Gardening is as much art as science, and so grounded in specific locale that building a core library can be a challenge. It's worth the effort...

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Gardening is as much art as science, and so grounded in specific locale that building a core library can be a challenge. It’s worth the effort, however, because the literature of gardening is rich and varied.

The dirt smudges defacing so many pages in my gardening books prove they’re working manuals as well as vital references and pleasure reading. Here are a few you shouldn’t garden without:

Everyday guidance

“Sunset Western Garden Book”

Revised and updated, Sunset Books, 2001, $32.95

Reliable regional advice and thousands of plant entries make this the book to consult first on nearly any question. And don’t forget the oh-so-useful lists in the front recommending plants for difficult, yet familiar situations, such as seaside gardening, dry shade and fall color.

“Right Plant, Right Place: Over 1,400 Plants for Every Situation in the Garden”

by Nicola Ferguson

Revised and updated, Fireside Book, 2005, $30

You’re tempted to buy this because it’s such a bargain, and that’s even before you realize you’ll use it most every day of your gardening life. Crammed full of color photos and current cultivars, it provides a roadmap to successful gardening by helping gardeners place plants where they’ll naturally thrive.

Reference — choose one

“The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia

of Garden Plants”

by Christopher Brickell

and Marc Cathey

Revised U.S. edition, DK Publishing, 2004, $80, and worth it

This fat, authoritative directory is packed with color photos and descriptions of current plants.

“Flora: A Gardener’s Encyclopedia”

edited by Sean Hogan

Timber Press, 2003, $99.95

An international perspective from a Northwest editor, you’ll find cool Australian and New Zealand plants among the thousands of entries in two volumes.


“The Garden

Through the Year”

by Graham Stuart Thomas

Sagapress, 2002, $24.98

Written by a great British plants man in the final year of his long life, this beautiful volume will nudge you out into the garden in winter as well as summer.

“Color By Design: Planting the Contemporary Garden”

by Nori and Sandra Pope

Soma Books, 1998, $30

This remains the best book on color gardening, a work of art in itself that infuses the reader with color vibe. You’ll never see pink, red or green quite the same way again.

“A Garden Gallery:

The Plants, Art and Hardscape of Little

and Lewis”

by George Little

and David Lewis

Timber Press, 2005, $29.95

An exploration of gardens as art and art in the garden which captures the color sense and water wizardry of these Bainbridge Island sculptors.

Regional savvy

“Invasive Species in

the Pacific Northwest”

edited by P.D. Boersma, S.H. Reichard and

A.N. Van Buren

University of Washington Press, 2006

This brand new volume enlarges our concept of invasiveness and informs our sense of responsibility. From domestic cats to familiar plants, learn about the ecological impact wrought by the most problematic species in our environment.

“Cass Turnbull’s

Guide to Pruning”

by Cass Turnbull

Second edition, Sasquatch Books, 2006, $19.95

From renovation pruning to controlling wisteria, this basic manual provides step-by-step, how-to drawings and lively prose.

“Gardening with

Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest”

by Arthur R. Kruckeberg

Revised and enlarged, University of Washington Press, 1996, $35

A decade old but still the bible on how to grow in our own gardens plants native to our mountains, meadows, seaside and forests.

“Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest” and “Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest”

by Russell Link

University of Washington Press, 2004, $26.95 and 1999, $29.95

Practical strategies on how to coexist with the creatures around us, from a local urban wildlife biologist. From deer to rats to birds, learn how to protect your garden from animals, or how to attract them to it.