Garden Books

Your Garden’s Health and Beauty

Summer’s arrival pushes the temperatures up from pleasant warm to sweaty hot. Activities in gardens change as the thermometer’s mercury rises. Watering and weeding become chores designated for early morning’s coolness.

As I wave my hose over foliage as though it were a magic water wand, I search my dripping plants for the telltale signs of bugs’ nibbles and of diseases’ blight. If I discover more than pluck-able Japanese beetles or persistent aphids to be banished by a good drenching from my hose, I need advice on how to help my plants. Garden Rescue (DK Publishing, 2012) provides “first aid for plants and flowers” that any gardener should learn.

Jo Whittingham, the author, opens this volume with an introduction that explains how to separate problematic conditions from normal plant behaviors. Divided into edible and ornamental categories, she presents plants, their problems, and solutions.  She introduces each plant type with an explanation of its anatomy and of how it propagates.

A “what’s wrong with” and clinic sections for each group of plants follows. Often the solutions refer the reader to pages in the “A to Z of common pests and diseases” section where both chemical and non-chemical treatments are recommended. In addition to advice for specific problems, Whittington supplies general information on how to keep plants healthy enough to discourage insects and diseases from running rampant in a garden.

While annihilating pests in my small garden, I noticed various spots in my yard that just needed something new to spark their summer appearance. I found an interesting source of ideas for quickly perking up the garden in any season in Gardening Shortcuts (DK Publishing, 2013). The discomfort of summer’s heat and humidity makes the 30 minutes required for many projects suggested by this book particularly appealing.

The author, Jenny Hendy, divides the information into chapters providing suggestions on how to improve the appearance and effectiveness of patios, borders, edible gardens, wildlife attractors, art, containers, and general garden care.

To prevent time loss, each project lists the equipment and supplies required. The instructions to creating anything from a new topiary to installing stepping-stones are given step by step, accompanied by photographs. The “summer makeover” and “instant color lift” sections suggest plants to highlight the drab green that is dominating my garden. From a “DIY sculpture” section, I can copy a spiral of white stones to fill a small, shady bed with form and texture.

Despite the heat, summer is delightful to home gardeners. Whether we grow vegetables or flowers, they flourish most abundantly during this season. The beauty and high productivity comes from sweaty efforts to protect and improve the garden. This summer enjoy fully the results of labor in your garden by moments of pleasure created from gazing at a perfect blossom, smelling a unique fragrance or tasting a just ripened fruit.

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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