With spring just around the corner, warm weather and sunshine bring on planting and gardening. This collection of books on farms, gardening and flowers may help thaw out a plant lover's green thumb after a chilly winter.
“Powerful Perennials: Enduring Flower Gardens that Thrive in Any Climate” will give both the newbie gardener and seasoned expert new ideas and sound advice for gardening in the Rocky Mountains.
Gardeners may crave spring, work and growth, but author Nedra Secrist assures us winter is an important season in its own right — one for planning, plotting and dreaming of the gardening adventures that lie ahead.
The book offers a potpourri of perennials that grow well in the Mountain West, including favorites as well as other, lesser-known treasures.
Secrist — who runs a perennial nursery with locations in Brigham City and St. Charles, Idaho, and teaches gardening seminars — is more than qualified to dig in to the subject. She offers more than a dozen plants in each section addressing the challenges Western gardeners face: drought tolerance, cold hardiness, wildlife tolerance and perennials that grow well in difficult soils. Interspersed between plant features are informative articles ranging from water-wise gardening, perennial division propagation or curbside gardening.
Each plant feature is thorough, reviewing its strengths, weaknesses, personality, propagation techniques, varieties and potential companion plants. However, it’s oddly written in first person — as if it was written by the plant itself — which can take time to adjust to.
This book is family-friendly and appropriate for younger gardening enthusiasts.
— Alison Snyder
"Growing the Southwest Garden," by Judith Phillips aims to be the ultimate resource for those who want to make an oasis of their desert yard or merely want to learn to cultivate a particular succulent.
It is a wealth of information on the planning of a desert landscape as well as the specifics on caring for seemingly any desert-friendly plant. However, much of the information is very complex and technical, making it not the friendliest of books for new or casual gardeners.
Between understanding the requirements that varying shadow angles pose at different points in the day and anticipating ecological change and the resulting species adaptations, this book requires a lot of its audience and leaves the impression that there is no room for creativity — only science — if a garden is to be successful.
"Growing the Southwest Garden" is fit for the biology buff, even delving into the chemical level to explain how various species of plants have adapted to changing surroundings to become drought-resistant.
The second half of the book gives detailed information on hundreds of species fitted for a Southwest garden so readers who have made it that far can find the precise plants fit for their plots.
This book is appropriate for readers of all ages.
— Jennifer Ball
"VISIONS OF LOVELINESS: Great Flower Breeders of the Past," by Judith M. Taylor, Swallow Press, $52, 467 pages (nf)
“Visions of Loveliness: Great Flower Breeders of the Past” by Judith M. Taylor offers a plethora of encyclopedic information about many almost forgotten European and American floriculturists of the 19th century and the hybrids they created.
Luther Burbank, W. Atlee Burpee and Frank Reinelt are among the noted United States flower hybridizers chronicled.
Divided into three sections, “History of Plant Breeding in Europe and America,” “Important Flower Breeders” and “Plants by Genus,” the book shares insights on how varieties of a number of well-known cultivars were developed, including varieties of lilacs, roses, dahlias, begonias, marigolds, orchids and sweet peas.
A one-page appendix on Benary hybrids, along with end notes, recommended readings and an index are included. Although a number of beautifully colored and black-and-white photos illustrate the book, it would be helpful if there were a few more.
Taylor offers flower lovers a valuable resource that is well-written and extensively researched.
There is no foul language, sexual innuendo or violence described in the book.
London-born Judith M. Taylor is a retired British neurologist currently living in San Francisco. She has also written “The Olive in California: History of an Immigrant Tree.”
— Rosemarie Howard
"THE FARM WHISPERER: Secrets to Preserving Families and Perpetuating Farms," by David Specht and Taneil Specht, Advising Generations, $15.92, 144 pages (nf)
Planning the hand-off of a family business from one generation to the next is always tricky, but family farms present some of the most difficult transition quandaries. In "The Farm Whisperer," certified financial planner Dave Specht presents advice and questions to help families face succession planning for the future of their farm or ranch once the original generation moves on.
Specht clearly has expertise in and passion for his subject. He offers many helpful gems, such as the advice to develop a formal job description and compensation structure for adult children who return home to work on the farm. However, "The Farm Whisperer" fails to deliver for two reasons.
First, the book consists almost entirely of Specht's previously published articles strung together as chapters. This results in an awkward flow and superficial survey of the subject matter.
Second, by his own account, Specht focuses on "inspired questions" rather than answers. This may work in articles but in a book-length work, readers will expect some answers and will be disappointed not to find them.
"The Farm Whisperer" may be useful as a jumping-off point for families who need to verbalize the many succession questions facing their farms, but it won't provide meaningful direction once the questions are on the table.
This book is appropriate for all audiences.
— Emily Mabey Swensen