AGC Book Club Reading List for 2012 – 2014

BOOK GROUP AUTHOR & TITLES 2012

DIFFENBAUGH, VANESSA :   THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS
STEWART, AMY:   FROM THE GROUND UP
SEARLE, EVELYN:   TO THE WOODS
SHIELD, CAROLE:   LARRY’S PARTY
KIMBELL, KRISTEN:   THE DIRTY LIFE
THAXTER, CELIA:   AN ISLAND GARDEN
HANDELSMAN, JUDITH:   GROWING MYSELF
PRESTON, RICHARD:   THE WILD TREES

BOOK GROUP AUTHOR & TITLES 2013

MONTEFIORE, SANTA:   THE MERMAID GARDEN
COOPER, THOMAS:   THE ROOTS OF MY OBSESSION
HEAVEY, TARA:   WINTER BLOOM
MITCHELL, HENRY:   ONE MAN’S GARDEN
TSUKIYAMA, GAIL:   THE SAMAURI’S GARDEN
GOODMAN, RICHARD:   FRENCH DIRT
WULF, ANDREA:   FOUNDING GARDENERS
SEALE, WILLIAM:   THE WHITE HOUSE GARDEN

THE GARDEN OF READING; AN ANTHOLOGY OF 20TH CENTURY SHORT FICTION ABOUT GARDENS AND GARDENERS

BOOK GROUP TITLES 2014

STEWART, AMY:   WICKED PLANTS
ABBEY, EDWARD:   DESERT SOLITAIRE
AMIRREZVANI, ANITA:   BLOOD OF FLOWERS
MITCHELL, HENRY:   ESSENTIAL EARTHMAN
ENG, TAN TWAN:   GARDEN OF EVENING MISTS
BARILLA, JAMES:   MY BACKYARD JUNGLE
GILBERT, ELIZABETH:   THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS
LINK, MARDI JO:   BOOTSTRAPPER: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm
Two books/two Authors :  ROBBINS, JIM:   THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES
GIONO, JEAN:   THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES

Book Reviews

Here are two book reviews from Fine Gardening a couple years ago.  Both books are available at the Ashland library. If we get some October rains, planting within the next few weeks would be a good start.  ….Viki
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“Wildflowers in Your Garden:  A Gardener’s Guide by Viki Ferreniea.  
This is an uncompromising book that demands from gardeners the same commitment to plants that has motivated the author, a trained horticulturist.  And although Ferreniea writes about North American native plants with an amateur’s exuberant pleasure, she approaches their care and culture with the discipline of a professional, and she expects no less from her readers.  This is not a book for sissies. 
 
‘Patience and planning,’ she insists.  How dull that sounds to a gardeners who is eagerly awaiting the time when the digging, planting, and nurturing can begin!  But plan you must, and patience you must have, to achieve a successful garden and provide the best conditions for the plants you have been longing to grow. 
 
She then describes the conditions for growing wildflowers and tells how to create these conditions.  Where other books merely recommend a gritty soil mix for rock garden plants, Ferreniea goes further:  ‘the majority of plants that favor naturally rocky places do so not only because they prefer to have less competition from other plants but also because they need cool root zones, rapid drainage – especially at ground level around their crowns – and full sun for their upper parts.’
 
Elsewhere, she fathoms the conundrum of moisture-retentive but well-drained soil:  ‘at first, this sounds like a contradiction:  what it is saying, however, is that the plant needs a soil that has enough organic matter (humus, compost, manure and the like) mixed into it to absorb and retain water, and at the same time has enough drainage material (sand, small stones or gravel) in it to allow excess moisture to drain off after the organic matter has soaked up all water it can.’  Now that makes sense. 
 
Add to this kind of thoroughness a wonderful directory of plant portraits arranged according to the plants’ cultural requirements – easy, intermediate and specialty plants – and their light preferences:  sun or shade; then throw in a number of beautiful photographs by the author along with plans and watercolor sketches often different types of wildflower gardens.  What you end up with is the most comprehensive book of its kind that’s been written to date. “
 
“The American Mixed Border:  Gardens for All Seasons by Ann Lovejoy.  
Ann Lovejoy is a keen observer who clearly loves plants and who also loves the very process of gardening as well as the changes that a garden can exhibit over the seasons and from year to year.  Lovejoy, who lives not far from Seattle, Washington, thinks Americans need to learn from England’s masterful gardeners, but also that they need to develop their own style, one adapted to their climate and the realities of limited space, time, labor and money.  Her own five-year-old garden on Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound provides many examples of rich, layered, complex combinations of woody and herbaceous plants.  She devotes a chapter each to small trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, vines, grasses and bulbs, and the roles that each one of them can play in the mixed border.
 
This isn’t a book that one absorbs in just one sitting.  It’s dense with subtle plant combinations for all four seasons.  Lovejoy assumes her readers already know something about gardening but are eager for design ideas to improve what they have.  The design discussion is leavened with horticultural advice, clearly based on firsthand experience.   
 
An interesting sequence of drawings shows a small section of a border that is on view all year.  A pear tree and a few evergreen shrubs form the backbone.  The informal planting includes 59 different plants, including deciduous shrubs, perennials, annuals, vines, grasses, ground covers, and spring-, summer- and fall – blooming bulbs for foliage and/or flowers from January to December. 
 
The gardens Lovejoy knows best are located in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast.  Many of her specific plant recommendations are probably best suited to gardens in those climates, but the design advice, and her way of thinking about borders, can be adapted to all areas.”
  
Submitted by: Viki Ashford

AGC Book Club: To the Woods

To the Woods: Sinking Roots, Living Lightly,
and Finding True Home
by Evelyn Searle Hess

To the Woods is the true story of Evelyn Searle Hess & her husband, David, who, in their late fifties, walked away from the world of modern conveniences to live on twenty acres of wild land in the foothills of Oregon’s coast range mountains not far west from Eugene. Ms. Hess describes their day-to-day struggles, failures, and discoveries with lush descriptions of their surroundings and its rhythms of life. While developing a wild plant nursery & planning their new home, she writes about learning and living with the joys of their natural environment. It tracks the natural history of place through the seasons, and living life in concert with nature. Through her thoughtful prose, she wrestles with issues like human impact on the ecology of our planet.

Written By Viki Ashford

FOR ALL THE TEA IN CHINA

For All The Tea in China; How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History………… by Sarah Rose

This book is the true story of a 19th century botanist, Robert Fortune, who traveled undercover for the East India Company in Qing China to steal tea plants and trade secrets for England. It was the largest and most significant act of corporate espionage in the history of the world. For All the Tea in China is delightful to read.

Sarah Rose wrote this historical narrative like an adventure novel. Besides being full of interesting historical facts, the story has suspense, intrigue, exploitation and explorations. It’s a true story of corporate espionage where pirates, warlords and other eccentric characters lead us through exotic locations and tense situations. Where Victorian capitalism, botanical desire and a national addiction pushes nations into war and causes one man to risk his life for one plant, Camellia sinensis…TEA.

So brew yourself a nice cup of tea, sit down with this book and enjoy.
Carlotta Lucas
ACG Book Club & Blog Editor

Elizabeth and Her German Garden

In September, the AGC book club read and discussed, “Elizabeth and Her German Garden” by Elizabeth von Arnim.

An admired literary figure of her time, von Arnim wrote this semi-autobiographical novel of her life on a Prussian estate in the late 1800’s, where she spent most of her time planning and creating a garden around Nassenheide, a German country home. Although her descriptions of her life there are often tongue-in-cheek, it is evident that she had a real love of nature and plants. Sadly, the times did not allow a woman to do hands on gardening, and Elizabeth had to settle for supervising untrained staff to fulfill her garden dreams.

Joanie Kintscher
AGC Book Club