Garden Books

Carolinas Gardener’s Handbook By Toby Bost and Bob Polomski

I recently spent time wandering around in my small garden, pondering where and how to replant my gangling roses and bloomless daylilies. Full sun that once flooded these plants has been diminished to part-shade by the shadows of a beloved large Japanese maple and an enormous Joe Pye weed.

Ten years ago I purchased my present home complete with a back yard filled with roses planted in a series of stone-bordered raised beds.  Consequently, I had no experience on how to create new plant sites in the sunny side of my front yard.

I needed hints on what bushes and perennials to refill the now shadier space. I did not want to invest in unusual tropical or unfamiliar plants advertised in the garden catalogs littering my desk; I wanted only ones that are best suited to grow where I live in North Carolina. Reading Carolinas Gardener’s Handbook (Cool Springs Press, 2012) solved my problems by furnishing all information required to create a beautiful garden here.

The authors, Toby Bost and Bob Polomski, combine horticultural knowledge of the Carolinas gained from experience and education. Bost became familiar with the information required by successful gardeners through 30-plus years as an extension agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Polomski has a doctorate in plant and environmental sciences from Clemson University and has written other books and articles on gardening.

The book begins with an introductory chapter that informs a reader about the basics of gardening in this area, but the majority of the text discusses selected plants that grow well in the Carolinas.

More than 250 plants are presented in groups of annuals, perennials, bulbs, grasses, ground covers, shrubs, vines, trees, herbs, and vegetables. The chosen plants include ones frequently found in all southern gardens and newly introduced ones that I’ve admired in Triangle botanical gardens. Every recommended plant is accompanied by a photograph, info on “why it’s special,” and how to grow it. Each plant group is followed by a calendar of monthly suggestions for best yearlong care.

From reading this book, I learned about various needs of my soon-to-be-moved plants. Since I will be transplanting mainly roses, I was most interested in that section and found the information on planting, pruning, and monthly care to be enlightening and complete. I was especially impressed by the Knock-out Rose portion, which lists the seven current family members of different sizes, fragrances, and colors.

In the final chapter, “helpful gardening tips and hints,” I discovered special planting requirements for azaleas and peiris, both plants I had chosen to add to the semi-shade part of my garden.

If you are a newcomer to the Carolinas or a native who needs advice on all aspects of good local gardening, this book is an excellent source for “all you need to know to plan, plant and maintain a Carolinas garden.”

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.

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