No Garden Variety Book Review

“All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray” and the only place to find a patch of green is in a few of my favorite books for the gardening enthusiast. There are several great books that I use as reference, inspiration, or curling up with on a long winter’s night.  One of these would make a nice last-minute christmas gift for off-season gardeners.

Gardening in Illinois,  By James A. Fizzell

  This month by month guide is split into categories such as roses, perennials, vegetables and headlined by each month. The format is the same for each page, so that everything laid out is more than clear. My number one reason for liking this book is that it is written by a leading expert in the field of gardening and landscape, James Fizzell. I have had the privilege of consulting him on a few of my biggest plant debacles for my clients. His knowledge is second to none and the information has just the right amount of detail, to be helpful, but not scientific. This book is great for anyone who has recently moved into their first home and inherited a yard much larger than their apartment balcony, a garden hobbyist or owner of a recently renovated landscape (hopefully they also have the lifeline of a great landscape company to rush to their aid if the plants are going a little south).  This book format is also applied to other states by various authors, Gardening in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota to name a few.

The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes, By Rick Darke

   This work has beautiful photography which showcases unusual combinations of grasses together. The format is very much like an encyclopedia, and is very comprehensive, but the oversized hardcover book and gorgeous photography lends itself to make one very awesome coffee table addition. You may even recognized a few midwestern scenes like Piet Oudolf’s urban garden at Millennium Park in Chicago, IL. This book is a great reference for gardeners, but also great for inspired interiorscapers that enjoy bringing the outside in, and photography aficionados that drool over pretty pictures.  A quick glance can always get me out of a design rut, even on the worst Chicago winter day.

Continuous Bloom, By Pam Duthie

  This book addresses the gardeners biggest challenge, how to get a continuously blooming perennial garden. As a garden designer Pam Duthie tackles this question head on and has quite a few creative pairings, and successors. The book has won several awards along the way and the use of pictures to illustrate for the visual learner makes the book. This book is a source of fond memories, working at The Natural Garden in St. Charles, IL, where I first found a love of plants. Pam Duthie came for a book signing during the beginning of the books existence. The line of fans were out the door to our little garden shed, where she set up shop. The book was followed up several years later with Continuous Color, a book highlighting the use of trees and shrubs.

Residential Landscape Architecture, Norman K. Booth and James E. Hiss

 Probably the most trade-speak item on my list, I use this book for the occasional reference to remind myself of rudimentary principles of design. It does shed a lot of light on the why behind landscape design styles, “rules”, and trends.  The black and white illustrations show very basic, but well thought out designs, that can offer a reminder the use the Keep it Simple method. This is a great book for anyone who spends time in any design field or hobby, whether it is interior design, product design, or other type of architecture. The principles are the same, and can help give a more rounded view on the subject.

I could continue on about other great landscape literature. There is no shortage of inspiring works to entice the greenery deprived. Check out these awesome recommendations and maybe Santa will find a way to deliver one of these to the gardener in your life.


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