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Handmade Garden ProjectsHandmade Garden Projects by Lorene Edwards Forkner
Forkner, a former nursery owner and avid gardener, has filled up a book with garden projects for people with not much money and a little more time. The projects are divided by their ultimate purpose or location thusly: Ground Floor, Supporting Acts, Feature Attractions, Clever Containers, Finishing Touches and Organize and Store. There are lots of projects made out of repurposed hairpin wire fencing, including a sculptural trellis and chandelier with mason jars, another frequently used item. In general, the materials are intended to be commonly available, either recycled or new but repurposed. There are pictures and sometimes diagrams, lists of materials needed, and step by step instructions. Notably missing from all projects were time and cost estimates. Most projects looked to me like they were intended for people with minimal craft/building experience, but tools and definitely some strength for the wire bending and large container moving. I’d guess that most projects could be completed in an afternoon on the short side to a weekend on the long side – not huge time commitments in the grand scheme of things. The aesthetic seemed to me mostly modern rustic, with things like industrial woven steel for a trellis or an upturned industrial light fixture, big enough to use as a coffee table, used as an outdoor terrarium. The style was a little too modern for me personally, though I still liked many of the projects, including a fire pit made from a commercial wok or discarded kettle grill base or lid, the LED fireflies for garden lighting, the beaded mason jar hose guides, and the old birdbath planted with cascading flowers in watery colors. I’m feeling that I’m not quite as enthusiastic as this book deserves only because I am so very short on both time and sleep right now. However, better rested gardening friends thought this was a fabulous book, so I’m passing it on for those of you closer to their situation.
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Thanks to my love for this beautiful library present!

book cover100 Easy-to-Grow Native Plants for American Gardens in Temperate Zones by Lorraine Johnson So here is the truth: Intellectually, I am all about planting native plants in my garden. The benefits include plants that are easy to care for and that attract native birds and butterflies, among others. The difficulty is that no one is sending glossy catalogs of beautiful native plants complete with garden kits and expert-designed garden plans to my door. Even though the end result would certainly be easier to care for, tracking down the native plants in the first place is difficult, involving either a trip to the crowded Farmer’s Market half an hour away or a drive to a nursery over an hour away. Then there is the difficulty of me, not really a good gardener but just someone who wants some pretty flowers by her house, coming up with a design that won’t make the neighbors think we just didn’t get around to weeding. While finding the plants might still be somewhat difficult, this book steps in to fill a large part of the gap. It has entries with beautiful full-color pictures for the 100 plants mentioned, most of them flowers but some grasses. Entries include cheerful and friendly discussion of the merits and drawbacks of each plant. Each includes not only the best growing environment, but also plants that it looks good with and related plants. There are also full-page photos of native gardens in different styles, from wild to more traditional. I was thrilled by the indices (I may never get to use that phrase again!), which presented lists of plants for different environments – eastern woodland, prairie, and northwest, among others – and each plant in the list shown with a full-color thumbnail, so you don’t have to flip back to the main entry to see what it looks like. This should make planning that easy-care yet beautiful garden so much easier.

Crossposted to http://sapphireone.livejournal.com and http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org .
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Last in the series... and now Lightening Bolt says he really wants a window box. I think we can handle that. Amusingly, he also goes from hating the idea of a sunflower house to loving it, after I remind him that, as the sunflowers are alive, it isn't "killing nature."

book coverRoots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots written and illustrated by Sharon Lovejoy This is a book so lovingly written and illustrated that I found myself wanting to try everything suggested. Lovejoy gardened with her own child as he was growing up, and also opened a public children’s garden which has operated for a very long time now. She starts with 20 favorite plants for children, and goes on to garden plans, including the best pizza garden plan I’ve seen (calendula or marigold planted throughout to look like cheese and fend off predators! Plus a slice cut out for path for weeding access.), a fragrant moon garden, a sunflower house, a butterfly garden, a garden of giants, tiny water garden, window boxes, a maze, and more. Each garden comes with a plan, list of materials, instructions for planting and maintenance, and a two-page spread of what to do and look for on your daily walk through the garden. I have seen several of the garden types she talks about in other books, but hers seem to have the extra details that bring a garden up to extraordinary. I could find only two downsides to this book, particular to where I live. First, she’s writing from California (though I see from her website that she now lives in Maine), so her instructions will say things like “sow seeds when temperatures remain above 70”, which would be August for me, even though I know those plants can grow here. Second, I found only one garden plan that didn’t require 6-8 hours of sun a day, which is tough in our shady yard. Still, this is a book both (mostly) practical and beautiful in its own right, the one of all of these that I’d be most likely to want on my own shelf rather than fetching it from the library as needed. I also read her book Sunflower Houses, which is less garden plans and more child-friendly plants to put in the garden and fun things to do with them.
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book coverGardening with Children by Beth Richardson. Photographs by Lynn Karlin Away from the landscaping, and on to actual gardening techniques with children. Richardson was most specifically concerned with being able to involve her children with the family vegetable garden. This book walks through the process of basic organic gardening including advice for including children at every step of the way (and how big a garden you can realistically expect to do with children and two working parents). Towards the end, there are some plant-specific guides for the ever-popular pizza garden, as well as a couple of ethnic cuisine gardens. I came to the realization a couple of years ago that a) vegetable gardening is more work than we have time for and b) our yard doesn’t have enough sun to grow vegetables anyway, so this was not the right book for us. I realize that I am going against crunchy-living guidelines by admitting this, though, so for those of my readers who do want to grow food with their children, this is for you.
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Entry two in the Spring 2010 Gardening Book Binge

book coverA Child’s Garden by Molly DannenmaierThis is another child-oriented landscaping book, one that I would put more on the inspirational than the practical side. They talk about different features that children like, but the sample gardens are mostly not ones I’d consider possible to replicate at home. The first garden, for example, was in a very modest sized back yard. But the back yard (side and front landscaped equally beautifully but differently) included a tree house, a man-made waterfall and pool, filled in with over 80 species of plants. Both parents were professional master gardeners, it turned out, and this level of expertise was typical in the book. Gardens were either home gardens of professionals or public children’s gardens. On the up side, gardens from all over the country were featured, so there were ideas for more climate zones than many other books. Near the end were some more practical themed garden ideas including plant lists for gardens including a dinosaur garden and Chinese and African gardens. I found it entertaining, but definitely more on the eye-candy versus the practical end of the spectrum.
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More coordinated gardeners might start looking at books and catalogs in February, but not me. This year I’m thinking about trying to involve Lightening Bolt, who wants sunflowers for their zombie-defeating powers and, above all, a small pond with frogs and fish like the neighbors have. Right… working on that one.

book coverGreat Gardens for Kids by Clare Matthews. Photographs by Clive Nichols This is a book of distinct projects for child-friendly landscaping features, arranged in chapters by type with four or so examples for each type. Topics include active play, water features, furniture, hideaways, and parties. Some of our favorites included the giant spider-web for climbing, the houses of perennial vines (rather than annuals) with version both more and less floral, all of the water features (some even appropriate for very young children), the beautiful daffodil labyrinth. Though instructions are given, they don’t include specific dimensions or sizes of pots called. Projects can cost much more than you’d think just looking at them. The horizontal climbing wall, which looks relatively simple to install, calls for four sheets of marine plywood ($80 each), plus climbing holds ($40/ 12 at REI), bolts and paint ($20 a gallon) – that’s $500 assuming bolts are free. And if one wanted to attempt more than one project from the book, costs could add up quickly. One other drawback is that it’s a British book, and climate and plant availability could vary (I haven’t checked.) Still, the projects are attractive enough for adults (I remember vividly reading it when it first came out several years ago) and look like they would inspire years of fun outdoor play for children.
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[livejournal.com profile] odinyotoo wrote about this on her blog a while back. And then I was weeding in my 500s, and there it was, just waiting for me. I’d never even noticed it before. It falls in the dreaded number 508, the number for general natural history. This is where natural history memoirs go. They usually get starred reviews in the journals, so I feel obliged to buy them, but no matter how interesting the book may be to actually read, I can’t get any of my patrons to actually check them out. This book was over ten years old, though, so even though I read it and it was really good, and anyone interested either in gardening or in having a low-maintenance yard should read it, it’s now in my personal collection, not the library, but still up for borrowing.

book coverNoah’s Garden by Sara Stein Author Stein wrote in a previous book about her family’s journey to become Gardeners, after buying a largish property. This book is about her becoming an un-gardener, planting with native plants rather than exotic imported plants, letting the flowers feed the bugs and the birds rather than spraying the bugs and raking away the food. Noah’s ark wouldn’t really have worked without bringing the plants, because the larger predators eat the smaller insect- and herbivores, and everything is highly adapted to live off of the native plants of that particular region. That means that if we want birds, rather that buying birdfeeders, we can look for native flowers and fruiting shrubs, without even knowing what will feed who when. Though she’s got a recommendation from Michael Pollan, this book is closer to Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle than The Ominvore’s Dilemma, more her own particular tale with some background woven in than the reverse. Even though their property was an old farmstead, she talks about the power of everyone planting their corners and edges with fruiting bushes that provide food for birds and cover for small animals, creating safe corridors where they can travel. There are ideas here for yards small and big in this gentle and inspiring book.

For us, we were already planning on replacing the long-ago vegetable garden and more recent raspberry and maple jungle with a native meadow. (Sadly, they didn’t have the kits at the farmer’s market yet this weekend.) After reading this book, I’m hoping to put in more understory trees, shrubs and native woodland plants in, expanding the shady areas of our yard where the grass doesn’t like to grow anyway. We’ll save the front lawn, and in the back, eventually, have paths to three or so open grassy areas. That should provide a lot more for wildlife, and also make mowing much less of a chore. I’m anticipating that exploring paths will be more fun for children than one big open lawn, too.
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I feel a little guilty reviewing books on the bestseller list. After all, anyone can read the bestseller list; these books maybe don't need more people promoting them. But here it is. I read it, I loved it, and now I will share the love.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver Kingsolver, her husband, and two children set out in this vivid nonfiction adventure to spend and document a year spent eating only locally produced food. After years spent living in suburban Arizona, the family moves to rural Appalachia, with the intent, Kingsolver says, of living in a place that contains more than one of the three basic necessities of life. Starting the year with the first asparagus and some trepidation, they head to the farmer's market to see what they can find. What they end up with is delicious bounty – different things at different times of the year, to be sure, and no bananas – but always good, varied food in the peak of flavor. Trying for the first time to raise enough to eat year-round rather than a small vegetable garden provides room for meditation on the loss of vegetable varieties and the fragility of farmers' livelihoods, while harvesting their turkeys and chickens brings up the issues of carnivory and the difficulties with both CAFOs and vegetarianism. An early autumn trip to Italy shows a culture where food and culture is still deeply connected to the land. As Kingsolver narrates the year, Hopp steps in as "Dr. Science", with factual sidebars, while teenaged Camille provides a week's worth of meals with recipes for each month. It can be a little preachy, but if you already believe that the earth and our diets are in need of some help, it's inspirational rather than disturbing. All the authors are clearly passionate in showing that eating locally is delicious and doable by anybody with a will and a local farmer's market or garden. After listening to the audiobook, with Kingsolver's gently twangy voice, [livejournal.com profile] amnachaidh and I were both inspired – I to tomato canning, and he to trying home cheese making, as well as more frequent trips to the farmer's market. For anyone who cares about good food, this is an essential read.

Gardening

Jul. 28th, 2007 04:37 pm
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Did I mention I’ve been on a gardening kick lately? Here’s what I’ve been reading. You’ll note aspects of our yard as well as my interests in herbs and organic gardening. Every one of these books included “easy” as a keyword. My ideal garden is one where I do a little work in spring and maybe fall, and then don’t need to do much of anything the rest of the year.

Easy Care Shade Flowers by Patricia A. Taylor Don’t limit yourself to hostas and ferns in the shade! Taylor has some theory, profiles of outstanding public and private shady gardens, and lists of good plants by type (shrub, perennial, annual) and by region (given by regional experts). The only thing I felt was a little short was help planning your own garden.

Beautiful Easy Herbs by Laurence Sombke This is a book that I am still drooling over, even though most herbs want lots of sun, which I don’t have. The author first profiles one hundred easy-care herbs, with growing habits and uses. This was a little disappointing, as he doesn’t include medicinal uses at all. Since this information is easily available elsewhere, though, that’s not such a great loss. Where I really loved the book was the garden plans. He included lots of plans for different herb gardens, including colonial, culinary, tea, Mediterranean, flowering border, and bird and butterfly. Every design included a layout, which plants to buy from seed and which in pots, short descriptions of everything, and a first year and following years care guide. I was absolutely smitten. I’d be out in the garden with a shovel right now if it weren’t for that pesky sun issue.

Ann Lovejoy's Organic Garden Design School by Ann Lovejoy Organic gardening may be good for the planet, but Lovejoy gets into that only briefly in this comprehensive look at organic garden design. For her, the primary benefits of an organic garden are minimal care, plants that thrive without taking over, and gardens that tie into the surrounding landscapes. The pictures are beautiful, and the descriptions inspiring. The hitch, of course, is the amount of planning and research that goes into making these extremely site-specific gardens - though she give lots of suggestions, they seem mostly geared towards the western U.S. The book leads you through it all, though, concluding with a 30-pages workbook to help figure out what you want and how to get there. If you follow the steps and do the research, you’ll be rewarded with a garden that needs little more than annual compost to keep it beautiful.

Spring!

May. 9th, 2004 02:36 pm
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Here’s the last teen book for a while:
Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes Twelve-year-old Martha is packing to go on her annual visit to her grandmother’s beach home when the mother of a classmate who was recently killed in a traffic accident stops by with a note written by the dead girl. Olive wrote about her dreams: to visit the ocean, and to be friends with Martha. Suddenly, Martha’s ordinary summer is turning out not to be so ordinary. This novel had the potential to be really depressing, but instead is a beautiful reflection about life from a girl who is just discovering what it means to be truly alive. Written in short, poetic chapters, Olive’s Ocean shines like the sun through polished sea glass.

It’s spring. I admit, I haven’t yet done much more than pull up the new crop of thistles from the garden, but I have Plans. It’s the first time we’ve ever had our own garden, and it’s dreadfully exciting. So here are a couple of gardening books.

The Weekend Garden Guide: Work-Saving Ways to a Beautiful Backyard by Susan A. Roth I may have mentioned things about not having lots of time. I love flowers, and beautiful gardens, but really I have neither the time nor the inclination to spend all my free time in the summer heat trying to keep a garden going. This book was a revelation! Roth starts with general ways to keep a garden low-maintenance (and even low-cost!), and then goes through different types of gardens, listing specific plants to use and to avoid. This ends up with a garden that may not be native plants, but is well suited for its particular environment. One note: it’s over 10 years old now, and a couple of the species she recommends are now considered invasive. Also, the book presupposes a fair amount of garden knowledge, but even with my very limited garden experience, I was able to understand it. These minor quibbles aside, I’ll probably buy a copy to take to the nursery with me.

Gardening for Dummies by Michael MacCaskey This one is gardening basics and terminology. It is great at covering the basics, and I was especially impressed at their coverage of chemical use in the garden. They favor low-impact methods, and tell you when not to panic, and which guns to bring out in which order and when. Compared with The Weekend Garden Guide, unsurprisingly, it focused much less on how hard individual plants are to take care of. Since I am now determined to have an easy-care garden, I’m now less enthused by this book. But, really, as one expects from the series, it’s a fine and easy-to-understand introduction to gardening.

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