Fallen leaves carpeting lawns and frost glistening white in early morning light are my cue to let my garden work wane until late February. With the extra indoor time, I dote on the potted plants I brought back inside my home and begin my annual quest for holiday gifts. Wandering amid red and green decorations is only a pleasant activity for me if I can determine something my friends and family will use and actually enjoy.
In the years past, I have given gloves, tools, seeds, calendars, plants and tasty homemade treats. This year I have narrowed my gardeners’ gifts to a choice of two books, Living Wreaths and Carolinas: Month-By Month Gardening.
For those who thrive on creating unique arrangements of plants and ornaments for their homes, Living Wreaths by Natalie Bernhisel Robinson (Gibbs Smith, 2014) will be a treat. Written by an interior designer turned florist, this book provides how-to instructions on making and caring for beautiful decorative hangings built with live plants. As the author explains, “Most people are familiar with simple gardening and wreaths, I just put the two together!”
All the equipment necessary for producing a live wreath is revealed in the introductory chapter. Robinson further explains the amount and types of soil, the number of plants, and watering requirements with each wreath design. Ordinary plants, such as succulents, cactus, herbs, lavender, spider plants, begonias, jade, and variegated ivy, are included in the twenty wreaths presented. Photographs clarify each step of the instructions. By copying or modifying the floral examples provided, a welcoming wreath can easily be made to adorn a door or a gate for each season.
Instead of the giving an ordinary calendar that covers one year a day at a time, Bob Polomski’s Carolinas: Month-By Month Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2014) offers detailed advice on plants and on garden work that will apply for years to come. By writing several books of the month-by-month series for other southern states, Polomski has clearly learned what information gardeners need. Care of annuals, bulbs, edibles, lawns, perennials, roses, shrubs, trees, vines, ground covers, and water gardens are discussed for each appropriate time period. Attractive photographs fill the pages and simplify instructions.
In addition, “Here’s How” sections scattered throughout the months provide helpful information on topics that are essential, but rarely included. How to construct a water garden, the way to properly trim a crape myrtle, and a three-cut method of removing large tree limbs are a few explanations for the many activities featured just in the February chapter.
For me, receiving presents that add information about gardening are perfect holiday gifts. After too much rich food and drink and after the guests and family are gone, the holidays seem officially over. Then among torn wrapping paper, I find gardening books like these that will keep my hands and my mind occupied throughout the next year.
Christine Thomson is a Raleigh gardener obsessed with plants. She is a volunteer at the Raulston Arboretum and fills her spare time reading books, especially volumes about vegetation.