Compiled by Susan Wilhelm, Extension Master Gardener
For many gardeners, reading about gardening and plants is the next best thing to working in their own garden or tending their containers or houseplants. If you are looking for a special book to give your favorite gardener this holiday season, consider one of the following Extension Master Gardener favorites.
- Anything by Dr. Doug Tallamy, especially Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard (Timber Press, 2020). His ground-breaking work, his clearly stated points about stewardship of the earth, and his optimistic approach have had a major impact on the way I think of home gardening.
- Climate-Wise Landscaping by Sue Reed and Ginny Stibolt (with an introduction by Doug Tallamy) (New Society Publishing, 2018), provides clear, step-by-step practical actions gardeners can take regarding management of soil, water, hardscape, and ornamental, and food plants to implement the truly sustainable gardening practices that Tallamy urges us to adopt.
- The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: The Essential Guide to Planting and Pruning Techniques by Tracy DiSabato-Aust (Timber Press, 2017). This classic covers a range of topics for growing perennials successfully.
- The Complete Gardener by Monty Don (DK 2021, updated from the 2003). Even though Monty Don is in the UK, there is so much to learn from this book. Planning different types of gardens (edible and ornamental), timing of plants, how to attract wildlife, and principles of sustainable gardening are just a few of the topics covered in this readable and informative volume.
- Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style by Christin Geall (Princeton Architectural Press, 2020) is a wonderful book for anyone who loves flowers — their history, their meaning, and creating beautiful arrangements that last with them. The author both grows and arranges her flowers and has an artist’s way with putting all the elements together. This is a beautiful book to both look through and learn from.
- Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life—The Plants and Places That Inspired the Iconic Poet, by Marta McDowell (Timber Press, 2019). This wonderful book follows Dickinson’s gardening throughout her life, combining biographical information, garden and plant descriptions, and selected poems. Illustrated with botanical paintings by artists working in Dickinson’s lifetime, it is as beautiful to look at as it is fun to read.
- The Essential Earthman, Henry Mitchell on Gardening by Henry Mitchell, (Farrar Straus Giroux, New York, 1981 and later editions). The Essential Earthman, a collection of selected Henry Mitchell Washington Post gardening columns is a delight to read. Here is an excerpt from his brief preface: “Leisure, slowness, contemplation: in an age of presumed efficiency and professionalism, these amateur virtues are perhaps despised, but they may underlie the greatest joys of gardening, and of life. It is not enough to grow the most beautiful things. It is even better to explore them, to identify with them, and to grow into a rather new consciousness of them. The gardener is, at last, more important than the garden even, and if any book can prod a human into that fair country in which the proudest boast is to say, ‘I’m a gardener of sorts,’ then the book is not worthless. And that is my excuse for this one. H.M.”
And for the house plant enthusiast—
- Designing with Succulents by Debra Lee Baldwin (Timber Press, 2017) is a beautiful coffee table-sized book, with great projects, and a wealth of information.
- The Indestructible HousePlant: 200 Beautiful Plants that Everyone Can Grow by Tovah Martin is a great resource for beginners or if you are looking for easy-to-grow houseplants to expand your existing collection,
- Wild at Home, Wild Interiors, and Wild Creations by Baltimore-based author, Hilton Carter (CICO Books, 2019, 2020, and 2021 respectively). These books are stunning, filled with great information and lovely inspirational photos.
- The House Plant Troubleshooter by Andrew Bicknell and George Seddon (Random House Value Publishing, 1987) is a “go-to” resource for all things concerning houseplants. Used copies of the 1986 (Octopus Publishing) and 1987 editions are available for sale online.