Winter a good time to read about gardening


What do gardeners do in the winter?

Relax, revel and read.

With no planting or weeding to be done, we breathe a sigh of contentment for another gardening year well done. We tuck in by the fire, wrap ourselves in a cozy afghan and dream dreams of next year’s garden.

Perhaps Santa tucked a few garden books under your tree for inspiration. Maybe you stashed books for wintertime reading. Or you’re planning a visit to your corner library, local bookstore or bookmarked Web site to catch up on some garden reading.

What are my favorite gardening books? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are three pleasure reads, gardening books that you certainly learn from, but are just plain enjoyable to read.

Sharon Lovejoy’s “A Blessing of Toads” is a perennial favorite, filled with her sprightly drawings and charming stories.

She delights readers with her insightful observations of nature, sprinkling her essays with recipes and Earth-smart garden tips. Did you know bumblebees dance the rumba? Sharon will tell you how and why.

“It is a great joy the day we discover that we can learn things without actually having to make the mistakes ourselves, said the late Washington Post columnist Henry Mitchell. To prove his point, he shares his gardening adventures in the classic, “The Essential Earthman.” His acerbic wit and considerable knowledge shine on every page.

Felder Rushing is my funny bone favorite and quite the character. Terribly well-educated and accomplished but outrageously nonconformist, he signed one of my books, “The rules stink!” Pick up a copy of his wonderful “Passalong Plants” or other books and prepare to have a very good time as you learn.

Used bookstores yield a treasure of distinctive garden reads. Ferret out old tomes with detailed botanical illustrations or charming Old English texts. I recently rediscovered Charles Dudley Warner’s “A Summer in My Garden” and was struck that a Victorian writer could so accurately capture modern gardeners’ sentiments with such humor.

Maybe you would like to learn about a new type of gardening. Discover landscape designer Rick Darke’s book, “The American Woodland Garden,” or the National Wildlife Federation’s “Attracting Birds, Butterflies and Other Backyard Wildlife.” Become an armchair gardener as you explore new horizons in roses, iris, native plants or lasagna gardening.

My reference library at work and at home boasts a few tried-and-true books. I favor Tracy DiSabato-Aust’s “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden” for advice on perennial care.

“The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control” gives the best organic troubleshooting tips. And “Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver” is indispensable for those who grow their own. I trust books by the American Horticultural Society, Rodale and Michael Dirr, god of trees and shrubs.

Some of my favorites aren’t how-to gardening books, but touch on growing things and environmental responsibility.

David Mas Masumoto’s “Epitaph for a Peach” is a work of literary art, a beautifully readable tale of his efforts to save a heritage peach and his family’s farming heritage. Scott Chaskey’s poetic “This Organic Life” chronicles a year on an organic community farm and celebrates good food, community and a reverence for the land.

Don’t despair the winter months out of the garden. Pick up a good book. Brew a steaming cup of cocoa. Then settle in by the fire to learn, to be inspired and to touch hearts with other gardening souls.