Garden Books

The Successful Gardener Guide: North Carolina

Successful Gardener

Are you new to gardening in North Carolina? Do the hot, dry summers have you puzzling over how to decrease the incessant watering that your wilting garden demands? Are you frustrated by the Piedmont’s thin acidic soil over hard clay? Have your favorite plants from other parts of the country failed here?

Early fall is a good time to re-evaluate a garden’s needs for future seasons. For advice on solving plant problems or on new gardening projects or getting some everyday gardening tools, the best source of information is from horticulture professionals who understand the climatic and soil restrictions of this state. The Successful Gardener Guide, edited by Leah Chester-Davis and Toby Bost (John F. Blair, Pub.), is a collection of articles authored by North Carolina Cooperative Extension horticultural agents for the Successful Gardener newsletter.

This paperback book arranges the best articles into six informative chapters with explanations to a large number of local gardening topics and questions. The editors, Chester-Davis and Bost, used their experience with the publication and with horticulture to select the featured writings.

Chester-Davis is the founding editor of the newsletter, and Bost is both a former extension horticultural agent and an author of several books on North Carolina gardening. Together, they based their topic’s inclusions on “what people most want to know from county Cooperative Extension Centers throughout the state.”

“Gardening Features” in chapter 1 offers tips on every aspect of gardening from flowers to herbs planted in shade, rock gardens, containers, water, and rain gardens.

Chapter 2, “70 Top Plant Choices,” recommends annuals, perennials and woody plants that grow particularly well in our state. A photo accompanies every plant discussed, and various species are identified with their sizes and growth requirements.

Chapter 3, “Seasonal Gardening Calendar,” provides gardening activity timetables for the three climatic regions of the state—mountain, Piedmont and coastal. As an example, rose pruning in North Carolina, unlike many regions, can be delayed from cold February to much more comfortable March.

“Enviro-Tips,” chapter 4, discusses how to care for natural resources.

One of the more interesting sections to me is chapter 5, which furnishes answers to frequently asked questions to the county agents. This informed me of gardening issues that I had wondered about, but had never phoned to receive an answer. How to keep voles, slugs and deer from chomping on plants, how to get rid of English ivy and whether landscape trees should be fertilized are examples of questions provided with succinct answers.

The final chapter lists recommended new plants for the North Carolina gardener. The chapter’s introduction warns to “choose the plant for the site” by matching a vegetation’s needs to those provided by the intended location, not by its appearance appeal. This is a mantra I need to repeat continuously as I walk through garden centers.

This book is interesting and well-written for both experienced and beginning gardeners and will move readers into fall with much more knowledge about gardening in North Carolina, the beautiful state in which we live.

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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