As the days grow shorter, it’s time to come inside and read about gardening.
THE GARDENING YEAR has its own lovely, inexorable rhythm. As the days shorten, we take a break from actively tending gardens and find time to come indoors and read about them. With first frost only a few weeks away, which new titles beckon?
The beauties of autumn are less obvious than those of spring and summer. For those of us who love this season beyond all others, it’s a great pleasure to see its wabi sabi nature celebrated, and its mysteries explained. “Seeing Seeds: A Journey into the World of Seedheads, Pods, and Fruit” (photographed by Robert Llewellyn, written by Teri Dunn Chace, Timber Press, 2015, $29.95) is a marvelously artistic and detailed look at how plants perpetuate themselves.
Llewellyn’s microphotography is revelatory and Chace’s text is readable and fun. The energy and ingenuity of seeds practically jumps off the pages of the book; most surprising is seeing familiar plants magnified, as in the intricacy of an acorn and the tissue-thin, coin-like pods of lunaria. You’ll never look at a pomegranate, a chive, or a maple tree in quite the same way, nor mistake flowers for a plant’s ultimate expression.
Thomas Rainer and Claudia West’s new book offers strategies for more resilient, self-sustaining landscapes, especially welcome after our drought-plagued summer. “Planting in a Post-Wild World” (Timber Press, 2015, $39.95) takes a modernist approach to gardening that is all about how to ensure that our gardens will survive and flourish in an era of climate change. The gardens in the book are compelling in a more naturalistic, wilder way than typical beds and borders. While the visual emphasis is East Coast, the advice on creating harmonious communities of plants suited to the conditions where you live transcends style. The heart of the book is about how to plant and nourish gardens along toward drought-tolerant resiliency.
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Creating well-draining, worm-rich organic soil is fundamental to healthy gardening, and Elizabeth Murphy tells us how to do just that in “Building Soil: A Down-to-Earth Approach” (Cool Springs Press, 2015, $22.99). “For me, it’s a love affair,” writes Murphy. “I find nothing more satisfying than digging between my garden rows and pulling up a handful of loose, dark and sweet-smelling dirt.” Fall is the time to plant cover crops and green manures, winter is the time to spread manure. Murphy, who worked as an extension agent in Oregon, tells you how to build rich, living “skin of the earth.”
Annie Martin is a moss artist from North Carolina who creates the most green and verdant gardens imaginable. In her new book “The Magical World of Moss Gardening” (Timber Press, 2015, $24.95), she advocates moss for erosion control and to prevent water runoff as well as for its cushy, year-round beauty.
Instead of eradicating this deer-resistant, pest-resistant, rootless, stemless wonder of a plant, Martin tells us how to encourage and cultivate it. Many of the photos show Northwest moss gardens, including Bloedel Reserve and the Portland Japanese garden. Martin writes, “The climate of the Northwest supports moss growth even during the warm months of July and August.” Seeing these hushed and serene gardens makes me hope our climate continues to oblige in future summers.