Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Glories of Spring

Peonies spring up next to tulips and daffodils are blooming in the perennial garden.

The colors and fragrances of spring continue to burst forth throughout the garden. For the second week in a row, pansy faces greet us front and back and the garden hyacinths perfume our home and garden nside and out.
The earliest azaleas are blooming as well, but the prime showstopper this week is the constellation of daffodils that decorate each and every bed, in shades of ivory, butter, lemon, orange, peach, and pink.

The magnolias are not going to disappoint, as they did last spring. The star magnolia is fully in bloom and the mauve and cream saucer is not far behind. The first petals are just starting to tease away from the buds. The yellow magnolias will follow close on its heels and both trees are literally covered with buff and green buds.

Come, lets take a walk and enjoy early spring in the garden!

The cottage garden bursts with color and fragrance.

A sampling of the daffodils that bloom among the many beds in the formal and cottage gardens, Single and double and ruffled, with shades of white, yellow, peach, orange, butter, and pink, the colors and varieties are  as stunning as they are plentiful. We planted bulbs in clusters of at least a dozen to maximize their dramatic effect. 

The hellebores are stunning and long-lasting, and this year they have put on their most dramatic display to date.


The Cleveland Pear is budded
This laurel will be blooming for the first time!

Two of our koi, Goldie and Frick, scavenge for algae near the waterfall rocks. Water mint grows in the foreground.

Throughout the garden are areas to sit and reflect, read, meditate, or enjoy a mug of tea or light snack. This is the walkway into the back side of the tree grove where the star magnolia and the hellebores are blooming and the trillium is fully budded and ready to open. We often read the Sunday paper while sipping our morning coffee here in the shade of the variegated willows. When the viburnum and lilacs are blooming, the fragrance is indescribable.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

April Gardening Notes

April  arrived with a sudden change to seasonable and above average warm temperatures and with it, the pansies, azaleas, primrose, and a host of other cool weather plants arrived at nurseries and yes, the grocery store.

We spent our first "real" gardening weekend beginning the month long task of clearing away the dried stalks, leaves, and twigs that found their way into the yard over the winter, sorting out the damage to our beds from a particularly nasty winter, and planting bright pops of color in some of our planters and beds. 

Pansies have long been one of my favorite spring garden plants and primroses are a close second. Every day, we find new spring bulbs opening their lovely blossoms. And everywhere, the hellebores are filling out and flush with blossoms.

The azalea in the urn is a greenhouse shrub "forced" into bloom.  Supposedly hardy, (well, the tag says it is), after it's finished blooming I'll move it to a spot in the blueberry garden. With luck, it will survive the winter and bless us with blossoms again next spring.  
Our losses this winter were severe. Our sand cherry was devastated by an inattentive plow driver and we are not certain that it will survive to bloom as gloriously as it did last spring. 

We also lost much of the platycodon edging along the front of the shade cottage garden, another victim of the plow.  We shored up the bed and added some creeping phlox last week, but I will replace at least part of the original border when the plants are available at the nursery later in the season. I loved the way the border of the dwarf blue and white balloon flowers popped with color and I'm hoping that replacing them and having them interspersed with the phlox, I can extend color in the border well into June.

The tea roses took a tremendous beating. It will be a while before we know the total number that won't make it for certain, but our guess is that we've lost at least eight. In the grand scheme of things, that is a small percentage, but one bed was particularly hard hit (and we don't know why) and will need to do some major replanting in the coming weeks.

Last week, we pruned the sand cherry and tied the sliced portions of the trunk and a major branch together, hoping they will knit. We treated open gashes and the major cuts with white glue. Only time will tell if it will survive

Pansies are a cool weather flower and I have had exquisite luck getting both spring and fall blooms from my plants by cutting them back in June when they start to bolt, planting summer blossoms over and around them while continuing to keep them pinched back all summer. 

They are shaded during the hottest weather and then in late August, when the summer blooms are starting to fade and the night time temperatures begin to drop again, they spring back with thick growth and by early September, are covered with a fresh bouquet of blossoms that continue often into November. I stop deadheading them in mid-October so they can self sow for the spring. Some years I get quite a few, others none, but they are easy enough to plant again and it is usually my first planting.

Although the perennial beds are bursting forth with new growth, I am disappointed that I can not spot any primrose, whose wonderful showy faces I expected to see long before now. I planted several hardy primrose last year and have yet to see any hint of them pushing through the mulch this spring. I have not had a lot of luck with them in the past and usually treat them as annuals. So this spring, as soon as I saw them for sale at the garden center, I bought a half dozen and this weekend we put them out and about. Hope springs eternal, and I will definitely mark the locations and watch next year to see if any of them come back.
Over the past week, even more wood hyacinths have popped open and are in bloom as well as purple mini irises. And the air is heavy with the perfume of the larger garden hyacinths, Hyacinth orientalis, which are blooming in nooks and crannies all over the gardenscape. I couldn't resist - two blooms now sit in the middle of the kitchen table so I can enjoy them inside and out.

Indoors, I began the month with forced forsythia and magnolia blossoms decorating every room. 

This weekend, the  forsythia is in full bloom and the star magnolia is peaking, having opened it's first glorious bloom last weekend. By midweek it was covered with frilly white blooms.  

What will soon be just as stunning is the saucer magnolia. The buds have swelled and are ready to open at any time. This morning, Steve got up early and I did our daily "what's in bloom" trek around the yard while glistening drops from the overnight downpour still sparkled and shimmered on the petals.

The yellow magnolias always bloom later but both are covered with plump buds as well and we should have a beautiful display from each tree.

The deck garden now boasts some lettuce and cilantro and the peas should sprout any day. I'm planting radishes this afternoon. On the "flower" side,  showy rununculus are bordered by pansies and I am hoping to see hollyhocks sprout along the railing. 

But the real treat for me are the potted hydrangea and lilacs. Leaves are sprouting on every branch of the hydrangea and I am delighted that the lilacs have each produced clusters of deep purple buds that should be opening in a week or two.  These gorgeous shrubs have turned a rather bland deck into a beautiful oasis. I can't wait to share pictures of it when everything has filled out and is blooming!

The sun is shining this morning after a full day of pouring rain and a cloudy, wet week. April showers bring May flowers, and we're looking forward to finishing our spring clean up today. 

Walking Path - Then and Now

One of my favorite photographs is this one, which I just entered in a Gardening Gone Wild photography contest.

I took this photograph one evening.in the fall of 2009 just before sunset  I was walking through each of the beds, taking my weekly photographs of our garden. Up until now, these photographs have served a utilitarian purpose - keeping track of what is blooming and when - a short cut to writing a gardening diary which I rarely get a chance to do these days.

This is an area that serves as a walkway to get to the backyard and to our storage and compost areas.

As I was scrolling through pictures this evening, organizing and labeling them, I came across this photograph taken last year in June from almost the same position as the photograph taken the previous fall.
We added a walkway of large flat patio pavers both to define the walking path and to make it easier for my wheelchair to navigate the slope. Having gone back end over teakettle on more than one sorry occasion, I had my husband widen the pathway and even it out just a bit.

The pavers are set into black mulch on a bed of clay - a lot of the clay that was removed from our flower beds found it's way to this area, and when the ground is dry, it is as hard and immovable as concrete.

At the bottom of the hill on the right, you can see the beginnings of our shade foliage garden. While a few of the plants we've included here do bloom, the blooms are far less significant than the foliage. This particular garden and the area beyond is one of our main focuses for 2011. We plan to add several more ferns, a few more hostas, and some other shade perennials in this area that is shaded by a large weeping willow.

And the area beyond it, which is in full sun and packed full of cockleburrs, thistles, ragweed, and assorted other nasties, will be the new home of all of the mounds of lemon balm that have sprouted through my herb garden this spring.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Light in the Garden

I recently subscribed to an interesting garden web site, Gardening Gone Wild, where a group of experienced and dedicated garden experts share their passion for garden design, photography, plant selection, and generally, all things garden. GGW sponsors a monthly photography contest with renowned and talented photographers as judges.

It's not purely happenstance that I discovered GGW today. This month's photography contest judge is Rob Cardillo, whose stunning photographs illustrate Nancy Ondra's Perennial Care Manual (see my review of that wonderful book). Mr. Cardillo's latest project is a photographic tour of Chanticleer, a garden that Steve and I hope to visit perhaps as early as this summer.

Mr. Cardillo tasked those of us interested in participating in this month's photography challenge to show "sensitivity" in matching light to a subject. In his description of this month's contest he wrote that, “Photography is all about light and any good garden photographer must hone his or her ability to see and work with the sun in all its shades, colors and moods."  Those words hit home for me. In 2005 I retired my very weary Nikon 35 mm SLR and equally tired Olympus digital point and shoot camera in favor of a Canon Rebel XT SLR. This camera is much more sensitive to light  and especially sunlight than any film camera I've ever worked with. It took me a full year to master the rudiments of setting up pictures and making adjustments for light. (It would have probably only taken half that if I ever bothered to read the camera manual but I learn better by fiddling so....)

As I have downloaded and reviewed the more than 30,000 pictures that I've taken with this camera, some very happy accidents have leaped off the page and startled in me in terms of what I have been able to capture with this sometimes temperamental work horse. There were times when indeed, I was able to recognize the impact of a startling light effect on an otherwise banal image. The benefit of a digital camera is the ability to view the photograph immediately and self-edit by making minor adjustments in angles or camera settings in the moment in order to achieve a much improved or more dramatic picture.

I haven't yet decided which of these pictures I will submit to the contest, but these rank among my recent favorites.  I will be submitting one of them before the deadline later this month. Suggestions anyone? In each of them, light (or the lack of it) plays a pivotal role.

Photograph 1:  This snapshot was taken in the fall (October) near dusk. I love the dramatic way the golden colored reeds capture the light and shine from the water garden.

Photograph 2 (above):  A professional photographer would probably delete this image as flawed but I am struck by the way the  lens manipulated the light and left a prismatic rainbow wash where the light was shining down on the pond. Again, taken at the same time as the above picture, as the sun was setting on what was actually a partly cloudy October evening.

Photograph 3:  Probably not the one I'll submit, but I love the reds. Taken at the same time as Photographs 1 and 2.

 Photographs 4 and 5:  These rank among my favorites, both for the way the light transforms this walking path alongside our house, and the interplay of light in the leaves on the trees and on the ground as well. I took them from slightly different angles and I'm still not certain which I like more, although I think that capturing the tree in the left side of the frame in Photograph 4 gives the image just a little more character and depth.

I was shooting pictures in an area that is shaded by the house, (this is the edge of our all-white shade garden which is situated on the left) and the sun was setting at the time. I was facing into the sun, and although it was blocked from my view by the house, the bright effect in the distance makes it almost appear as if there is nothing there but perhaps a meadow. The branches of the shrubs and especially the tall lilac cast shadows onto the leafy walkway.

This image is currently one of my top two picks for submission.

Photograph 5: The lighting is different and I included this mostly to show how taking one step to the left or the right can change a picture dramatically.


Photograph 6: Taken a week or two after the previous 5 pictures, this image shows the brilliant fall colors in the garden. I love the way the Japanese maple is framed by the variegated willow.

Photographs 7 and 8 were taken on a cloudy day and you can see the koi through the reflection of the clouds on the surface of the pond. My guess is an experienced, professional photographer would consider these photographs to be flawed, but I was fascinated that I was able to capture the reflected clouds.

In Photograph 8, the "flower" resting in the water is striking, don't you think?Actually, it's a leaf with ruffled edges that is partially submerged.

Photograph 9  shows our saucer magnolia in full bloom. I'm not entirely sure of where the sun was positioned, but what I love is the way the petals of the blossoms almost look translucent. This is one of my top three favorites as well.

Photographs 10 and 11 are of the same tree from a very different angle, and with much different lighting. I believe my body was shading the tree but I love the way the detail of the blossoms was captured and the way they stand out from the darker background.

Photographs 12 and 13 were taken in June, at dusk, when the temperature suddenly dropped and foggy mist began to rise in the meadow.You can see the remains of the orange sunset in between the branches of the willow (in the middle of the top photograph, in the far right of the lower photograph).

This is an example of how quickly things can change in nature. Steve and I happened to be weeding in the shade garden which abuts this area. The mist  rose as the sun was setting. I ran into the house to get the camera and for once, I had an empty card and fully charged battery in the camera and could put my hands on it quickly.

As I was struggling to capture the effect, the sun completely disappeared and it rapidly became too dark to get a truly effective photograph. If I'd had time to set up a tripod, I might have been able to capture the somewhat eerie feel of dusk that night.

This phenomenon (the developing mist) occurred because the ground and wetland were heated from several days of above average temperatures for the season and this evening, a cold front moved in, quickly chilling the air.

And last but not least...... another personal favorite.

Picture 14:  Taken while Steve and I were canoeing on the Ipswich River last summer. The water was like glass and the reflection of the trees on the river was breathtaking.

Update 4/24/11:  After agonizing over the decision, I've decided to enter Photograph #4, the walkway, in the competition!  I have to say, as I've been taking pictures in the garden, I've been much more aware of light and the effects of light as I frame shots of both large areas and individual blossoms.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

General Garden Protocol - All Natural Pest Control

Spring is here and it's not too soon to start spraying and treating for insects. This is the time of the year that I treat the entire yard with a spray made of soap and canola oil. Skipping this step has caused major problems for us in the past. Prevention is much easier than treating a problem after it has developed.

In developing our protocol, we had to take several things into consideration. The first is our pond. With koi, we are restricted from using anything that is toxic to aquatic life, and that eliminates most chemical sprays. We also have a lively population of both damselflies and dragonflies, and our garden teems with bees and butterflies as well, all of whom are also sensitive to many chemicals.

We prefer to spray in the evening but when that isn't an option, we spray in the very early morning (as soon as it's light enough to see - around 5:30 AM) before the bees arrive. The honey bees from an apiary not far from our home visit daily to collect pollen, especially from our lavender and roses. The bees are welcome visitors to our ecosystem so we spray either a few hours before they come or after they return home for the evening.

Spraying with garlic has eliminated fleas from the area and the rose geranium oil is a very effective tick repellent. We were unable to find geranium oil early in the season last year so our sprays did not include it until the middle of the summer and the number of ticks we had to contend with was significantly greater compared to years when we've sprayed with rose geranium oil at the outset. We usually begin spraying for ticks by the third week of April and continue every three weeks or sooner if we have several days of drenching rain.

Cathy’s General Garden Protocol

Step 1: Dormant Oil Spray

This can be applied in the fall (October or later) or in March or April. (Wait until there is no more snow on the ground. It’s okay if it snows after you spray, as long as the oil is able to dry on the plants and ground for 24 hours without snow.)

Mix ¼ cup of Canola oil and two tablespoons of clear soap per gallon of water and liberally spray the entire yard, including trees and the beds around any plants that remain. The purpose of this is to smother insects and their larvae while they are in a dormant stage.

Step 2: Ammonia Spray

This should be applied in April to all beds to kill fungal spores and beetle and other pest larvae, and then weekly or every other week to the beds around Asiatic lilies (for control of red lily leaf beetles) beginning in May. Wait until there is no more snow on the ground and you are reasonably sure that it won’t snow again. Spray the beds – specifically, the surface of the soil or compost – not the plants (will not hurt the plants but won’t solve the problem you are trying to treat either!). Use a 10% solution of plain, household ammonia. That means one cup of household ammonia to 9 cups of water. Dampen the surface of the soil in the beds. If you have a lot of black spot, this is really a good way to help stem the tide. Otherwise, you’ll keep getting it every time it rains.

Step 3: Corn meal/cracked corn 

This should be applied in April or May to all beds that have plants that may be affected by blackspot and other fungal infections. Reapply in 8-10 weeks if it is very rainy and again in the fall when mulching for winter.

Blackspot primarily affects roses, but I have seen it attack tall garden phlox and peonies as well, so we generally put it down in all beds just to be sure, especially since a contaminated leaf from one bed can easily blow into another bed and cause a major problem. We also reapply in the fall, when we lay the fall mulch. We use coarse cracked corn (chicken feed) and sprinkle it generously then cover with our home made mulch (composted leaves). To apply this, sprinkle it generously before you mulch, and then top-dress with about 3 inches of fresh compost/black mulch.

Step 4:  Rootshield WP Spray

Like cracked corn, Rootshield WP spray provides a biopesticide that is effective against blackspot. We spray all of our roses, peonies, phlox, and any other plants that have shown signs of fungal infestation with a solution of 1 Tablespoon Rootshield WP powder dissolved in one gallon water in May and September and 1/2 Tablespoon Rootshield WP powder dissolved in one gallon water in July.

Step 5: Milky Spore

This should be applied in May and October to all beds where you see Japanese beetle grubs (large white cut worms). Reapply in late June if necessary. 

Step 6: General Garden Spraying

This should be started in late April or early May (after the last snow and when the gardens are starting to show some active growth, usually when temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees during the day) and continue through September. I may alter the schedule and the ingredients if I see a particular pest. See the recipe and protocol below page. This takes care of virtually all the usual garden pests including fleas and ticks, and is safe for use around pets, children, birds, butterflies, honey bees, and fish.

Cathy’s Blend for General Garden Spraying

In a one gallon sprayer, mix the following:

8 ounces of home made botanical tea concentrate (recipe below)
2 ounces of garlic oil concentrate (recipe below)
2 ounces of citrus oil concentrate (recipe below)
2 ounces Green Light Neem Oil Concentrate – available at Lowe’s
2 ounces of Green Light Organic Control Concentrate – available at Lowe’s
4 ounces of canola oil (any brand, canola cooking oil)
2 ounces of Seventh Generation all-Natural Dish Liquid - available at Lowe’s, Shaw’s, Albertson’s, Wal-Mart; pure castile soap or any all natural dish liquid will do
2 Tablespoons of Baking Soda
15 drops of rose geranium oil

Add water to make one gallon of solution

(Green Light Organic Control Concentrate contains Thyme Oil, Clove Oil, and Sesame Oil.)

Spray liberally at dawn or dusk when there is no rain expected. If we spray in the morning, we spray at about 5:30 AM. If we spray in the evening, after the beginning of May, we wait until 7 PM or later. 

To make garlic oil concentrate:

Finely chop the cloves of 4 medium to large bulbs of garlic. Peel the outer dry, papery covering away from the cluster of cloves and cut off the root base, but there is no need to peel the individual cloves themselves. (I use a small food processor/chopper for this.)

Soak the minced garlic in 8 ounces of soybean oil. (Crisco and Shaw’s brand – check labels) for at least 24 hours. (I usually let it set quite a bit longer, but keep it in the refrigerator.) Strain into a clean jar. When you strain out the garlic, you’ll lose a little oil, so I add additional oil to make a total of 8 ounces. That gives me enough oil for four batches of spray. 

To make botanical tea concentrate:

Make peppermint with four cups of fresh chopped stems and leaves or two cups of dried herb in four cups of water. Boil for ten minutes, then let the tea steep for at least 2 hours. (I boil it and then just let it sit on the stove until it’s cool.)

Make botanical teas of each of the following with 1-1/2 cups of fresh chopped stems and leaves or 3/4 cup of dried herb in 1-1/2 cups of water of the following herbs and flowers. Boil for ten minutes, then let steep for at least 2 hours. Strain all teas, mix together and save in a large container in the refrigerator. Gallon water jugs are perfect for storage. If you will use the solution in a day or two, you don’t need to refrigerate it, but to keep it any longer than that, you need it refrigerate it or it will get moldy.

Chives                                  Rose geranium (pelargonium)
Rosemary                             Marigold leaves and petals
Cat mint                               Sage

To Make citrus oil concentrate:

Mix the rinds of citrus fruits with just enough water to cover them and simmer for 30 minutes and then steep until cool. I usually make 1-2 cps of this for each gallon of concentrate. I save orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit rinds in the refrigerator. When I don’t have any citrus concentrate, I have used dried lemon and orange zest, one tablespoon zest plus ¼ cup of lemon juice.

Note: You could probably make all of your teas together but I make each tea separately because some are more effective at treating different problems and for me, with my extensive gardens, I sometimes want to tweak the spray if I see a particular problem in a certain bed. Also, I tend to make larger batches and it’s easier for me to save it in individual jugs and then blend it when I am making a few batches of spray. (I use empty plastic water bottles.)

I keep the concentrate in the refrigerator as it does go bad. We use a two gallon sprayer now and it goes very, very quickly.

The odor of the garlic dissipates in a matter of minutes. The oil and soap remain on the leaves and they look shiny and healthy. If the oil doesn’t adhere to the leaves, the spray won’t be effective, so do shake the container frequently as the oil settles out. The rose geranium oil is the single-most effective repellant for ticks.

If you see powdery mildew developing on your peonies or phlox in between spraying, mix up a small amount of soap, canola, and a tablespoon of baking soda in a quart spray bottle and spritz the entire plant wherever you see it.

I spray weekly and my spraying schedule is on a three week rotation unless I see an infestation of something. Then I will add either a few isolated ingredients, or use the full recipe.

Week 1: Full recipe

Week 2: Garlic oil with canola and soap

Week 3: Peppermint oil with canola and soap

When the red lily leaf beetles start in spring and the Japanese beetles arrive in July, I do add Neem to both the Garlic and Peppermint sprays and spray with it weekly as well. You may have to pick off a few adult red lily leaf beetles but if you can get the spraying started before the first wave comes through, you’ll be fine.

Japanese beetles prefer to fly when the temperatures are above 85, so pick off adults that arrive and then spray with Neem. (I make a spritz bottle of 1 ounce Neem to a quart and a half as that’s the size of my bottle, then spray where you see them. They mostly attack the roses and hollyhocks. Apply milky spore wherever you see grubs when cultivating and this will help keep them to a minimum. Do NOT use Japanese beetle traps. They attract more beetles than they catch! If your neighbors hang them, ask them to put them on the far side of their property away from yours!

Lastly, if the RLLB’s are a real problem in your area, spray the dirt under your plants with a 10% ammonia solution. This kills the larvae. It’s safe for roses too and can help minimize black spot. I do use Bayer garden spray if I have a huge infestation, and that kills them on contact and also kills the larvae, but be sure to get under the leaves as well, and I also spray the ground. These are a real problem with Asiatic lilies, but they will migrate to other plants as well once they have decimated your lilies.

You’ll notice that I don’t use pyrethrum.  Pyrethrum is derived from chrysanthemums and although it is one of the most potent and effective “natural” botanical pesticides, it is highly toxic to fish. With our koi pond, it simply isn’t safe for us to use.

Author's Note:  This protocol was reviewed and updated on 6/21/11.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Book Review: The Perennial Care Manual by Nancy J. Ondra

As a longtime gardener, one aspect of gardening that often confounds me is what to do when the perennials stop blooming. I have been hunting for an easy to follow guide that would tell me which ones to cut back, how far, and when.

Over the years, my husband and I have acquired no less than a half dozen books that promised to be "complete guides" to perennial gardening, yet they invariably fell short with regard to seasonal care and troubleshooting. My Wish List has long included a thorough guide to actually caring for perennials throughout the year.

Nancy Ondra's The Perennial Care Manual fits the bill exactly and is the  comprehensive, easy to read guide that I was looking for. This is a book that every backyard gardener, both inexperienced newbies and those of us who have been around for decades, will find useful.  Filled with tips and information that is organized seasonally, with beautiful photographs by Rob Cardillo, this book instantly became my "Bible" for perennial gardening.

The book opens with a comprehensive review of perennial gardening "basics". I was delighted to see the attention she paid to preparing the garden bed. My husband and I learned the hard way that preparing the bed properly is the single-most important step in building a garden. From practical tips, like using laundry baskets to shade new transplants for a few days, to discussions about invasive plants, mulch, compost, and identifying and dealing with garden pests and weeds, the wealth of information in the first one hundred and twenty pages is incredible.

The second section of the book is devoted to the growing habits, propagation, seasonal care, and problems that affect individual perennials. Ms. Ondra chose 125 common perennials to feature and with each one, she goes through season by season, describing what to do and showing with wonderful photographs how to do it. She also describes and shows pictures of plant diseases, pests to watch for, and specific growing tips that are keys to success with certain plants.

When I first spotted the book at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society's book booth at the annual garden show last month, I immediately flipped to the two perennials that I always struggle with in terms of season-long care - peonies, which I absolutely adore, but whose heavy heads invariably sag, and phlox, which likewise tend to flop and sprawl. Her commonsense suggestions for dealing with both of these problems were remarkably simple, yet I had not read them in any other reference (nor thought of them myself).

For each perennial she gives spot on, very specific information about propagation, growth habits, and care throughout the year.  The pictures are spectacular and range from distinctive or common cultivars, to pests and diseases, to techniques.  The information is organized in a way that is user friendly and makes it easy to both search for a specific piece of information and assimilate information about a particular plant's habits and needs.

It's hard to find anything to say about this book that isn't "over-the-top" positive. I wish the book was twice the size - more varieties within different plant types, and more plants period. (Maybe she'll come out with Volume II?) And I wish she had included more information about weeds. (I know, that wasn't her focus, but the information she did include was fabulous - I could have used a hundred more pages of it!)

Listing at just under $25.00, this book is a bargain-priced goldmine of information. I will be watching for future books by this same author. We paid full fare for this book at the garden show but a quick peek at Amazon.com brought up a list of her past accomplishments that includes two books that quickly rose through the ranks and won the top spots on my Amazon Wish List - I'll be getting those in the very near future as well. Her books are discounted at Amazon, but I don't regret paying the list price at the garden show - it's worth every penny and more. (In fact, I thought the list price was a bargain, compared to some of the books we've bought in the past.)