New Year's Ideas for Gardeners
"At a time when we are saturated with information from a host of media, we believe we can find a greater sense of place and understanding by exploring the quieter universe of our home ground."
DEBBY SEED recommends five magazines and seven books to give -- but not lend -- to friends
FOR GARDENERS, the middle of winter is an ideal time to go through seed catalogues, which start arriving in December, or catch up on reading. Imagine their delight at receiving a gift of a magazine subscription or book.
I. The Magazines
Listed below are several recommendations for Canadian gardening magazines. The British magazines are terrific (especially the BBC's), but too expensive to include. So too are many American magazines, although it's hard to resist Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening (Rodale's), or Fine Gardening: At Home in the Garden. The latter features a two-page pronunciation guide of all those pesky Latin names and the occasional piece by Lee Reich, a soil scientist and excellent writer.
The best choice for someone who wants to learn about all aspects of gardening. The articles are informative and regionally based. The horticultural content is superior to that of its competitors, and the feature are written by some of Canada's best garden writers like Patrick Lima, Lorraine Johnson, Heather Apple, etc. For the serious gardener. Go to http://www.canadiangardening.com
Harrowsmith Country Life
Articles range from gardening to renovation projects, from beekeeping to insect or bird ID. 'Over the Fence' is a good source of tips from readers for other readers. Dan Needles' 'True Confessions from the Ninth Concession' is often hilarious. It has become a Canadian cliche but the original Harrowsmith was still a better magazine; its offspring will do, however reluctantly. For the country gardener with a range of environmental/nature interests.
Started by gardening guru Marjorie Harris, this large-format magazine is the most visually stunning of the lot because of its graphic design and photography. Each issue is a piece of art. The articles are well researched and informative; however, too often they focus on expensive gardens (inevitably in BC) that most of us ordinary folk will never be able to afford. This was the reason I cancelled my subscription. My cousin, though, credits the magazine for its excellent articles on garden decorations and still subscribes. For the upscale gardener interested in garden design, dÈcor, and plants.
Ontario Gardening, Manitoba Gardening, Alberta Gardening
Each regional variation is full of informative articles for gardeners of all stripes. There is a surprising amount of content in the six issues a year due to the absence of full-page ads. Winnipeg publisher Pegasus has added a new magazine called Trees, published twice a year.
Seeds of Diversity
This bilingual magazine is published three times a year by Seeds of Diversity Canada, the organization that promotes the conservation and use of heritage plants through exchanges like Seedy Saturdays hosted by volunteers in the winter. It's the only bilingual gardening magazine in Canada, aside from government publications. Articles by Hugh Daubeny, a retired UBC prof, and Diane Joubert from Quebec are a treat. Go to http://www.seeds.ca
II. The Books
The following books would make decent presents.
Tree: A Life Story (Douglas and McIntrye, 2004)
By David Suzuki and Wayne Grady
Illustrated by Robert Bateman
A beautiful book clearly written, illustrated, and designed by three tree lovers. It's one of the most original books I've yet seen on trees and forests. The main character is a single tree, a Douglas fir born 700 years ago, the year Gutenberg invented the printing press. As the authors detail the tree's growth -- thereby giving you a botany lesson -- they mention other events taking place in the world. I thought I knew a lot about trees until I read this book.
The writing is superb, but then the authors are pros. Consider this: Suzuki has now written 44 books, hosted CBC's The Nature of Things for years, and set up the David Suzuki Foundation to spread the word about the environment. (Its Web site is a fountain of information.) Wayne Grady, on the other hand, is the author of eight books, the translator of several French books into English, a former Harrowsmith editor, and a magazine writer. Consider, too, the illustrator, who is none other than Robert Bateman.
This is a book you shouldn't lend to friends; they might not give it back.
My friend didn't.
III. Gardening Books for Different Readerships
1. For novice gardeners
Gardening Month by Month in the Maritimes
By Duncan Kelbaugh and Alison Beck
Calgary: Lone Pine Publishing, 2005 ($18.95)
Gardening Month by Month in the Maritimes is a calendar in book form. On the left page is the week; on the right, relevant gardening tips. The calendar portion starts with the first week of January, continues for 50 two-page spreads, and ends with the last week of December.
The book's size and design are typical of Lone Pine Publishing. It's a softcover edition, measuring about four by eight inches, with gorgeous photos. Lone Pine has adopted this design for most of its gardening books, beginning with its first best sellers by Lois Hole. The Calgary outfit has published over 100 gardening books, which mainly target the four regions or specific provinces of Canada. (I own at least a dozen titles, and they look very impressive all stacked neatly together on a shelf. Is Lone Pine competing with Penguin or New Canadian Library here?)
Lone Pine's marketing formula is ingenious because it allows the publisher to reproduce the same basic book in terms of production values for different regional audiences, thereby cutting costs. Each regional version is supposedly different in content and visuals, and it's usually co-written by a local authority.
The Web site for Lone Pine (updated in October 2005) reveals that the company has adapted the formula for various regions of the United States as well. For example, there are now thirteen seasonal planners (Gardening Month by Month in Ontario, Manitoba, Michigan Ö), eight regional plant ID books, and more than a half dozen regional books on wildflowers, mushrooms, and bugs. (The category of books on mammals has even more! There's an animal tracks book for every corner of North America.)
Owners Shane Kennedy and Grant Kennedy of Calgary have this message on their Web site. It should resonate in the hearts of Shunpiking readers:
"At a time when we are saturated with information from a host of media, we believe we can find a greater sense of place and understanding by exploring the quieter universe of our home ground.
"Lone Pine Publishing is creating a library of books that celebrates the diversity and character of our own backyards. Our interest in nature, outdoor recreation and popular history has led us to publish titles of local relevance to enrich our appreciation of who we are as a people and a place.
"As the coverage of our own region has deepened, we have broadened our reach to work with authors from other regions to develop exceptional titles for their areas: the Rocky Mountains, the West Coast, and the Great Lakes. We have attempted to be a good regional publisher in every region where we are present.
Gardening Month by Month in the Maritimes (or its counterparts) is a useful seasonal planner for gardeners. The brief introduction includes climate charts for twelve Maritime cities, as well as maps showing hardiness zones and frost dates. Novice gardeners will appreciate the tips about how to prune, create a wildlife habitant, propagate plants, start plants from seed, etc. The resource section at the end is especially good.
2. For Homeowners Who Still Want Lawns
Lawns for Canada: Natural and Organic
By Don Williamson
Calgary: Lone Pine Publishing, 2005 ($19.95)
My apologies for the digression. Such lawnmowers are the bane of my summer existence. Why can't people simply buy electric lawnmowers, which are far easier to start and push around, and much quieter to run?
Indeed, why can't they get rid of their lawns altogether? They require endless hours of mowing, rob space from flowers and trees, and stand as powerful symbols of nature tamed and brought to order. North Americans' obsession with lawns is a leftover from early pioneering days when settlers "broke", or cleared, the land of trees to plant crops. Give me a yard with ground cover or flowers any day.
Since most homeowners still like lawns, however, and hire me to do their gardening, I decided to look at Williamson's book. Warning: it's for homeowners who want to wean themselves off of fertilizers and pesticides.
The author has co-authored several gardening guides for Lone Pine Publishing, drawing on his work experience at golf courses and his horticultural training at Alberta's Olds College. Who better to write this book than a turfgrass expert -- and one who's gone organic, to boot?
Much to my surprise, I enjoyed reading Williamson's lawn-care manual. His horticultural knowledge is sound, his advice is practical, and his writing is concise. The photos and illustrations are excellent, especially those identifying common turfgrass species, pests and diseases. The section on pests and diseases is worth the cost of the entire book. I wish it had been published when I had to take classes on turfgrasses while studying horticulture.
3. For Young Gardeners
For children aged ten and up, there is Kids Can Press Jumbo Book of Gardening by Karyn Morris. It is a big thick book full of ideas and activities. It covers fruit and vegetable gardens, flower and wildlife gardens, and school and community gardens. The section on gardening with native plants will appeal to parents wishing to go native.
Another Kids Can book, Tree of Life, by Rochelle Strauss is a beautifully illustrated introduction to the biodiversity of life on earth. Veteran editor Val Wyatt won the 2005 best editors' award given out by the Editors Association of Canada.
4. For the Disabled or the Sick
For adults who are blind or wheel-chair bound, either of these two books is worth getting:
Garden for Life: Horticulture for People With Special Needs by Lynn Dennis (University of Saskatchewan: Extension Division, 1994). Written by a horticultural therapist, this book has highly useful garden designs and plant choices for disabled gardeners.
The Holistic Garden : Creating Spaces for Health and Healing by Karen York, horticultural therapist and botanical editor (Prentice Hall, 2001) First-rate information about healing plants, toxic plants, and gardens as sanctuaries. A pleasure to read and reread.
*The book reviewer is a magazine junkie and author of The Amazing Water Book (Kids Can Press, 1992). She runs a gardening business half the year and freelances or teaches the other half.
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