants, combined with basic garden techniques and design principles (she is a landscape designer in Portland).

Stark is a realist, knowing that “…naturalistic, ‘real’ gardens aren’t created overnight, and what will work best for your site may not be apparent right away.” She discusses in great detail the ecology and habitat of native plants and the animals they support. While size does matter—“…many wild species have space requirements beyond our wildest dreams…”—she still encourages us to see our gardens, however small, as part of a larger system.

The last half of the book is an encyclopedia of recommended plants, divided by sunlight requirements. Within these categories, the author has organized her list alphabetically, so that a grand fir (Abies grandis) is only two entries before the wee nodding onion (Allium cernuum). While I found this odd at first, it forces you to consider the full range of scale for your garden, and to put nearly as much thought into your groundcovers as the trees and shrubs.

Each entry has the usual cultural requirements of any garden encyclopedia, but here you will also find the environmental benefits of each, especially to wildlife, and other typically associated natives. There is also a handy list of traditional garden plants that these natives could replace, while still providing your desired ornamental impact.

Excerpted from the Spring 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Common Threads by Sharon Kallis, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-04-01

We all know that invasive, non-native plants are one of the biggest problems for the health of both our native plants and native animals. Sharon Kallis has come up with an interesting approach to dealing with these invaders – weave them into art! She accurately describes her book, “Common Threads,” as “…part philosophy and part toolkit.”

The toolkit is the easiest part for gardeners. An extensive technique chapter on making baskets, ropes, clothing, and other everyday necessities can be applied to many plants you have on hand. Kallis hopes that readers will apply her techniques to invasive plants wherever they live. Fortunately for us, she lives in Vancouver, B.C., and so her examples are easily found throughout this region.

The philosophy part of “Common Threads” more closely addresses the art community, encouraging the use of local materials as art supplies. She tells how her introduction to gardening was through a Means of Production garden, “…a place that artists could get involved and learn about where their materials came from [and] develop a seasonal awareness to material acquisition.” She’s also keen that an artist understands that resources are not limitless by asking such questions as, “How many plants does it take to make the six cups of dye you might want for that project?”

A significant part of the book includes interviews with an interesting cross section of artists and managers of public spaces, including some with involvement in both arenas. She encourages artists to think of the value of creating impermanent art using plant materials, as well as the collective good of group art projects in public spaces, and art as a form of honoring and memorializing.

Excerpted from the Spring 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Seasoned Gardener by Carolyn Singer, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-04-01

Grass Valley, California is on the outer rim of our region, but the gardening columns Carolyn Singer has written for her local paper are worth knowing about, especially for gardeners in the foothills of the Cascades. “The Seasoned Gardener” is a compilation of those columns and gives advice for areas with lots of rain and a wider temperature range than for those of us close to the Sound.

She is also very experienced with the ravages of deer, and throughout gives ways to manage Bambi. A couple of older titles by Singer, recently acquired by the Miller Library, address this concern more directly. “Deer in My Garden” (2006 – with much of the writing done while the author spent the summer of 2005 in Seattle) led to “Deer in My Garden: Volume 2” (2008), the first with an emphasis on perennials and subshrubs, while the latter considers groundcovers and edgers.

Both are part of “The Yucky Flower Series,” honoring the advice of her then 3-year-old grandson: “The deer wouldn’t eat yucky flowers!” So that is what she planted and her deer-resistant recommendations are based on her own experience, or those of gardeners who grew trial plants for her, knowing that in the interest of science (or cervid consumer selection), the trial plants might disappear.

While yucky to deer, the selected plants are all quite lovely to gardeners and would make many other recommended plant lists. Most are drought tolerant and adapted to a wide temperature range. Best of all, the author enthusiastically rates the maintenance requirements of most as “EASY!” to “VERY, VERY EASY!” Deer or no deer, these are great garden plants.

Excerpted from the Spring 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-07-01

Jan Kowalczewski Whitner immediately won my approval in “Northwest Garden Style” by explaining her approach to determining the most common landscaping problems for regional gardeners. She reviewed the reference questions received at the Miller Library over a five year period—brilliant! While I haven’t done the same exhaustive review of more recent questions to the library, I would expect the list of today would be very similar, making this book still very relevant.

Three of the eight topics she found in her research explore some aspect of what Jan dubbed a “natural garden”, specifically creating landscape plans that use native plants, attract wildlife, and conserve water. She begins each topic with examples from local gardens, interviewing the owners and/or designers, and validating the many approaches to reaching the same goal.

As in her other books, both sides of your brain are exercised. The photographs by Linda Quartman Younker suit and expand on the lyrical descriptive prose of the designs very well. Yet each garden is also summarized in a side box with practical elements like topography, soil, lighting, climate, and the impact of surrounding properties; concluding each chapter are businesslike checklists to make sure you achieve your earlier inspirations.

Later chapters delve into the limitations of slopes or very small properties, and with creating special settings using hardscapes or water features. Again, she begins from a very personal perspective: “All gardeners follow different paths to their own, personal epiphanies—those moments of divine illumination…by adding the anarchic element of water to my garden, I was inviting a dash of divine chaos into my soul at the same time.”

The only chapter in “Northwest Garden Style” that seems from a different era is on roses, as today this would most likely be replaced by an essay on kitchen gardens or similar. Roses are not my favorite plant, but after reading the description of informal rose garden in Portland, I had a new perspective. Here, “birds find a welcome in this rose garden year-round, where they can nest and forage in tall thickets, dine on choice aphids and slugs in summer, and pick over nutritious rosehips left on the branches in winter.”

Excerpted from the Summer 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Understanding Garden Design by Vanessa Nagel, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-04-01

“Understanding Garden Design,” by Portland-based landscape designer Vanessa Gardner Nagel(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.

Excerpted from the Spring 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-04-01

“The Professional Designer’s Guide to Garden Furnishings” by Portland Landscape Designer Vanessa Gardner Nagel 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 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.

Excerpted from the Spring 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Gardening in Miniature by Janit Calvo, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-05-17

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.

Excerpted from the Spring 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-07-01

Transforming of perspectives is Jan Kowalczewski Whitner’s greatest strength as a writer and I think it is best illustrated in this, her final book. When I first flipped through the pages (with excellent photographs by Linda Quartman Younker), I thought that Jan had traveled throughout Europe, finding centuries old examples of stonework. I was surprised, upon looking at the captions, that almost all of the gardens are in the United States and many were not very old.

I realized, too, that this is not a book to flip through. It is best understood by allowing Jan to lead you through at her pace and in her order. It begins with a review of various garden styles, from formal to natural, from Asian to English cottage gardens. After your attention is firmly fixed on the role stonework plays in these gardens, she shifts to habitats in stone, such as those found in fissures, screes, outcrops, and in wider settings such as a beach or in the desert. Each of these descriptions comes with a recommended list of plants.

Now the real fun begins. The use of stones as art, as tools, or as symbols of spiritual significance goes beyond the garden setting. Or does it? Jan addresses this with, “What significance do today’s gardeners find in this legacy of using stone in the landscape for spiritual effects? As the following stone features illustrate, gardeners either adapt the traditions of earlier cultures to their own landscape designs or they carry the spirit, rather than their precise form, into modern pieces.”

To finish, Jan features six gardens from across the country, clearly favorites of hers. Mostly beyond the reach of the home gardener, these are realized fantasies of long years or many resources or both. While the following statement was applied to a garden near Miami, it could be used for all, “Because of its sheer size and over-the-top opulence, Vizcaya holds few obvious lessons for the home gardener who contemplates adding a stone feature or two to the back garden, but it remains a compelling place of pilgrimage for those who relish its completely realized vision of stone-driven theatrics.”

Jan traveled extensively outside the Pacific Northwest for this book, but throughout she keeps coming back here for examples, and it’s fitting that she finishes at home with her last two gardens. The first, the Walker Rock Garden in West Seattle, faces an uncertain future at the time of this writing, but for Jan the later work of Milton Walker “…took on some of the fantastical qualities of structures by the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi”—high praise, indeed.

Finally, we visit the Ohme Gardens near Wenatchee. This was described in “Garden Touring” as like “a stage set for The Sound of Music”, and was used as the cover photograph of that book. In “Gardening with Stone”, the description is more thoughtful, “…Ohme Gardens stands as a quintessential example of mountainous, high-desert terrain, whose most characteristic natural features—stone outcrops, wide sloping meadows, and precipitous ravines—have been isolated, highlighted, and arranged to display their best design possibilities.”

Summarizing “Gardening with Stone“, and the blending of the inspirational and the practical that is found in all of Jan’s writing, is the concluding sentence of the Introduction: “Our focus is on those magical, metaphorical stone features that will spark the imagination, as well as on creative design solutions to common landscaping problems.”

Excerpted from the Summer 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-10-01

There are very few books specifically dedicated to arboreta, and it is always exciting when a new one is published, but even more exciting when the author lives in Seattle! In “Trees Live Here,” Susan McDougall has photographed and written about 33 arboreta throughout the United States, but her “home” arboretum is our very own Washington Park Arboretum. Of course, I turned to that chapter first.

McDougall’s camera leads the tour. While the photos showcase the color of Azalea Way in spring and floral highlights from the Witt Winter Garden, the author also favors some of the less well-known collections. The Pinetum and conifers throughout the Arboretum are highlighted, as are the Lindens (Tilia) at the north end. I need to spend more time exploring both of these areas. Elsewhere the subjects may be familiar, but the focus is often on unexpected features such as leaf buds swelling in spring, or close-ups of peeling bark.

The photographer’s eye is clear in McDougall’s description of the Hybrid Rhododendron Garden. “It is not necessarily a photographer’s dream, for though this collection is uniquely-colored and filled with leaves of varying brightness and size, the shades and angles of flowers and stems pose a challenge for the camera.”

Tearing myself away from “our” chapter, I found other Pacific Northwest arboreta presented, including the Hoyt Arboretum in Portland, the Peavy Arboretum in Corvallis, and the University of Idaho Arboretum in Moscow. Like in all the chapters, the photographs “…provide a sense of the plants in each arboretum’s collections, while the text serves to describe, augment, and inform.”

The introductory chapters answer such basic questions as “What is an arboretum?” and “What is their history?” beginning by quoting the Oxford English Dictionary definition, which is simply ‘a place for trees.’ Her research found the first use of the term to be by John Claudius Loudon in his 1838 encyclopedia “Arboretum et Fruticetum Britannicum”, which he translated in his sub-title as “The Trees and Shrubs of Britain.” Loudon not only wrote about his interest in trees, he acted upon it, establishing an arboretum in Derby, England. McDougall quotes from his writings to the Town Council, “The Derby Arboretum would not only serve as a source of recreation and instruction to the inhabitants of Derby and its neighborhood, but as a standard of nomenclature…the collection of trees and shrubs being one of the most extensive ever planted, and the whole being named with a degree of correctness scarcely to be found in any other garden.” This standard of excellence for an arboretum is still very valid today!

These chapters also tackle more challenging topics such as “Why are they still important?” This is partly answered in the criteria for those arboreta selected for this book, which require an accessioned collection with records of provenance, a staff that is committed to public education, and programs dedicated to outreach, conservation, and research.

As an interesting aside, McDougall did most of her research by train, traveling with her husband, David Biek, with whom she collaborated on a 2007 book on the flora of Mt. Adams. In the spring of 2011 they took Amtrak to all four corners and the middle of the country, visiting 28 arboreta and taking 15,000 photos, timing their arrivals in each location with the coming of spring. Quite an adventure!

Excerpted from the Fall 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-10-01

Mark Turner, another gifted photographer, has produced his second Timber Press Field Guide: “Trees & Shrubs of the Pacific Northwest,” co-authored with Ellen Kuhlmann. As with his earlier book on the wildflowers of the region (co-authored with Phyllis Gustafson), this is designed for use in the field. Quickly accessible inside the front and back covers are diagrams of the various types of flower parts, leaves, fruits, and seeds. The cover is weather-resistant and a ruler, in both inches and centimeters is handily placed on the back cover.

This guide is also very comprehensive. “While a few readers may gripe about the size and weight of this volume, we chose to err on the side of clarity and include at least a pair of photographs for most of the 568 taxa that have a main entry.” The authors also joke that this book was “…our excuse to learn the willows” and sure enough, 28 pages are devoted to this genus that is notoriously difficult to identify at the species level.

The plant descriptions begin with conifers, followed by angiosperms divided by leaf types. There are no keys, but the extra photographs, and their high quality, makes finding plants pretty straightforward. The range maps include all of Washington and Oregon, along with southern British Columbia and northern California, showing all the counties or regional districts where the plant has been documented. The maps are a fascinating study all on their own.

The helpful introduction is only slightly modified from Turner’s earlier book, but no matter: it is useful information on how to get the best use out of this book and make the most of your plant exploration. The descriptions of the different ecoregions could make a useful booklet by itself.

Excerpted from the Fall 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-10-01

Roy Forster was the first curator and director of the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, British Columbia, designing much of the plantings that help make this one of the outstanding botanical gardens in our region. “For the Love of Trees” is in some ways his autobiography, but in a most unusual format, as he uses his own paintings to tell most of that story.

His life has taken him to many locations, providing a wide range of subjects for the “Arboreal Odyssey” of his sub-title. After making comparisons to Homer, he clarifies that “the giants of my story are not fearsome cyclopean monsters but giant redwood trees, ancient venerable pines, and cedars that ascend to the sky.”

Many of his subjects are found in another gem of the Vancouver landscape, Stanley Park. While the large conifers are well-represented, my favorite piece is of a particularly large red alder (Alnus rubra), shown in winter time “when the red dormant buds, twigs and catkins show on the naked branches, contrasting with the somber green of the coniferous forest.”

Travels have given him many more stories, and the human elements that surround his trees are significant. A hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) is seen in front of the Glastonbury Tor, the legendary burial place for the Holy Grail. A venerable olive tree (Olea europaea) dwarfs the gates of Les Collettes, the garden of the painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir in southern France.

Throughout, Forster shares his philosophy on trees, which is also his philosophy on life. He describes the profits of his life as a tree planter in public landscapes: “The rewards are of a different kind, consisting mainly in the joy of observing the vigorous growth of the trees over the decades of life, knowing they will be there long after the planter is gone. There is a kind of love in that.”

Excerpted from the Fall 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-10-01

Bill Terry and Rosemary Bates both had extensive careers in journalism. It shows in the quality of their interviews in “Beauty by Design,” a book about gardeners in a “passionate pursuit of perfection.” These profiles capture in just a few pages the personality of their subjects, and the intimate relationship of gardener to garden.

Every chapter reads like a memoir. All would captivate readers within a wide spectrum of artistic interests as many of the subjects are artists in a different medium, including painters, a potter, and poets. Terry and Bates conclude that “these gardeners, indeed all gardeners, are alchemists of nature, art, and artifice.”

Some of the eleven individuals or couples profiled are familiar names around Seattle, including Dan Hinkley, Linda Cochrane, George Little, and David Lewis. Most are better known in the gardening circles of southwest British Columbia, but a common theme is they have spent a significant part of their lives in other places, and have been strongly influenced by very different climates, traditions, and histories.

An example is Robin Hopper, a potter living in Metchosin, British Columbia, near Victoria. He describes the fusion in his garden as “Anglo-Japanadian.” He is quite familiar with the various styles—he counts five—of Japanese gardening, and acknowledges their impact, but the description of his garden makes it clear that it has its very own style.

“The forest floor is all happy chaos: hostas mingling with hellebores (H. foetidus) in flower, the leaves of hardy cyclamen, bits of iris, various self-seeded woodland wildlings, and, most delightfully, the flowers of the white fawn lily (Erythronium oregonum). Birds and bugs must love this place.”

Excerpted from the Fall 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2014-10-01

A book that took me totally by surprise is “Back in the Garden with Dulcy”, a selection of articles by Dulcy Mahar, who for 22 years wrote a gardening column for The Oregonian in Portland. Clearly, I haven’t been paying enough attention to gardening south of the Columbia!

Sadly, Dulcy died in 2011 after a long battle with cancer, but she continued writing up to a few weeks before her death. Fortunately her husband, Ted Mahar, has edited and published a selection of her writings. I am completely charmed by the results.

While Ted is understandably also a fan, I heartedly agree with him when he describes her columns as “…filled with solid advice, warnings, lists, ideas and experiments worth trying, the latest trends, yearnings for a change of season, and more. Whatever the subject, Dulcy’s wit glowed through. Pick a week, and you’d likely find a quotable quote.”

I would add that she had a knack of reaching out to young or inexperienced gardeners, putting them at ease, urging them not to be afraid to just go for it. She also had a love of animals, especially her cats (although one lucky dog, Hector, gets a lot of press, too). One of her Wagnerian felines is posed with her on the front cover, “helping” in the garden.

An example of her advice: “Make a list so that you can get exactly what you need when you hit the nurseries and plant sales. Oh, I could hardly say that with a straight face. I am practically rolling on the floor, and the cats and Hector the dog are looking askance. Of course, it is excellent advice. But can I follow that advice? Hardly.”

Excerpted from the Fall 2014 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-10-01

In the summer of 2013, I visited Vancouver, B.C. Across the street from my hotel was a wonderful urban space, Robson Square; I spent one morning of my precious two days exploring this space. On the same trip I visited the dazzling new visitor center at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens. Although these two projects had widely spaced completion dates (1983 and 2011), the landscape architect for both projects was Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, the subject of a new biography by Susan Herrington.

Oberlander, in addition to being one of the premier landscape architects of our region, has lived a fascinating life – she and her family escaped Nazi Germany shortly before World War II. She graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1947, one of the first women to do so, and spent several years of her early career on projects in Philadelphia “…working directly with communities and incorporating their views into the design process.”

She and her husband moved permanently to Vancouver in the late 1950s when the city was…”a tiny town…I was able to conquer new ground. In the east I would have never been able to do that.” She also became a mother and this perhaps led to a strong interest in the design of playgrounds, using her three children as subjects in her research on what design elements work from a child’s perspective. One of her most famous projects was the outdoor play environment at Expo 67 in Montreal, which proved more popular than the more structured, indoor Children’s Creative Centre it adjoined.

The Jim Everett Memorial Park on the University of British Columbia campus is one of Oberlander’s more recent projects (2002). Intended for the children of students living in nearby university housing, the challenges were significant: liability issues surrounding playgrounds have tightened in recent years and there were already several demands on the space for junior soccer, festivals, and providing pleasing views from the resident’s apartments. The results relied on a landscaping – berms, sunken ovals, and small mounds – and limited hardscape, mostly seating areas for the parents, to create the play space. There is no playground equipment. In the planning state, one member of the public declared a “playground without a swing-set, slides, and teeter-totters was un-Canadian!” This same parent, observing her children happily at play in the completed park, commented to Oberlander that this was “not so much a Canadian playground as a human one.”

While these small scale projects have been very successful, Oberlander is best known for her larger works, which include subjects in a wide range of settings and climate zones such as the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia (1976 and 1997), the Legislative Assembly Building in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (1994), and the courtyard of the New York Times building (2007).

Excerpted from the Fall 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-10-01

Richard Haag’s life story, as told in “The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag”, a new biography by Thaïsa Way, has many twists and turns before he arrived in the Pacific Northwest. Growing up on a family nursery and farm near Louisville, Kentucky, he studied and was mentored on both coasts and in Midwest, but a two year visit to Japan, as one of the first recipients of a Fulbright scholarship to visit that country, he later claimed “changed my whole life.” Here he learned “conservation and economy…[and] working with what you have.”

He came to Seattle in 1958 to develop what became the Landscape Architecture Department at the University of Washington. One of the core courses, “Theory and Perception”, Haag taught from 1959 to 1996, “using it to articulate his vision of landscape architecture as a melding of the humanities, the arts, and the sciences, a means of stewardship of the earth and its cultures.”

He continued his private practice as well, and it is from this that he has his greatest fame today, primarily through two projects. The first, Gas Works Park, is the result of a nearly 20-year public debate. Haag’s ability as a designer is almost overshadowed by his ability as a political operator. His techniques for transforming a highly toxic site into a safe place for the public, all with the minimum of soil removal, is also a remarkable. He certainly mastered “working with what you have.”

The story of his work at the Bloedel Reserve is not quite as unqualified a success. Some of his designs, most notably the Garden of Planes, were later removed. Other plans were altered despite the notable accolades they received. A thread throughout this book is the challenges Haag faced to be honored in his profession, and—since he is now in his 90s—to see his projects live on as he intended.

Excerpted from the Fall 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Practical Permaculture by Jessi Bloom, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-10-01

What is Permaculture? The authors of “Practical Permaculture” go to considerable effort to define the evolving meaning of this term, while emphasizing the ethics and principles on which proponents mostly agree. The most important are care for the earth and the care of people.

The introduction continues with the basics of nature and how the earth “works,” and then the principles of design, using co-author Jessi Bloom’s house as a case study. After that a wide range of topics are considered, and options discussed for sites from the tropics to mild temperate zones – all ways to illustrate how working with our environment instead of against it has proven successful in many different settings and with many different peoples.

The book goes far beyond gardening to consider energy sources and their alternatives, the design and construction of homes, even the processing of human waste – essentially a handbook to all physical aspects of life, including our social structures. Near the end is a list of fifty plants that they consider useful for permaculture landscapes. The list was not what I expected – many of the plants were unfamiliar, especially those that will only thrive or in some cases survive in a tropical climate.

Does this all work? This certainly is a book for generating ideas. I would want to vet the list of the recommended plants carefully. Will they survive? Will they become invasive? If nothing else, this book will make you realize there’s much to consider in all of your gardening decisions.

Excerpted from the Fall 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Native Trees of Western Washington by Kevin Zobrist, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-10-01

“Native Trees of Western Washington” is accurately described in the sub-title as “A Photographic Guide” to trees that can be found west of the Cascade Crest. Each entry has several photos, and include close-ups of all the parts you will need to help with identification.

The author, Kevin Zobrist, is an associate professor of Extension Forestry for Washington State University but grew up and is based in western Washington, and is a Husky by schooling. He leads the WSU extension program in Forestry for the counties of the northern Puget Sound.

While the forestry background is evident in his descriptions of habitats and growth characteristics, his descriptions are well-rounded and engaging. An example is his interest in the production of syrup from bigleaf maples (Acer macrophyllum): “…it produces an exceptional syrup that has rich maple flavor with hints of vanilla and can hold its own against anything the Northeast has to offer.”

Excerpted from the Fall 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Conifers of the Pacific Slope by Michael Edward Michael Edward Kauffmann, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-10-01

If your exploration of native trees takes you on a trip farther afield, consider bringing “Conifers of the Pacific Slope” by Michael Edward Kauffmann. Inspired as a youth by a family visit to the forests of California, this Virginia native returned to work amongst the majestic trees that stirred his younger self. This field guide is a product of that passion and is designed for easy packing.

The scope is all of the native conifer species of the Pacific Coast from northern Baja California to well into British Columbia, and eastward to the Rockies. This includes some very impressive trees. In addition to the familiar Pacific Northwest conifers highlighted in the previous book, there are the many cypresses, junipers, and pines of California plus representatives from a few other genera, including the most impressive of them all, the coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)and giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum).

While intended as a field guide, the author provides lots of interesting bits of natural history with his descriptions and some wonderful maps that group related species together, including areas of hybridization. These, along with essays at the front and back, make this a book easily readable from cover-to-cover.

Excerpted from the Fall 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-10-01

Thor Hanson’s son Noah became fascinated with seeds at an early age. After reading “The Triumph of Seeds”, this is not surprising. Having a father who could tell such compelling stories could make the commonplace imprint on almost any child.

Adults will find Hanson's stories equally engaging. He is an excellent researcher, interweaving the importance of seeds in botany, ecology, and natural history with their significance in both human history and what you are serving for dinner. Why are the seeds of chili peppers hot? What's in it for the coffee bean to be full of caffeine?

These questions have chapter-long answers that introduce a wealth of characters, ranging from Christopher Columbus to Johann Sebastian Bach to a barista in Ballard. Through both history and modern culture the relationships between humans and plants (and animals) are very deep, on-going, and ever-developing.

As his son ages, Hanson involves him in his experiments, but the end results are often about more than just the research. Describing the flight of the seed of a Javan cucumber, with its six inch wing, he recalls, "We watched that seed fly for the simple joy of seeing something beautiful doing what it is meant to do. Standing there together, heads tilted skyward, we laughed and laughed until it disappeared from view—a papery wisp at the edge of visions, still rising."

Excerpted from the Fall 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Forty-Six Views of Montlake Fill by Constance Sidles, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2015-10-01

The three books by Constance Sidles about her experiences with birding in the Montlake Fill (also known as the Union Bay Natural Area) have been amongst the most circulated titles from the Miller Library. All are filled with her careful observations of the life in this urban wetland and her philosophical observations to broader life. In “Forty-Six Views of Montlake Fill” she takes a different linguistic approach: poetry.

The poems are distilled observations of this ecosystem throughout the seasons. Hiroko Seki, an accomplished artist of sumi-e, the Japanese style of ink wash or literati painting, has created paintings to accompany each poem, making for a simple but profound combination.

“In the pond,
A female Cinnamon Teal paddles with her babies,
Mother ship followed by seven little tugboats,
Fueled with green algae.”

Excerpted from the Fall 2015 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Wildflowers of Southern Oregon by John Kemper, 2006

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-01-01

“Wildflowers of Southern Oregon” was written by John Kemper, a natural history writer who settled in Medford, and recognized the need for a simple guide to the native and naturalized flowers of the region. He’s also a skilled photographer, and even though each entry has only a single image, this will work well for most readers. Plants are divided by color and by families within colors.

In the forward, Frank Lane, retired chairman of the Biology Department at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, writes that until this book was written, “there was no book for beginners covering all of Southern Oregon.” The author includes a short list of best hikes and to help with planning, each image includes a description of the location and time of year when the photograph was taken.

Excerpted from the Winter 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-01-01

The author of three more conventional field guides to wildflowers, Elizabeth L. Horn makes “Oregon’s Best Wildflower Hikes: Southwest Region” about hikes to see wildflowers. Throughout she uses only common names, but this helps move you along the trail.

“Both Table Rocks are known for their colorful displays of springtime wildflowers. We hiked the area in both early April and early May and found the wildflowers breathtaking.” Lest this sound a little too idyllic, she warns that the trail rating is “strenuous” and that “poison oak and ticks are plentiful, so stay on the trail.”

While this is not a field guide, many prominent species are highlighted with close-up photos (all by the author) with interesting facts that make each distinctive. Detailed directions and GPS coordinates will help you find the trailhead while close-up maps will help along the trail.

Excerpted from the Winter 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Flowers of the Table Rocks by Susan K. MacKinnon, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-01-01

If you have enjoyed a hike up one of the Table Rocks in Southern Oregon, you might be interested in “Flowers of the Table Rocks” by Susan K. MacKinnon. These distinctive geological features in the Rogue River Valley just north of Medford are the likely remnants of a lava flow some seven million years ago. Erosion has left two plateaus standing well above the surrounding valley, and the mostly open and grassy tops are home to over 300 plant species, including 200 wildflowers.

This self-published book primarily speaks through its numerous close-up photos, with enough detail to engage the serious field botanist, but presented by the author/photographer to help anyone who just wants to know the names of the flowers. “I hope that some of the photos will inspire in even the casual reader the sense of awe, excitement and discovery that I experienced in studying the flowers.”

Much of the text discusses recent changes in nomenclature and a table in the appendices records these changes. Other tables show times of flowering, common names, and – perhaps the most interesting – the meaning or source of the scientific names.

Excerpted from the Winter 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Conifer Country by Michael Edward Kauffmann, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-01-01

Michael Edward Kauffmann presents an excellent introduction to the ecology and the geology of the Klamath Mountain region in his book “Conifer Country.” He also helped me understand the names of the mountains. The Klamath Mountains include nine distinct sub-ranges beginning in the north with the Umpqua Valley of Oregon and reaching south to the Yolla Bolly Mountains west of Red Bluff, California.

The Siskiyou Mountains sub-range is by far the biggest, and includes all of the Oregon portion of the Klamath Mountains and a sizable part of California, especially closer to the coast. But to complicate matters, the coast has its own, separate mountains (the North Coast Range).

Confused? The maps that Kauffmann has drawn for his book will help tremendously. The main take-away is that this is an extremely rich area for botanists. “The Klamath-Siskiyou Ecoregion is world renowned for being a crossroads for biodiversity, representing one of the most species rich temperate coniferous forests on Earth.”

Following this engaging introduction, the author profiles the 35 conifer species of this region, including excellent range maps and photos, along with text that is suitable for the amateur to tell these often similar trees apart. These are followed by a series of suggested hikes, all geared for seeing the most of conifers, the richest being the so-called Miracle Mile. This square mile near Little Duck Lake, about 50 miles west of Mount Shasta, has over 400 vascular plant species including 18 different conifer species!

Excerpted from the Winter 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Mount Shasta Wildflowers by Jane Cohn, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-01-01

Mount Shasta in Northern California has an interesting flora, and also has one of the most interesting field guides to that flora. “Mount Shasta Wildflowers” uses the watercolor paintings of Edward Stuhl (1887-1984) for its images. Stuhl was born in Budapest and studied art in Austria and Germany before coming to the United States to work in stained glass. He quickly left that pursuit and ended up in northern California where he spent the rest of his long life painting the native flowers that he grew to love.

Four authors combined forces to bring this book into being, it appears primarily to make the Stuhl art collection, housed at California State University Chico, better known. They have also spent considerable effort to make this a worthy field guide by ensuring the taxonomy is up to date, providing a comprehensive and updated plant list for Mount Shasta, and giving guidance – through a series of recommended hikes – to finding each of the subjects.

A detailed visual index, with roughly inch-square reductions of the images arranged by colors, is a charming way to find your way through the book, but my favorite feature is the illustrated glossary with examples of numerous flower and leaf parts all taken from Stuhl’s paintings.

Excerpted from the Winter 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-01-01

In defining the Pacific Northwest for the purposes of collecting books for the Miller Library, we have included the portion of California north of the San Francisco Bay area. That inclusion was confirmed for me when visiting Mendocino County this past summer where I especially enjoyed the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden, which includes an arboretum of conifers and a closed-cone pine forest.

A new book in the Miller Library collection, “Wildflowers of Northern California’s Wine Country & North Coast Ranges,” highlights the herbaceous natives of this area and fills in another gap in the field guides to our defined region.

Author Reny Parker has solid northwest credentials, having learned to love the outdoors from outings with her father in central Oregon and British Columbia. She is primarily a photographer and this book includes an elegant collection of close up photos arranged by colors and ordered so that species that resemble each other are together for easy comparison. At the end, there is a section for ferns, grasses, and woody plants and maps of “Hot Spots for Wildflowers”. Since this book includes Marin, Napa, and Sonoma counties, it would be the perfect companion for a winery tour, giving you a chance to clear your head between tastings.

Excerpted from the Winter 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Flora of Oregon. Volume 1. by Stephen C. Meyers, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-01-01

The first comprehensive flora of the state of Oregon in over 50 years is in progress with the first of three volumes released this summer. This volume is focused on ferns and their kin, conifers, and monocots, but in addition to the expected and detailed plant descriptions and range maps, there is an excellent introduction to the wide diversity of ecosystems in this state, including the Siskiyou Mountains. “Rare plants in the region are concentrated on serpentinite and dunite and soils derived from these heavy-metal rich rocks. Many of these plants are narrow endemics of only southwestern Oregon, but several have ranges that extend into adjacent northwestern California.”

Taking a cue from field guides, “Flora of Oregon” includes a list of recommended places throughout the state to see the greatest number of plant species. Highlights in the Siskiyou Mountains ecoregion include the Table Rocks (although beware, there are geographical features elsewhere in Oregon that also go by this name), the trail through the Rogue River canyon downstream from Grants Pass, and the Mt. Ashland-Siskiyou Peak ridge that “is home to a unique flora that is transitional between California and Oregon floras.”

If you’d prefer to explore nature from the comfort of your couch (or one of the comfortable chairs in the Miller Library), you might vicariously go botanizing by reading the biographies of a dozen or so prominent Oregon botanists included in the introduction. I found the story of Lilla Leach (1886-1980) most interesting, especially her discovery of the Siskiyou Mountains endemic and monotypic genus Kalmiopsis leachiana.

In 1930, she was walking ahead of her husband John Leach, who was also an active field botanist, and their pack burros when “’suddenly I beheld a small patch of beautiful, low growing, deep rose-colored plants. Because of their beauty, I started running and dropped to my knees.’” May we all have such exciting moments when exploring for our native plants!

Excerpted from the Winter 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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How Plants Work by Linda Chalker-Scott, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-04-01

Linda Chalker-Scott, the urban horticulturist for Washington State University Extension and author of “How Plants Work,” uses both her own experience as a gardener and her education and research as a scientist to look at gardening aesthetically and at the molecular level. The result is very user-friendly way to learn more about how your garden operates from the perspective of the plants (and the bugs and the fungi, etc.).

That’s not to say this is easy reading. To get the most out of this book you need to spend time learning some terminology and concepts not typically needed when shopping in your local garden center. This effort will be worthwhile, as the author is very keen to steer you away from using products that will waste your money or damage your plants. She does all of this with humor and good examples which often come from her own garden in Seattle.

Her verbal illustrations are often quite vivid. “Imagine your head is an oxygen atom and your hands are hydrogen atoms, joined by your arms in between (the bonds). Now make a Y with your arms (perhaps performing a molecular version of The Village People’s ‘YMCA’).” After you’ve stopped singing this ditty, you’ll continue reading, but now with a nifty mnemonic to remember the cohesive and adhesive properties of water.

Throughout, Chalker-Scott is enthusiastic about plants. In a world that seems to favor animals, they have done quite well, managing “to use every body part and exploit animals as well as the forces of nature to ensure their spread into every environment.” All this is an “amazing accomplishment by a life form that’s literally rooted in place.”

Excerpted from the Spring 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-04-01

There are several books in the Miller Library collection on the wild berries and similar fruit of the native plants of the Pacific Northwest. However, none of these are recent, so it is delightful to add “Wild Berries of Washington and Oregon” to the collection, especially as it is published by Lone Pine, which has a history of publishing excellent field guides with nearly weatherproof covers, for exploring our region.

T. Abe Lloyd and Fiona Hamersley Chambers have created a practical guide to finding, foraging, and savoring the bounty of our local berries. It is a beautiful book, too, with excellent close-up photographs. If these don’t make your mouth water, the authors’ favorite recipes—and they are both experienced foragers—surely will.

This is not an ethnobotany book, although both of the authors studied with noted ethnobotanist Nancy Turner at the University of Victoria. It is not surprising that the entries in this book include the historical, Native American uses of each fruit, including the management of the prized plants that produce them. This includes more recent adaptations native peoples learned from Europeans, such as this treatment of red-osier dogwood (Cornus sericea) berries: “They were also occasionally stored for winter use, either alone or mashed with sweeter fruits such as serviceberries, and in more modern times with sugar.”

Berries are defined here in the popular sense, so included are drupes, pomes, and a few other fruits such as rose hips and juniper “berries”. Escaped and invasive berry producing plants such as the several types of introduced blackberries (Rubus species) are given equal treatment since you’ll easily find these, and most are tasty. Poisonous berries are carefully described, as are toxic parts of plants bearing edible fruit.

Excerpted from the Spring 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Urban Farmer by Curtis Stone, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-04-01

Curtis Stone, the author of “The Urban Farmer”, sums up the purpose of his book with a most succinct subtitle: “Growing Food for Profit on Leased and Borrowed Land.” This is a manual for a very specific but growing audience. While there are many books to provide inspiration for would-be urban farmers, I don’t know of any other that is so detailed in the nuts and bolts of turning this activity into a part- or full-time livelihood.

Gardening advice is mostly on crop rotation and timing, most profitable selections, and the preparation of the harvest for sale – all key points in running a business. Chapters cover market streams, labor, self-promotion, and finance options. The author is clear that there’s no point in doing this unless you eventually make a living at it. He also warns to start small, don’t overextend yourself, and be realistic about the demands on your time and finances.

Stone lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, a city of 117,000, but he is familiar with the needs and challenges of farming in both larger, denser cities and on what he calls peri-urban land: the larger, often 1-2 acre lots where the suburbs make the transition into the rural countryside. He gives the pros and cons of having all your crops at one site (often not possible in an urban setting), or the more likely model of having multiple plots.

How do you find these plots? He has several suggestions and provides a 10-point checklist to consider for each potential site. Before you begin reviewing the list, he does bend a bit from his typical, matter-of-fact tone by reminding the reader that you as a farmer are valuable. “Approach all negotiations [with landowners] from a place of abundance. You are the one in demand, because you are scarce. Land is abundant!”

Excerpted from the Spring 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Natural World of Winnie-The Pooh by Kathryn Aalto, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-04-01

I picked up “The Natural World of Winnie-The Pooh”, expecting it to be lightweight and quick to read, but instead I became enchanted and deeply engaged. The author, Kathryn Aalto, is a former Pacific Northwest resident (she taught at Western Washington University and Everett Community College) who now lives in England.

Almost any list of the best English books for children will include “Winnie-the-Pooh” (1926) and “The House at Pooh Corner” (1928) by A. A. Milne. Much of the inspiration for the places in these books comes from real places in the Ashdown Forest, southeast of London, and from the nearby farm where Milne and his family—including his son Christopher Robin—lived.

After setting the stage with a biography of Milne and of the illustrator, E. H. Shepard, author Aalto gives a detailed review of the story elements as they relate to real places. Fortunately, these places have been little changed in 90 years: “There are no overt signs pronouncing your arrival in Pooh Country. There are no bright lights or billboards, no £1 carnival rides, no inflatable Eeyores, Owls, or Roos rising and falling in dramatic flair.”

The last third of the book is essentially a field guide to the Ashdown Forest, including its natural and cultural history. One thing you learn is that despite the name, there are no ash trees, and much of the land is not forested, but it is a place of considerable biodiversity despite much human intervention over many centuries.

Excerpted from the Spring 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Mediterranean Landscape Design by Louisa Jones, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-04-01

For those interested in the gardens of Provence or in gardening anywhere along the northern shore of the Mediterranean, the books of Louisa Jones may already be very familiar. She writes in both French and English from her base in southern France. What I learned recently is that she lived in Seattle for many years, teaching literature at the University of Washington.

The Miller Library has seven of the books by this author, mostly on gardens in France, including French vegetable and kitchen gardens. The most recent, “Mediterranean Landscape Design,” expands her scope into neighboring countries and focuses on the human influence on the landscape, including many examples that may seem natural, but instead are the results of centuries of human activities with the land.

I found the chapter on clipped greenery particularly enlightening, as I’ve never fully appreciated the formal gardens I’ve seen in Mediterranean countries. Jones explains that in this region, the many native, broadleaf evergreens “…are already mounded by wind, drought, sheep, fire and frost.” Farmers prune these plants further for windbreaks. “When architects and sculptors then organize them into shapes and masses, topiary and parterres, they are not choosing artifice over nature, the tame versus the wild, but merely going one step further than the farmers into human intervention.”

Throughout the book there are many other examples of gardening with nature rather than trying to subdue it. This approach tends to deemphasize flowers, which are often fleeting in this climate, and makes “…no distinction between ornamental and productive gardening.” The author emphasizes this point as she thinks that “…Northern European cultures have effectively separated the two.”

Excerpted from the Spring 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Unveiling the Landscape by Teresa Moller, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-04-01

Central Chile is represented by one of the five gardens in Pacific Connections. As garden-related books published in Chile are rare, I decided to review a book (in both English and Spanish) by and about a Chilean landscape architect, Teresa Moller. In this beautifully photographed and oversize (and therefore non-lending) book, I was surprised to find much that reminds me of Mediterranean designs.

“Unveiling the Landscape” extends beyond the central, Mediterranean climate zone to the very stark and extremely dry Atacama Desert in northern Chile, and to Moller’s own forest home in the Lakes District of south-central Chile. The projects also range in the original condition of the sites, from nearly pristine, rocky coasts to areas long used for agriculture. In all of these, her designs show respect for the existing environment, whether natural or human-made. Often it takes a careful study of the photographs to discern her work from the original landscape.

I found the most intriguing project to be at Punta Pite, where a pathway begins at the Pacific Ocean, climbs up through rocky cliffs and rough woodlands, and eventually to a park of old cypress trees. Dutch landscape architect Michael Van Gessel described it in this way, “It is obvious that Teresa did not look for variety but simply discovered and displayed the existing variety in the landscape. This she achieved in both a most restrained and at times dramatic way. Landscape scenography at its highest level. The coastal pathway Punta Pite is sheer poetry in stone.”

Excerpted from the Spring 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Plants from the Woods and Forests of Chile by Martin F. Gardner, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-04-01

Books about Chilean gardens and plants are rare, especially in English. So it is particularly exciting to have a new book, this being about the country’s native flora. “Plants from the Woods and Forests of Chile” was published by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and includes 81 exquisite plates of Chilean plants, each with engaging, full page write-ups that include the importance of the plant both to native peoples and in today’s culture, its ecological niche and conservation status, and general propagation and cultivation advice.

All of the selections are also quite beautiful, and the botanical artistry is of the finest quality. Many of the plants are familiar, including Arboretum plants such as monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) and Chilean firebush (Embothrium coccineum). This publication is very much of the quality and in the style (and large size) of the great 18th and 19th century floras and as with those, we keep it in the rare book room of the Miller Library where it is available for viewing by appointment.

Excerpted from the Spring 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot by Peter Crane, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-07-01

Perhaps the most iconic of trees, the ginkgo has long deserved a book of its own. This has also been a long-time goal of Peter Crane, a former director of Kew Gardens, who wrote “Ginkgo: The Tree That Time Forgot.” Much of his book discusses the fossil records of the ginkgo, its one time vast range around the globe, and its subsequent diminishing to near extinction.

This story has a link to our region in its reference to the Ginkgo Petrified Forest State Park near Vantage, Washington, which is especially unusual because of the presence of preserved wood. Most fossil sites only have leaves. Even closer to home, ginkgo is the iconic plant for China in the Entry Gardens of Pacific Connections and there is also a fine example at the parking lot entry of the Graham Visitor Center.

The research shows that the genus Ginkgo, now monotypic, once had several species, and several closely related genera. No close relatives are living today. Despite considerable interest in this topic, “…exactly how ginkgo fits into the grand scheme of plant evolution remains elusive.”

While these stories are important, Crane is at his best in his accounts of the cultural impacts of this tree on humans. This is perhaps because he and his family lived near the “Old Lion” at Kew, a ginkgo planted in 1761 and considered the oldest in the United Kingdom. There are many specimens that mark temples and other holy places throughout China and Japan, the only places it has survived from antiquity. Since its rediscovery and revival in western cultures, it has also become an important landmark in North America, for example the giant specimen that Frank Lloyd Wright built his home around in Oak Park, Illinois.

The awe this tree inspires is captured in the author’s description of Hōryō Ginkgo in northern Honshu in Japan. “It is approached with reverence down an aisle of closely spaced, moss-covered stepping-stones. Local people visit it regularly…they explain the tree’s legends to local schoolchildren, and they work to spread word of its importance. This tree was a friend to their grandparents; it will probably also be a friend to their grandchildren.”

The ginkgo’s role in human lives continues to evolve. The male ginkgo, free of odorous fruit, has become a popular street tree in urban centers throughout the temperate world. Many consider roasted ginkgo nuts to be a delicacy and the seeds have been used in traditional Asian medicine for centuries, despite a low level of toxicity. More recently, and mostly in the West, the leaves have become the focus of potential medicinal benefits, with an extract considered to be a memory enhancer.

Excerpted from the Summer 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-07-01

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew have published a series of excellent monographs – in-depth botanical books about a single genus or occasionally a few closely related genera. While all are of high quality (and we have them all in the Miller Library), none match the level of enthusiasm displayed by the authors of “The Genus Betula: A Taxonomic Revision of Birches.”

While most monographs are written by intensely academic researchers, one of the co-authors of “Betula” was a garden designer (Kenneth Ashburner), whose passion was for the living trees in a designed setting. His frustration with the confusion in the nursery trade was a driving force in his authoring this book. His co-author, Hugh McAllister, is a more traditional tree botanist (having written an earlier monograph on Sorbus, the mountain ashes), but demonstrates his own passion as he marvels over a genus that spans the colder parts of the northern hemisphere.

The result is a book will serve a wide range of interests. It is excellent for learning more about the many birches in the arboretum (at least 50 known taxa plus many hybrids and unknown species). Each species is described with the expected botanically precision, but there is much, much more, including its ethnobotany and natural history, cultivation techniques, conservation status, and identification guides.

This book is also handy for shopping. Recognizing that buyers are drawn to white-barked saplings leads to a discussion of comparative “whiteness” of selections and the age of achieving whiteness by popular nursery stock. The authors are keen about other colors, too, encouraging the use of copper to orange or even pink colored forms of Betula utilis. The remarkable peeling habits of different species are praised as well, as is the showiness of the catkins and fall color.

One of the best features of these Kew monographs is the uniformly superb illustrations. In addition to high quality photographs and numerous diagrams, paintings by Josephine Hague make “Betula” a very beautiful book, too.

Excerpted from the Summer 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-07-01

“Hardy Heathers from the Northern Hemisphere” is one of the monographs in a series published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. As do the others in this series, this book contains beautiful artwork. Many of the paintings were done by Christabel King, a highly regarded English botanical artist, for a 1980s proposed monograph that was never published. These paintings typically include multiple specimens, in combinations that were chosen for their artistic merit but not always their botanical relationships. Many other illustrations are even more historical, dating back as far as the 16th century.

While this detracts a bit from the overall organization, it does make this book visually rich. In addition to the paintings, there are excellent photographs of habitat and flower close-ups, lots of range maps, and very detailed diagrams – I never knew the tiny bits of a heather or heath could be so fascinating!

Author E. Charles Nelson includes the genera Calluna, Daboecia, and Erica in his broad definition of “heather” and has a great deal of curiosity for the range of forms of his subject and is eloquent in his language: “…gardeners have an ineluctable fascination with the anomalous, even the monstrous and bizarre…” Although he considers his interests to be primarily botanical and historical, there is a lengthy appendix of award-winning cultivars and cultivations notes are liberally sprinkled throughout.

His history is perhaps some of the most interesting. Have you ever wondered if a white heather was lucky? Many have, and Nelson gives a thorough review of the history behind this idea.

Excerpted from the Summer 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-07-01

I have become smitten with Cyclamen. Both C. hederifolium and C. coum have been spreading throughout my sun-dappled and shady garden, providing both brilliant color when most needed and an endlessly fascinating pattern of leaves throughout much of the year. There is a lovely spread of C. coum in the Winter Garden and, as many Arboretum fans may remember, they were also a favorite of long time director Brian Mulligan.

There have been several good growing guides about this genus published over the last 30 years, but none are as monumental as “Genus Cyclamen in Science, Cultivation, Art and Culture” – the title only begins to captures the wide scope of this book. Edited by Brian Mathew, who is well-known for his many books on various bulbs, he does a skillful job of linking together the writing and illustrating skills of over 30 individuals.

Like all good monographs, this is first a superb botanical guide to the many species with highly effective photographs showing habitat and various naturally occurring forms. This is followed by an extensive guide to cultural requirements, both in the garden and the greenhouse, with reports from around the world by major growers and exhibitors.

“Art and Culture” is where this book breaks new ground. The earliest illustration of a cyclamen dates to the 6th century and it has been a popular subject of herbals and botanical books ever since. These images are here in excellent reproductions. This account also provides a surprisingly detailed history of botanical illustration and printing practices in western cultures.

In more modern times, cyclamen can be found decorating many media from pottery to jewelry to decorative cards. Here I discovered that Eugene Kozloff, local author of several books on Pacific Northwest native plants and marine life, is also passionate about cyclamen, and has an extensive collection of cyclamen postage stamps.

Excerpted from the Summer 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Organic Seed Grower by John Navazio, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-07-01

If you are already an avid veggie grower, and especially interested in organically grown, open-pollinated varieties, I recommend you read “The Organic Seed Grower” by John Navazio. This is not a beginner’s book, but it will build on the experience you have, especially if you decide to save your own seeds.

This is also one of the best books for learning about the biology of vegetable crops. The encyclopedia section is not in the expected alphabetical order but instead is grouped by families, each with an introduction to the broadly shared characteristics within the family. A detailed natural and cultivated history of each plant is included along with the growth habits and reproduction methods (I didn’t realize that so many of our favorite vegetables are biennials) with the emphasis, as the title suggests, on growing some plants on for seeds.

Navazio writes for a national audience but he is a local writer, living in Port Townsend, Washington. Many of the examples and photographs are from the region, including those of small scale farmers you may meet at local farmers markets. Some advice is impractical for home gardeners (it’s hard to provide a mile of isolation between squash varieties on an urban lot), but reading this book will give you a depth of understanding and greater appreciation of the fascinating plants you are growing for your salads and stir-fry recipes.

Why write a book like this? Navazio sums this up in his introduction: “My hope is that I have been able to deliver this information in a simple enough fashion to be easily understood and used, while at the same time remaining scientifically based...I’ll know that I’ve been successful in this when I see a dog-eared, dusty, and smudged copy of this book on the front seat of a seed farmer’s pickup truck.”

Excerpted from the Summer 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Apples of North America by Tom Burford, 2013

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-10-01

Tom Burford has a goal to restore the apple to near the diversity and prominence it enjoyed in America during the early 20th century, when one nursery catalog alone listed 17,000 cultivars. He is optimistic that this return to greatness is happening. To further this effort, he has selected 200 varieties that he regards as “apples of the real world” (not the supermarket), to feature in his book “Apples of North America.”

The A-Z encyclopedia of these varieties is the heart of the book. All are of American origin. For example, ‘Hawaii’ was introduced in Sebastopol, California and has a “distinctive pineapple flavor and is exceptionally sweet when grown in western regions.”

‘Criterion’ was introduced in 1973 from Parker, Washington (south of Yakima) and while it does well in our region, in more humid apple growing areas, such as the author’s home in Virginia, it does not color well and is more susceptible to diseases. It is noted as being one of the best apples for salads as it does not oxidize quickly after slicing.

Many apples do not store well but are delicious for fresh eating. Others are noted for baking, pie-making, cider-making, or even frying. Some don’t look that great. ‘Kinnaird’s Choice’ is mottled red with purple spots, and would like be rejected by most shoppers. However, it was a mainstay during the Great Depression because it was dependable and its good flavor worked well for all purposes.

The book concludes with a section on “Planning and Designing an Orchard”, a very detailed look at the cultural needs of apples, from planting, propagation (including rootstocks and grafting), pruning, and dealing with diseases and pests. He even tells you how to properly eat an apple, a “mind-expanding experience.” He finds it “…mildly irksome to see someone eating an apple while walking down the street, unaware that a body sense event is happening, and perhaps focusing on something else entirely at the time.”

Excerpted from the Fall 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Apples of Uncommon Character by Rowan Jacobsen, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-10-01

Rowan Jacobsen, the author of “Apples of Uncommon Character,” lives in Vermont and is fascinated by apples, but instead of a grower he is primarily an “apple stalker” to use his own term. He credits many professionals for his knowledge, including Tom Burford, author of "Apples of North America," who “helped me see the eternal in the apple tree.”

The author’s list of favorite varieties, including some that originated outside North America, is the principal part of this book. These include ‘Spokane Beauty’: “This Brobdingnagian apple is probably the best to hail from Washington State….yet its fame has not spread beyond the Northwest.” He notes it may be the largest apple known, but retains its crispness and “…makes wonderfully zippy sweet cider.”

Another favorite is ‘Hudson’s Golden Gem’ from Tangent, Oregon (east of Corvallis). He describes this apple as thinking it’s a pear in shape, coloring, russeting (freckles on the skin) and “…the intense aromatics. Even the granular texture is pearlike.”

Jacobsen is a well-known food author and he particularly enjoys sharing his favorite recipes for apples, and making recommendations on which varieties to use for each (although he also urges the reader to experiment). While I expected a number of desserts, I was surprised to learn that apples can be used in everything from appetizers to salsa to pot pies.

The photographs of each dish will have you drooling, and throughout the photographs of the apple varieties are engaging and distinctive, with some taken at Harmony Orchards in Tieton, Washington.

Excerpted from the Fall 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Pawpaw by Andrew Moore, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-10-01

Andrew Moore’s “Pawpaw” is the result of an individual’s love for a favorite fruit. While it is a native small tree to 26 states in the eastern United States, the pawpaw is still unfamiliar to most Americans.

To those who love this fruit, Asimina triloba has been sadly overlooked. The author compares it to the blueberry, another native that was relatively unknown 100 years ago, and was included among the “wild foods that Americans gathered and ate.” The blueberry, thanks to the dedicated work of a handful of enthusiasts, has become a mainstay of the American diet. The pawpaw lacked such champions.

Moore writes most of the book like a travelogue, visiting growers and enthusiasts throughout the native range of the pawpaw. You get the impression that but for a few twist of fates, the pawpaw might have come to share the blueberry’s popularity. While this is not a culture book, you’ll pick up some ideas from the many stories on how to grow your own and even more ideas on how to prepare the fruit for eating.

There are some suggestions that a pawpaw will grow well here, and one Oregon nursery, One Green World in Portland, is listed as a source. If reading this book whets your appetite, you can visit the nursery this fall for variety tastings and pawpaw ice cream!

Excerpted from the Fall 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Book of Pears by Joan Morgan, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-10-01

“The Book of Pears” is primarily a meticulous history book. Author Joan Morgan traces the human pursuit and usage of the pear from the empires of Persia, Greece, and Rome to the culinary heights of industrial Europe, especially in Italy, France, England, and Belgium. This British author does not ignore North America, as from the late 19th century on the story of the pear becomes global in scope.

Will this book help you with growing pears? Somewhat, with a brief cultivation section, but better help is found in the extensive directory of varieties, as the choices you need to make will influence your cultural decisions. Do you prefer early fruits which often don’t hold so well? Or good keepers that fruit late? Will these pears be used for eating fresh, canning, for cooking, or for making perry (the pear equivalent of cider)?

If you have a tree of unknown variety, another section on pear Identification may help. Presented in a chart, pear varieties are classified by season and by shape, including pyriform, the traditional pear silhouette, although pears come in many shapes. Further identifiers include color (everything from near white to deep red, including flushes of a deeper color), size, and the amount of russeting or spotting.

As any fruit shopper knows, there are pears and then there are Asian pears. The latter is given some consideration in this book. Each type probably developed separately, one in modern day Iran and eastern Turkey, the other in the Yangtze Valley, from two different wild species. There is evidence of hybridization between the two forms as early as the fifth century CE, but this possibly occurred much earlier.

Throughout the book are 40 stunning plates showing varieties of pears, including the fruit, both unripe on the tree and ripe and sliced for eating, along with the fresh leaves and flowers of spring. These works by Elisabeth Dowle are worthy of a folio book on their own, as they would benefit from presentation in a larger size.

This is an excellent book, I only wish it had been printed in a bigger format, partly for the beauty of the plates, and also to make the minutiae of detail, especially in the directory, more readable.

Excerpted from the Fall 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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A Rich Spot of Earth by Peter Hatch, 2012

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-10-01

Peter Hatch has been the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, near Charlottesville, Virginia, since 1977. I find his recently (2012) published “A Rich Spot of Earth” to be the most engaging of the Miller Library’s several books on Thomas Jefferson’s famous home.

Hatch is a skillful writer, blending much of Jefferson’s own words into his narrative. The narrative tells how the former President was enthralled with all matters of gardening, especially of food crops throughout his life, despite his many public duties. He was also deeply involved with the fabric of his local community and region, and seemed to value friendships that did not overlap with his professional career.

Not surprisingly, I found the chapter on gardening books in the presidential library especially interesting. I think all gardeners will find something of value in the discussions on Jefferson’s approaches to garden layout, planting methods, soil amending, staking, seed saving, and dealing with pests and weeds – you’ll easily forget that your mentor lived roughly 200 years ago.

The second half of the book is subtitled “A Catalog of Selected Monticello Vegetables.” Similar to many how-to books on vegetable gardening, this is an evaluation of the many favorite crops grown on the estate, broadly divided by the edible portion of each, including fruits, roots, and leaves. Most of the selections are familiar, but some were used in different ways than we do now, and some the modern reader may find a bit odd.

For example, nasturtiums were grown primarily for their seeds, while the flowers were only a garnish. Jefferson had a passion for sesame (Sesamum indicum), and experimented unsuccessfully with different pressing techniques to produce oil.

Finally, every gardener has his or her favorites, and “Jefferson fussed over his garden asparagus far more than any other vegetable.” It was only grown in “in carefully amended beds because this long-lived perennial…was a major investment.” I think most gardeners can relate to this type of obsession.

Excerpted from the Fall 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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One Writer’s Garden by Susan Haltom, 2011

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2016-10-01

Susan Haltom has written about restoring an historic garden, that of author Eudora Welty in Jackson, Mississippi. Haltom had the advantage of knowing her subject’s creator over the last few years of her life, learning that Welty did not want the garden to be “pretentious, inappropriate, or filled with plants chosen for showiness.”

The resulting book, “One Writer’s Garden,” co-written with Jane Roy Brown, is primarily an engaging biography of this 20th century master of novels and short stories set in the American south. Many of her stories have garden or gardening themes, likely inspired by the family garden. The final chapter not only recaps the restoration process, but also brings to light the gardening practices and customs of the garden’s heyday in the 1920s through 1940s.

Excerpted from the Fall 2016 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Bold Dry Garden by Johanna Silver, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-01-01

Twice in the early aughts, I participated in garden tours to the greater San Francisco area, once in April and once in September. A highlight of both tours was the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, California. I was delighted to learn recently of a new book capturing and celebrating this garden, and to learn that Ms. Bancroft, whom our group met briefly at age 94, is still with us at 108!

This garden has two distinct personalities, reflecting different periods of its creator’s gardening interests. In her childhood she was introduced to bearded iris by neighbors who were experts on these plants. When she had her own house, she developed a huge selection of historical cultivars that were just finishing their bloom during my spring visit. These are carefully maintained on a schedule of digging up one-third of the collection every year to divide and replant. The health of the collection reflected this high level of care.

As an adult, Bancroft became fascinated with succulent plants. Initially this was a collection of small, potted plants maintained near her home. In the 1970s, her husband’s removal of a diseased walnut orchard provided three empty acres on their property. Despite losing much of her collection to a freak freeze shortly after planting the garden out, she never looked back.

The results are sublime and I would highly recommend a visit to this garden anytime you are in the area. However, if that’s not in the offing, or if you’re just back and want a keepsake, I also highly recommend “The Bold Dry Garden” written by Johanna Silver with photographs – many gorgeous photographs – by Marion Brenner.

This book would happily grace any coffee table, but ideally it will be read and cherished and studied – the “signature plants” chapter could be a stand-alone book on succulents. If these plants are not your interest, then read this book for the story of Ruth Bancroft.

At age 63 she started her succulent garden, an untested concept in her climate at the time. She began with plants in gallon-size pots or smaller. At 83 she opened the now-maturing succulent garden to the public, and she continued working in it daily well into her nineties. Hers is a story to keep all of us gardeners going when we’re bothered by a few aches and pains!

Excerpted from the Winter 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Gardening for the Homebrewer by Wendy Tweten, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-01-01

A photograph of a frosty mug of golden ale, surrounded by hop vines and fruit, graces the cover of “Gardening for the Homebrewer.” I was immediately intrigued, especially when I learned that authors Wendy Tweten and Debbie Teashon live on the Kitsap Peninsula.

I expected this book to highlight garden-grown additives for your home brewed beer, but it does much more that, advocating growing your own hops, and even your own barley – all in western Washington! According to the enthusiastic authors, there’s also no reason not to grow your own pumpkins for Pumpkin Ale or experiment with varying mixtures of herbs, other grains, or perhaps hot peppers or spruce needles to make a brew that is distinctly your own.

Once you master these techniques, move on to making your own wine (using grapes or other fruit), cider, or perry (pear based cider). Each chapter helps with the plant culture, preferred varieties, terminology, the techniques of harvest, curing, and fermentation, and necessary or recommended additives and equipment. A final chapter explores liqueurs with the same enthusiasm found throughout the book: “…chances are if you can grow and eat it, you can turn it into a liqueur.” What are you waiting for?

Excerpted from the Winter 2017 Arboretum Buletin.

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The Gardens of Jeffrey Bale by Jeffrey Bale, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-01-01

Jeffrey Bale describes “The Gardens of Jeffrey Bale” as his first step in writing the book others have urged him to write. He started with the photographs, which seems appropriate for an artist who creates pathways, steps, walls, and other landscape features using stones and mosaic pebbles. Most images have captions, sometimes extended captions, but this is primarily a photo album of his numerous projects throughout the Pacific Northwest.

He begins with projects for his own house in Eugene, Oregon, where the garden hardscape is a shrine to many spiritual traditions. He describes how “lounging in the garden on dry days is a foretaste of heaven.”

While most of his work is in Oregon, visitors to Windcliff Garden of Dan Hinkley and Robert Jones near Indianola, Washington will see his fine work in a fire pit and surrounding terrace. He also built a mosaic over a cistern at Islandwood School on Bainbridge Island, with help from area school children.

Excerpted from the Winter 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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What’s Wrong with my Plant by David Deardorff, 2009

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-01-01

“What’s Wrong with my Plant” is a very unusual book. The first half is a diagnostic flow chart, with many either/or examples of plant problems, effectively illustrated with colored line drawings. Depending on your answer to the first question, you turn to another page for more questions to help you focus in on the exact problem. It’s somewhat similar to a taxonomic key for identifying plants.

Once you have reached the end of your investigative journey, you are directed to the relevant section in the second half of the book for a more conventional description of plant problems, including pests and diseases and close-up photographs to confirm your results.

Authors David Deardorff and Kathryn Wadsworth live in Port Townsend and tested their charts with the help of local Master Gardeners. While the book is intended for a broader audience, I think local gardeners will find it particularly relevant.

Excerpted from the Winter 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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High-Yield Vegetable Gardening by Colin McCrate, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-01-01

I reviewed the first book by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm, “Food Grown Right, in Your Backyard,” in the Winter 2013 issue of the “Bulletin”. This reflected their efforts as the founders of The Seattle Urban Farm Company to encourage people to grow food, no matter what their limitations of space or experience.

Their second book, “High-Yield Vegetable Gardening,” addresses a more experienced audience – gardeners who want the maximum yield from their space, no matter how large or small. Their ideas would work throughout most of North America, although here and there it reminds you of its Seattle roots, to the benefit of local readers.

They have selected three real examples (with pseudonyms for the owners) of gardens of varying sizes, one each in an urban, a suburban, and a rural setting, and use these as examples throughout – an effective approach. You’ll want to keep this book handy and use it for notes; there are many spaces for you to fill in blanks for your specific climate and harvest needs.

Excerpted from the Winter 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Mason Bee Revolution by Dave Hunter, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-01-01

Most of the bee books in the Miller Library collection are either guides to keeping honey bees, or field guides to native bees. A new book by Pacific Northwest authors has a different focus – living with bees as an active, vibrant part of your garden.

While this may include European honey bees, the focus is on less well-known native bees. Most of these are solitary bees that do not form hives or make honey, but they are outstanding pollinators. “Mason Bee Revolution” by Dave Hunter and Jill Lightner (both from the Seattle area) emphasizes the encouragement and care of Mason bees for spring pollination, followed by leafcutter bees for the summer.

To these authors, the bees are almost pets. While the care requirements are minimal compared to many other garden tasks, they still are important, and can be a fun and useful way to share bee knowledge with friends and neighbors.

You’ll learn that storing your Mason bee cocoons in the refrigerator is an ideal winter home, if you don’t mind them sharing the crisper with your salad greens. However, leafcutter bees are best a bit warmer, such as in an unheated garage. Why go to all this trouble? “Pest control is the primary reason for harvesting cocoons. We want our bees to thrive, not just survive, for next season’s pollination.”

Excerpted from the Winter 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Bee-Friendly Garden by Kate Frey, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-01-01

Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn in “The Bee-Friendly Garden” consider all the various types of native bees found in northern California and how to create an inviting environment for them. There is a chapter on recommended bee-friendly plants, both woody and herbaceous, always with an emphasis on natives. There are lists of plants to avoid, including those with double flowers as single, pollen rich flowers have more to offer to pollinators. Thinking from the bee’s perspective, you are advised to plant more than single specimens, otherwise they “…may not have enough floral rewards to make it worthwhile.”

Providing sufficient nesting options is critical. While the authors briefly cover human-made nests and bee “hotels”, they encourage a more passive approach such as using plants that have naturally hollow stems and leaving a few logs around. They recommend leaving some bare patches of ground, free of layers of mulch that are troublesome for bees to dig through. Of course, like all wildlife, your bees need to have a pesticide-free environment.

Excerpted from the Winter 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Going to Seed by Charles Goodrich, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-01-01

According to his website, Charles Goodrich supported his poetry and other writings with a 25-year career as a professional gardener in Corvallis, Oregon. “Going to Seed” is a fine example of his avocation. Reading through his selection of brief essays, organized by seasons, I’m keenly reminded of the many forms of life we can observe in our gardens. I was struck by this quotation from a selection by Goodrich titled “The Master.”

“It’s hard to take this bumblebee seriously, with his stubby wings, pudgy thorax, geodesic eyes. When he lifts his ponderous body in flight, he fudges several laws of aerodynamics. If this is how plants get pollinated, it’s a wonder the planet survives. Weird, how evolution flirts with absurdity.”

Excerpted from the Winter 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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The Carefree Garden by Bill Terry, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-04-01

Upon retirement at age 57, Bill Terry told his friends that he wanted to use his extra time to create the perfect garden. He already had a site. Although at the time he and his wife lived in eastern Canada, they owned property on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast.

“The Carefree Garden” is the story of making that property into a garden. He quickly discovered this wasn’t a solo effort. “We should not resist being directed by Nature to some extent. We can let her own a part of the garden, even control a majority share.”

“Mother,” as he affectionately calls nature, is an equal partner in this story. Typically, she speaks to him through a Steller’s jay and she has a lot to say – mostly telling him all the things he’s doing wrong.

This whimsy is very engaging and many long-time gardeners will have practiced their own version (I have), but this book is also very practical. Terry is fond of simplicity, concentrating on native plants, starting his plant introductions from seeds, and using only the simple, species forms when introducing exotics. His useful list of ninety-nine perennials that thrive in our climate are almost all species, many of them native.

He concludes that the perfect garden is “…like the end of the rainbow, that never can be reached. I wouldn’t know what to do if I did—reach it.” I think most avid gardeners would agree.

Excerpted from the Spring 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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A Garden for Life by Mary Greig, 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-04-01

In the Winter 1945 issue of the “Bulletin”, Else Frye recounts her trip to Royston Nursery on Vancouver Island, a significant journey at that time but with a mecca of rhododendron cultivars and species waiting at the end. “When we came away the car was so full of plants that the botanist husband could not see out of the back window; our suitcase was fastened to the outside and the very last box was firmly planted on my lap!”

In 1936, when the nursery was established, it was an eight-hour trip (about 130 miles) on mostly gravel roads from Victoria to Royston. Under these conditions, the establishment of a destination nursery is hard to imagine, but “A Garden for Life” recounts this engaging story.

The focus is on the lives of Mary and Ted Greig, who established and ran the nursery during its existence from 1936-1966. Many quotations, written at the time by Mary, provide an intimate look at their life. Other sources cite family and close friends from horticultural circles, giving historical insight to the challenges and passions of regional gardeners.

My parents lived on Vancouver Island from 1945 until the early 1950s. Beginning in Nanaimo, they gradually moved up island to the town of Campbell River while my father, an electrical engineer, worked with B. C. Power to install the first electrical infrastructure that connected the many communities with reliable power. For a while, they lived in Comox, very near the Royston Nursery. As renters who moved frequently, my parents did not have an opportunity to establish a garden. I don’t know if they knew of the Royston Nursery, but the stories they told of living in that area are very similar to those of Mary Greig. For example, in June 1946 a powerful earthquake (7.3 on the Richter scale) had its epicenter near Comox and Royston. Both my parents and the Greigs were fortunate that their homes sustained only minimal damage, but an estimated 75% of the chimneys in the area were destroyed. My parents joked about the event, mostly remembering how their piano slid from one room, through the doorway to another. Mary Greig had a similar light-hearted reaction. She wrote to family, “What was all the fuss about?”

Although the Greig’s nursery closed at the time of Ted’s death, the collection lives on at Stanley Park in Vancouver, B.C. Some 4,500 plants were moved there between 1966-1967. Almost 50 years later, Steve Whysall wrote in the August 19, 2013 “Vancouver Sun”: “…for avid greenthumbs looking for botanical treasures and keen to see something rare and out of the ordinary, there is nothing in the park like the Ted and Mary Greig Garden.”

Mary Greig continued to be active in rhododendron circles into the 1980s and many of the later stories in this book include familiar names from local garden clubs and plant societies. There is even mention of a new library named after Elisabeth C. Miller!

Excerpted from the Spring 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-04-01

When I first picked up “Design & Build Your Own Rain Gardens for the Pacific Northwest,” I immediately turned to the back to look at the recommended plant list. But this list is placed at the end with good reason. It is not the place to start!

Instead, the authors thoughtfully take you through the many considerations that go into a rain garden. First of all, why do we need them in our (supposedly) rainy climate? How do the various areas of our region differ in their rainfall and geological factors? Once that’s figured out, there is the human element. What do our various cities, counties, and other government entities think about or allow with rain gardens?

Once you have a handle on these questions, you need to look at your own property. What permits do I need? Whom do I need to notify that I’m digging a big hole? Are there incentive programs in my area for rain gardens? How do I want to incorporate this new major project into my outdoor living space, so that it only positively affects my home and the properties of my neighbors? Finally, what do I actually need to buy from the hardware store and nursery to build and plant a rain garden?

These are many questions, but this book takes you through them systematically and in great detail. Many instructive photographs and building diagrams will help, too. I soon found myself getting intrigued by the process. Building a rain garden is not a simple process to complete over a free weekend, but if you are serious about it, this book will be an excellent resource.

Excerpted from the Spring 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Japanese Horticulture: Origins and History by Yōtarō Tsukamoto , 2015

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-04-01

There are many books in the Miller Library on Japanese gardens and even more on Japanese-style gardens outside of Japan, but very little about the history of Japanese horticultural practices. A new book, “Japanese Horticulture: Origins and History” by Yōtarō Tsukamoto (1912-2005) and John L. Creech (1920-2009), helps fill this gap.

We are very fortunate to have this book at all. Although Tsukamoto and Creech had long planned this collaboration, the manuscript was not completed before their deaths, and it was only through the work of a group of Japanese editors that the book was published in 2015.

The authors begin their study by looking at the rich (over 6,000 species) native flora of Japan, introducing the plant communities by reviewing 26 sites in the national park system. This is an important starting point, as few of the plants used in early Japanese gardens were non-natives. A chapter follows on the iconic plants of Japan, including ornamental cherries, iris, and azaleas, plus a few introduced plants, especially chrysanthemums and peonies.

The book concludes with the long history of visiting horticulturists to Japan, and especially the exchange between that country and the United States, such as the partnership that led to this book. “Among the complexities of Japan/United States relationships, plant have played a singular but often ignored role in fostering a harmonious social environment.”

This book is a rare, new treasure in the Miller Library collection, and as such is not available to borrow. However, for all who are interested in the history of Japanese gardening, or perhaps after attending a tea ceremony at Seattle’s Japanese Garden, I recommend seeking it out when visiting the library.

Excerpted from the Spring 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Street Farm by Michael Ableman, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-04-01

“Street Farm” is not a gardening book, but I’m reviewing it because it has a powerful message of the benefits of gardening, or – more accurately – urban farming, especially for those who do not have much else to bring hope and well-being to their lives. Author Michael Ableman is the co-founder of Sole Food Street Farms, a charitable organization that includes four farms on abandoned lots in downtown Vancouver, B. C. This book is the story of that organization and the people it has hired to become the urban farmers.

The neighborhoods around these farms are not tourist attractions. The author points out that “…while Vancouver’s prosperity is celebrated, its concentration of poverty and raw desperation endures in the midst of the polished and the preened.”

There are losses on these farms, both of the produce and of the humans who tend the crops, but overall this is a book of hope. Ableman is very clear that this endeavor is not a panacea for the challenges of poverty, mental health diseases, or addictions. He also recognizes his is a position of privilege by always having “…had a place to live and food to eat, and the color of my skin is not black or brown.”

Besides the human stories, all gardeners will relate to the challenges of growing plants in less than ideal circumstances, including outsmarting pests, in this case a sophisticated rat population that only chooses the best vegetables. No less interesting is the harvesting and marketing of crops to the more than 30 restaurants and five farmers markets that Sole Food supplies, plus its CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares and donations of over $20,000/year to community kitchens.

Excerpted from the Spring 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Forest Under Story by Nathaniel Brodie, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-04-01

The H. J. Andrews Experimental Forest east of Eugene was established in 1948. At nearly 16,000 acres, it covers the entire Lookout Creek watershed on the west side of the Cascades. The Forest is used to study ecosystems, wildlife, logging practices, and many other natural and human processes in both old-growth and managed forests.

Started in 2003, the Long-Term Ecological Reflections program through Oregon State University sponsors “writers-in-residence” to spend one to two weeks in the Andrews Forest. Collectively, they have “…come to know the forest via the paths laid down in stories, stories told in anecdotes, photographs, essays, and poems, or in hypotheses, data, and graphs.”

The founders of this program are ambitious; they expect it to continue for 200 years. Fortunately, as readers, we don’t have to wait so long to read the results. Some of the early creativity is now captured in the book “Forest Under Story.”

This is a collection of poems, essays, and even field notes. Interspersed sections titled “Ground Work” provide the scientific basis that supports the more artistic writing. The black and white photography of Bob Keefer offers further context. This is a book to savor slowly, with lessons that are applicable to all coastal forests.

Excerpted from the Spring 2017 Arboretum Bulletin.

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Look Up!: Bird Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate, 2013

Reviewed by: Priscilla Grundy on 2017-07-01

This looks like a comic book with bird commentary, but it packs a barrelful of information for budding bird watchers. Annette LeBlanc Cate lures young readers with wisecracking robins and sparrows (and people). In the page on A Rainbow of Color, for instance, the European starling explains, “I’m covered with colorful speckles . . . like stars. ‘Cuz I’m a STARling. Get it?” Her goal is to encourage young readers to watch carefully, to see details, and to place birds in context. She also urges sketching birds as a way to increase focus and create a personal record. Cate begins the book by saying you don’t really need equipment to begin bird watching, and if you want binoculars, they needn’t be costly. By mid-book, she suggests it’s time for a field guide, and she lists several in the bibliography. So she moves the reader from a boy saying that bird watching “Looks kinda boring” to several pages on rather scientific bird classification at the end. The reader (of any age) who follows the book all the way through will have a solid start on the enjoyment of birding. And if you never go beyond reading the book, you will still have had a good time.

Published in the July 2017 Leaflet Volume 4, Issue 7.

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Reviewed by: Priscilla Grundy on 2017-07-01

After you read this book to a child, go for a walk in the urban landscape and ask, "Where could birds roost?" Children will be eager to look up and around for the kinds of nesting spots described and pictured in Urban Roosts. Barbara Bash has chosen a dozen species and multiple city sites to tell how pigeons, finches, crows, and falcons have adapted to the city, finding tiny but sheltering niches to call home. The colors are soft, mainly pastels, and the bird sketches clearly identifiable. Although this is aimed at the picture book set, adults may find themselves searching for city nests, too, after sharing this book with a child.

Published in the July 2017 Leaflet Volume 4, Issue 7.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-07-01

What is phytotechnology? Kate Kennen and Niall Kirkwood define it in part as “the use of vegetation to remediate, contain or prevent contaminants in soils, sediments and groundwater.”

How is this done? Kennen and Kirkwood use their new book, Phyto: Principles and Resources for Site Remediation and Landscape Design, to answer this question. They specifically target landscape architects, urban planners, and others who are interested in applying the lessons of the relatively new field of using plants as problem solvers in design, construction, and maintenance.

This book is superbly organized and very detailed, but the reader is not expected to have a deep understanding of the science or engineering of phytotechnology. Instead, the emphasis is on results, particularly on properties that have a significant history of degradation and are in close proximity to urban development, including active industrial, commercial, and residential neighborhoods.

Published in the July 2017 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 4, Issue 7.

There are many case studies. The examples are typical to any city, but some of the at-risk properties are surprising, and include community gardens and cemeteries – humans have a significant impact on almost any development. Once the hazards of a site are identified, solutions are suggested and clearly illustrated. This excellent book concludes with guides to additional resources and an extensive bibliography.

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One City’s Wilderness by Marcy Cottrell Houle, 2010

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-06-01

Urban forests are rare treasures, and one of the largest in the country is located nearby in Portland, Oregon. Forest Park encompasses over 5,000 acres of second growth forest left mostly to develop naturally since the park was established in 1948.

The third edition (2010) of One City’s Wilderness by Marcy Cottrell Houle, now available in the Miller Library, is an excellent introduction to the flora and fauna of Forest Park, along with its history, geology, and topography. Summaries of these topics form the introductory chapters, with highlights found in the extensive descriptions of 29 recommended hikes that follow.

The maps, elevation graphs, and finding aids for these hikes are top-notch. Even from my home in Seattle some 200 miles away, I enjoyed the narrative of these forest adventures located only a few minutes from downtown Portland. As author Houle concludes, “Forest Park’s pristine and natural features are what set it apart from all other city parks in the nation. No other urban park in the United States offers anything comparable in quantity or quality.”

Forest Park would be an excellent destination for your summer travels. I recommend reading this book to get the most enjoyment from your visit.

Published in the June 2017 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 4, Issue 6.

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-05-01

The subject of Environmental Horticulture, a new book in the Miller Library by Ross Cameron and James Hitchmough, is best described by the book’s subtitle: “Science and Management of Green Landscapes.” The intended audience is broad, but I would recommend it for professionals managing large landscapes used for almost any purpose, and for students researching landscape management principles.

This book covers many topics, beginning with the value of green spaces for human well-being and biodiversity. Many types of plantings are considered, ranging from trees and shrubs to bedding plants, and including formal settings and semi-natural grasslands. Even plantings as diverse as lawns or sports turf and green roofs or rain gardens are studied with the same depth of research as other types.

The authors define Environmental Horticulture as “…the subset of horticulture that is concerned with the use and management of plants in public and semi-public environments.” They discuss how this term is nearly the equivalent of “urban horticulture” or “landscape horticulture” with the difference uses reflecting national preferences. “Urban horticulture,” for example, hasn’t caught on as a descriptor in Great Britain.

The authors are on the faculty of the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield in England. Although some of the terminology is distinctly British, much of the discussion is based on North American research. One of the most valuable assets of this book are the references, which include many American sources.

Published in the May 2017 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 4, Issue 5.

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Seeds on Ice by Cary Fowler, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-03-01

In this morning’s edition of “The Seattle Times” (February 24, 2017), I was interested to see an Associated Press article by Matti Huuhtanen about an “Arctic ‘doomsday’ seed vault.” This refers to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault that is also the subject of a new book in the Miller Library, Seeds on Ice.

The Miller Seed Vault, located in the Douglas Research Conservatory, is the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and preserves more than 320 rare plant species from Washington. By comparison, the Svalbard Vault has over 4,000 species of food or agriculture crops from around the world. For most species, the vault also protects many, many selected varieties.

This book tells the short history (it opened in 2008) of the Svalbard Vault, its operations, and its location in the far north of Norway (with many stark and beautiful photographs). It also tells the chilling story of its first withdrawal by an agricultural research institution in Syria, that fortunately sent seeds to Svalbard just before hostilities erupted in that country. Fortunately, those withdrawn seeds are now being grown outside of Syria to replenish the original stock.

Published in the March 2017 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 4, Issue 3.

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Snowdrop by Gail Harland Harland, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-02-01

A few months ago, when I was considering potential books for the Miller Library, my first reaction to Snowdrop by Gail Harland was, “Oh no, we don’t need another book on snowdrops!”

I was wrong. This is an excellent addition to the library and is quite different from our several other titles on the genus Galanthus. It is part of the Reaktion Books Botanical series of books (we have many in the series) which are uniform in their ability to bring a fresh prospective to many garden subjects already well recounted by others.

These other authors provide extensive descriptions of the hundreds of snowdrop varieties that eager galanthophiles will snap up, while this book is more interested in the passion that drives such collectors. It is also a wonderful history of the role these early spring flowers have played in culture, including art, literature, and music.

For example, do you remember the white kitten in Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There? Yes, that was Snowdrop, who later became the White Queen. Did you know that earliest English translations of Schneewittchen by the Brothers Grimm was Snow-Drop? It was only after the Walt Disney animation of the same story that we came to know the heroine as Snow White.

For these stories and many others, this is a delightful book to read especially during these late, cold days of winter. Moreover, if you hurry, you can check out Snowdrop while its eponymous flower is still in bloom in your garden!

Published in the February 2017 Leaflet Volume 4, Issue 2.

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Urban Tree Management by Andreas Roloff, 2016

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-02-01

In the opening chapter of Urban Tree Management, editor Andreas Roloff introduces the common problems associated with trees growing in the public spaces of cities. He quickly dismisses these by concluding: “…the positive aspects are always likely to prevail. The occasional inconvenience caused by trees should therefore be tolerated.”

This no-nonsense approach is typical of this collection of essays by numerous German experts that Roloff, the chair of Forest Botany at Dresden University of Technology, has collected. Of course – the authors would agree – trees are essential to cities!

While this attitude may represent an especially German viewpoint, I believe it will resonate with local arborists and others who care for the trees in city landscapes. In later chapters, the problems the editor initially presents, and many more, are addressed pragmatically and in considerable detail.

The result is an excellent reference book. All aspects of tree health, maintenance, and selection are considered. Potential issues with governing bodies and conflicts with human activities are discussed. The educational, social, and public health benefits of urban trees are championed.

This book is somewhat rare in this country, so is for library use only. However, each chapter includes an extensive list of references, most in English, and many that are readily available in print or online. For another positive review and perspective on the value of this book, see the article by Julian Dunster in the Summer 2016 issue of Pacific Northwest Trees. It's available in the library, or online via the Pacific Northwest International Society of Arboriculture website.

Published in the February 2017 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 4, Issue 2.

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Native Plants of the Southeast by Larry Mellichamp Mellichamp, 2014

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-01-01

In the spring of 2014, I visited the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, NC. I was delighted by this extensive collection of herbaceous and woody plants mostly native to the southeastern United States. Many of these plants, or their close relatives, can thrive in our Pacific Northwest gardens.

These are featured in a book that was published later in 2014: Native Plants of the Southeast. Author Larry Mellichamp is the retired director of the botanical garden at the Charlotte campus of the University of North Carolina and has considerable experience with plants throughout the temperate southeast.

This book is much more than a field guide. Each plant is evaluated for garden cultivation. An extensive introduction discusses the merits and challenges of using native plants in a landscape, with principles that would be applicable in our region. The plant encyclopedia is interspersed with essays on broad groupings of plants with an emphasis on garden adaptability.

If this book sparks your interest in this region, consider visiting! The University of Washington Botanic Gardens is leading a trip to Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina this coming March. All the details are online, but hurry – reservations must be received by January 19.

Published in the January 2017 Leaflet Volume 4, Issue 1.

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Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside by Fiona Bird, 2016

Reviewed by: Dorothy Crandell on 2017-10-04

Let your kid go wild coverFiona Bird is a true champion of appreciating the wild outside world. Her work inspires deeply breathing fresh air, opening up the mind, and enjoying the excitement and mystery of the world we live in, starting early in life. Let Your Kids Go Wild Outside: Creative Ways to Help Children Discover Nature and Enjoy the Great Outdoors encourages children to appreciate their countryside. This Scottish author writes with strong feeling as a mother of six: "With encouragement a child will develop a personal relationship with our natural world, one that stretches way beyond facts assimilated in a classroom."

The introduction of the book emphasizes the value of a mentor and highlights the importance of the environment. Chapters include: Into the Woods; Meadows, Hedgerows, and Hills; Seashore; Water and Wetlands; and My Wild Garden and Kitchen. Each chapter describes and explains the particular environment and the wild plants and animal treasures that can be discovered there. Activity suggestions are rich exercises that are realistic, local, and impress all the senses of young citizen naturalists – blossoming conservationists.

Published in the October 2017 Leaflet Volume 4, Issue 10

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-10-05

Fronds and anemones coverWith fronds like these, who needs anemones? This old horticultural quip inspired the title Fronds and Anemones, a book of essays by William Allan Plummer. In his preface he warns, "I am an incorrigible punster, for which I make no apology."

Fun aside, these collected essays reveal the author as a keen and skilled observer of the native birds and wildflowers around his home in upstate New York. He also reflects on his discoveries as an avid gardener, with a particular interest in ferns.

This latter interest led him to join the Hardy Fern Foundation. In the summer of 2003, this organization, along with the British Pteridological Society, sponsored a "Best of the West Fern Excursion" to explore both the gardening and natural attractions found in Washington State. The emphasis, of course, was on those sites rich in ferns.

The resulting essays, which form a significant part of this book, make an outstanding travelogue to some of the best gardens of the region. These include public gardens such as the Elisabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden and the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, but many private gardens are featured, too.

These travel stories were originally published in the Hardy Fern Foundation Quarterly, Volume 14, No. 1 and 2 (Winter and Spring 2004). Those issues are available in the Miller Library, but I recommend reading Plummer's writings in the context of his other fine work found in this book.

Published in the October 2017 Leaflet Volume 4, Issue 10

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Reviewed by: Priscilla Grundy on 2017-10-06

James Smith was a lion of the study of botany in 18th century England, when botanizing became a popular activity for both women and men, and the study first entered English university curricula. This biography aims to bring Smith's accomplishments to twenty-first century attention. Son of a Norwich woolen draper, Smith was smitten with botany at an early age. His astounding accomplishment was to purchase all the botanical specimen collections and manuscripts of Carl Linnaeus, the great Swedish botanist, when Smith was only 25. Then he parlayed this coup into a career in botany which involved a vast output of books and papers, plus hundreds of public and university lectures. And he helped found the Linnaean Society in London, which to this day houses those collections.

Read from cover to cover, The Lord Treasurer of Botany offers a winsome experience that includes social striving, amazing luck, decades of incredibly hard work, and introductions to multiple English and Continental botanists, most notably Sir Joseph Banks, an early mentor of Smith's. The Miller Library copy is a reference edition, which means it must be read in the library, so reading cover to cover would require remarkable persistence. Here are some suggestions for shorter activities: If you have 15 minutes, do look at the photographs. This is a beautifully produced book, and the colored prints of plants, though few, are wonderful, as are the portraits and architectural drawings.

If you are a student of early Flora, start with the index and turn to the numerous discussions of books on mostly British plants. The book includes many by other authors, as well as Smith's.

If you want a sample of the biographical narrative, the opening chapter, "Roots – The Early Life of James Edward Smith," and the second, "London – the Sale of the Century," on buying Linnaeus's collections, are good starts.

None of these shorter stays will give you the ups and downs, the trials of health, the strained generosity of a father who wanted James to earn his own living (which he eventually did), and the long friendships with fellow botanists that the book has to offer. Perhaps they will encourage you to keep coming back for it all.

Published in the October 2017 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 4, Issue 10

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Reviewed by: Dorothy Crandell on 2017-10-26

Editor's note: An emergent curriculum builds on the interests of students, developing as they learn. Rather than being entirely set in advance, emergent curricula grow naturally from the chosen environment (indoor or outdoor), the curiosity of children, and the instructor's knowledge and experience.

A good walk stimulates both mind and body and provides the invigorating theme and energizing structure of Hey Kids! Out the Door, Let's Explore by Rhoda Redleaf. Walking is free, easy, and can be done almost anywhere. The walks are grouped into three categories: Nature Walks, Community Walks, and Concept Walks. Nature Walks include Cold Day, Windy Day, Trees Walk, and more. Community Walks can be Hardware Store Walk, Market Walk, or other walks in the neighborhood. Concept Walks might be What's It Made Of? Walk, Color Walk, Light and Shadow Walk, as examples. Redleaf includes appendices to help teachers organize the excursions.

At the early childhood level, Rhoda Redleaf's approach is emergent curriculum, with an emphasis on human relationships and language development while exploring common everyday experiences that are engaging and meaningful to children. "The most important learning task of young children remains constructing their own knowledge to make sense of the world. You, the adults in their world, provide the bridges from the unknown to the known," writes Redleaf.

The book is full of ideas to explore and to build on, involving flexibility and creativity on the part of the adults as well as an openness to seeing where the learning takes the children. Both adults and children take initiative and make decisions. Children's thinking and learning are documented with suggested activities related to the walks. Hey Kids! Out the Door, Let's Explore is a valuable resource for teachers with both preschool and primary school children.

Published in the November 2017 Leaflet Volume 4, Issue 11

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Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-10-26

Plant Conservation Science and Practice: The Role of Botanic Gardens is an in-depth study of botanic gardens, arboreta, seed banks, and similar institutions and the responsibility they have in the conservation of plants on a global scale. Editors Stephen Blackmore and Sara Oldfield have included the input of an impressive list of botanists, primarily at botanic gardens, to observe what is being done, and to consider improvements, especially through international cooperation.

Education and demonstration is an important function of public gardens in the promotion of in situ conservation. The know-how that researchers and staff of these gardens have developed in ecology, horticulture, and systematics also contribute to these efforts.

Ex situ conservation is supported by plant collections – many plants exist only in cultivated settings – and by seed banks, that both preserve and make seeds available for research. This research includes searching for solutions to food and fuel security. Demonstrating that these solutions do not come at the loss of biodiversity is another important message that botanic gardens teach.

In conclusion, the editors look to botanic gardens to continue their public outreach and education, but they expect more. They admonish these institutions to use their special expertise to "take their place as key agents for undoing much of the damage we have inflicted on our planet."

Published in the November 2017 Leaflet for Scholars Volume 4, Issue 11

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HPSO Quarterly by Hardy Plant Society of Oregon,

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-11-08

This past summer I enjoyed a three-day tour of Portland area private gardens, public gardens, and nurseries; a trip hosted by the Northwest Horticultural Society. While Seattle and Portland have been long-time rivals in many matters, both are wonderful cities for garden lovers and keen plants people.

I advise calming the competitiveness and instead celebrating our neighbor to the south by becoming acquainted with The HPSO Quarterly, published by the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon. Many plant society publications have no content of interest to non-members. This newsletter is the exception to that, with many articles that will be valuable to gardeners throughout the Puget Sound region.

For example, a recent article included an in-depth look at the newer hybrids of crocosmias. Written by Tom Fischer, the editor-in-chief for Timber Press, this article is both witty and informative. "Rather than planting boring old 'Lucifer', why not try the searingly scarlet 'Hellfire' or 'Lana de Savary'?"

The same issue (Summer 2017) crosses the border into our state with an exploration of the Wildlife Botanical Gardens in Brush Prairie, Washington. This is a new garden to me, but it is now on my must-visit list.

Other articles profile passionate horticulturists, highlight garden wildlife or outstanding designs, and even review new books in the HPSO library! Every issue of this publication I read cover-to-cover; I recommend you do the same.

Published in the November 2017 Leaflet Volume 4, Issue 11

Link to this review (permalink)

Colors of the West by Molly Hashimoto, 2017

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson on 2017-11-08

Molly Hashimoto has exhibited her artwork at the Miller Library for many years. Library patrons and staff alike have delighted in her original works, along with sketchbooks, prints, cards, calendars, and other depictions of regional landscapes and animal life.

It is very exciting to have a new book by Molly, Colors of the West: An Artist's Guide to Nature's Palette. This is in part the story of how she came to embrace watercolor painting en plein air (in the open air) after seeing the field sketchbooks of Thomas Moran from the late 19th century. His work was instrumental in the creation of the first national park at Yellowstone.

"This rendezvous with Moran compelled me to reconsider what it meant to be an artist—how to work, where ideas are generated, the purpose of art. I felt that I, too, had to create work in the field, to keep sketchbooks and journals to record my own experiences in the outdoors."

This book is also an excellent introduction to this style of painting and you quickly learn that Molly is not only an accomplished artist, but also an excellent teacher. "When I teach, I try to reach the 'inner artist' who longs to mimic the beauty of nature, without necessarily knowing all there is to know about color, technique, etc. This book, like my classes, urges you to just pick up a paintbrush and get started!"

Published in the November 2017 Leaflet Volume 4, Issue 11

Link to this review (permalink)


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August 01 2017 12:36:01