Books for Gardeners

Here are some great ideas for holiday gifts!

Since the next best thing to gardening is reading about gardening, make the gardener in your life happy by giving a useful and entertaining new book to dig into this winter.  As Roger Swain once said to a roomful of librarians, “You don’t have to be a good reader to be a good gardener, but it sure helps!” Here is a list of recent books and a few gardening classics, many by New England authors.

Gardens of the High Line: Elevating 
the Nature of Modern Landscapes         

By Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke
Published by Timber Press Inc.

This book is a luscious visual field trip to New York City where 1½ miles of abandoned elevated train tracks have been transformed into a verdant park. This wonderland is a series of gardens that seem to float above the urban landscape below. If a trip to the Big Apple is not in your future, this lavishly illustrated book transports the armchair traveler to this high-rise oasis in the city. It is not just a picture book; Oudolf—who was one of the lead designers of the project—explains the diverse plantings that make up this dynamic four-season landscape. Timber Press specializes in books on gardening, botany, horticulture and the natural world. 

The New England Wild Flower Society Guide to Growing and Propagating Wildflowers of the United States and Canada       

By William Cullina
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

For information on wildflowers and native plants, this is the best resource you could possibly find. Published in 2000, this was Cullina’s first book, and he has written four more about plants since. Then, he was the nursery manager at the New England Wildflower Society Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Massachusetts. Now, he is the executive director of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, Maine. If you want to learn about the mysteries of plant propagation and seed germination, this is the book for you. Cullina’s descriptions of the plants are spot on, and he gives information that goes way beyond growing and propagation to origins of names, medicinal uses and anecdotal information about each plant. 

Floral Diplomacy: At the White House      

By Laura Dowling
Published by Stichting Kunstboek

The author, who was the chief floral designer at the White House during the Obama administration, explains how she used flowers as “strategic tools for communicating diplomatic, symbolic and policy messages” at state functionsand events.   

Northeast Fruit & Vegetable Gardening     

By Charlie Nardozzi 
Published by Cool Springs Press

This is an excellent guide for beginning and veteran gardeners alike. It covers the basics of soil, site, seed starting, fertilizers, pests and preserving your harvest before jumping into growing information for individual vegetables and fruits. Nardozzi is a nationally known garden writer from Vermont. 




Essential Native Trees and Shrubs for the Eastern United States         

By Tony Dove and Ginger Woolridge
Published by Charlesbridge

As a Valentine’s Day gift for your favorite gardener, this book—which will be published in February 2018—will be an excellent resource for those in New England looking to create landscapes that are not only attractive but sustainable as well. The book contains a wealth of information on many native trees and shrubs chosen for their reliability, beauty and adaptability. Especially helpful are the scale drawings included with each entry, showing the young and mature sizes of the plants—no more unpleasant surprises when a small tree becomes a massive specimen that has to be moved or cut down. Uses in the landscape; pests and diseases; and appropriate companion plants are covered in each entry. Between them, the two authors have seventy-five years of horticultural experience. 

The Garden Primer

By Barbara Damrosch
Published by Workman Publishing Company

First released in 1988, this new edition has been updated by Damrosch to reflect her switch to organic methods as well as changes in tools, techniques and new plant varieties, plus tips she has learned in the twenty years between the books. This is the gardener’s bible. It is heavy on text without many pictures, making it an excellent reference book, but probably not one to snuggle up with and read cover to cover by the fire. It is well indexed, and covers topics from annuals and perennials to vegetables and fruits, lawns, roses, shrubs and more. Damrosch presents the facts in an orderly and rational way, with none of the high drama and hyperbole that many organic gardening books espouse. This should be on every gardener’s bookshelf. 

Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest, and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms    

By Erin Benzakein 
Published by Chronicle Books

This is a beautifully illustrated book for cut-flower enthusiasts who wish to grow their own. Cultural advice for more than 175 varieties of flowers, tricks to extend their vase-life and tips on arranging them in artful ways are given season by season. Unusual edibles and perennials are included as well as the expected annuals, such as snapdragons and zinnias. Although the farm is located in the Washington State’s Skagit Valley, much of the advice is still useful to New England gardeners. Benzakein is one of the top growers in the local flower movement, and her passion for flower farming is evident on each page.

Stone Building

By Kevin Gardner with photography by Edie Currier
Published by Countryman Press

If you live anywhere in New Hampshire, you are familiar with stone walls, and building or rebuilding one often leads to mixed success. For Hopkinton resident Gardner, this process was a family business, and he has been building stone walls for more than forty years. A multi-talented man, Gardner is also a teacher, actor, writer and director who teaches Shakespeare at St. Paul’s Advanced Studies Program each summer. Gardner is a popular New Hampshire Humanities speaker, presenting his Discovering Stone Walls program all over the state. This book takes up where his first book, The Granite Kiss, leaves off, with more specific advice on building walls as well as fire pits, walkways and patios. Currier, a Hillsborough native, uses her photographs to illustrate each step as well as show examples of new and historic stone structures and walls. This is a must-have book for the stone builder lurking in us all.

An Island Garden     

By Celia Thaxter with pictures and illuminations by Childe Hassam
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Every New Hampshire gardener needs to read this classic by the grande dame of the Isles of Shoals and then pay a visit to her garden on Appledore Island. Writing in 1894, Thaxter talks about starting seeds for her garden in eggshells, transporting the plants by tugboat from her winter home in Portsmouth out to the island and transplanting them into the cutting garden in front of her cottage on Appledore. In her lyrical way, Thaxter tells us of everything that is happening in her garden and on the island over the summer. Hassam’s impressionist paintings add a charming touch of color and illustrate a slice of life in the 1890s. Thanks to the plan of the garden with its list of flowers, modern-day gardeners at the Shoals are able to re-create Thaxter’s garden with historical accuracy. 

The New England Gardener’s Year       

By Reeser Manley and Marjorie Peronto
Published by Cadent Publishing

Written by a couple from Maine (Manley has a PhD in horticultural science; Peronto has a master of science in environmental education), the book is a month-by-month breakdown of what’s happening and what gardeners should be working on in zones 3 through 7. The book also includes maintenance charts for all types of garden chores, and highlights not only the authors’ garden but seven others located throughout the region. Emphasis throughout the book is on gardening in tune with nature. Interesting personal essays are included for each month, and the authors’ writing is highly readable and compelling. Both newbies and experienced gardeners will find this book very useful. After reading it, you will want to meet the authors!

The Shady Lady’s Guide to Northeast Shade Gardening        

By Amy Ziffer 
Published by the University Press of New England (UPNE) in Lebanon (UPNE is a great resource when looking for books with local appeal) 

This book is divided into two parts. The first half covers shade-gardening techniques while the second half is a highly informative, well-illustrated plant gallery. Ziffer emphasizes the idea of “backbone plants”—which she says should make up between 75 percent and 
80 percent of the shade garden—and the accent plants that complement them. Zones are color-coded, and plants for light shade and dark shade are discussed separately. This is a great resource for anyone dealing with a 
shady location.


Bayswater Book Company in Center Harbor 
(603) 253-8858 •

Country Bookseller in Wolfeboro 
(603) 569-6030 •

Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord  
(603) 224-0562 •

Innisfree Bookshop in Meredith • (603) 279-3905 

MainStreet BookEnds in Warner  
(603) 456-2700 •

Morgan Hill Bookstore in New London 
(603) 526-5850 •

RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth 
(603) 431-2100 • www.

Toadstool Bookshops in Peterborough, Keene and Milford •

Water Street Books in Exeter 
(603) 778-9731 • 

White Birch Books in North Conway
(603) 356-3200 •

Categories: Gardening & Landscape