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Garden Book Stars: Recommended Reading for Horticulture, Plant Breeding, Foraging, Garden Design & more

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Garden books as a publishing and reading category is vast.
It should be.  
The spectrum of garden literature and their authors’ contribution as our link to nature’s web is peerless.  Altogether, the sheer variety of garden and garden-related books represent the exciting, integrated web, or prism, by which we can see how plants are undeniably our true life partners.   
Just think about the limitless and expanding garden genres: design, science, breeding, photography, history, DIY, organic, sustainability, celebrity gardeners, regional — not to mention that there are books that, ahem, dig deep, into a singular plant genus and species – from roses to tomatoes to salvias.
All perfectly natural…
Can you think of another category that is more diverse than nature, plants, and garden design?
I cannot. The possibilities are infinite for garden book subjects to explore.
So without further plant and garden intro talk, here is my elevated recommendations for your garden library.
But not before noting that all of my garden book experience come first-hand; meaning I get my books by way of attending lectures, talks, panel discussions, and social media exchanges.  
I’m endlessly thrilled, as you might imagine, to show off our home library filled with garden and cookbooks autographed/signed by all the noteworthy authors and writers.  It is sheer luxury and garden glamour bliss to possess these books!  I reference them in my designs and writings.  And just as often, I revel in their sheer beauty and information – a portal into a mysterious and beautiful other-world.
So here, in no particular order, is my list of must-have garden books for your home library from my 2014 garden book adventures:
The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias

Far and away one of the best I was honored to get in 2014 was The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias, John Whittlesey, published by Timber Press
Not only do I adore salvias and use them to full visual max in most every garden design that’s appropriate – I kinda’  “won” this special book.  I write “kinda” because it was part of a social media outreach and I’d like to think the Garden Glamour fans and audience made this work…
It was a fun ride Tweeting and sharing the good plant news about this remarkable plant genus.  
The enclosed Timber gift card reads, “We hope you enjoy the book! Signed, Timber Press.
The very salient story is salvias are a true garden workhorse: the Kate Moss of the garden world.  Think of salvias as beautiful showy, versatile and varied, possessing rare charms, including that they are fragrant and hospitable.  Plants are the best hosts and entertainers.   Take note.
Plants host a plethora of pollinators.   The Salvia book starts with a love note of sorts: “Why I Love Salvias.”  The book doesn’t say this but to quote Shakespeare, “Let me count the ways.”  Salvias are not only fragrant but textured — as in fuzzy or not – colorful — as in blossoms or dramatic foliage.  Author Whittley writes, “ Planted strategically throughout my property, salvias create daily opportunities for me to observe hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies.”  
See, salvias are also the plant world’s rather social networking, relationship-building extension to a diverse and exciting world of pollinators.  They attract and promote that, special,  integrated relationship.
The Plant Lover’s Guide to Salvias is a “Look-Book” to this sexy-genus’ style, beguiling blossoms and showy, green-carpet, beautiful brushstrokes. You can peruse the 150 images to design a garden or  just fall hopelessly under the salvia spell.  
Private Edens

The extraordinary throw-back to elegant big books, Private Edens is a grand, pictorial tour of country estate gardens.  I reviewed Private Edens previously in 2014 — Garden Glamour review of Private Edens  It’s a beautiful tome of a book. Plus the photos are by Rob Cardillo – arguably a garden’s favorite photographer.

Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener
You love plants – but I bet you never thought you could breed plants.  Hold on, it’s not like breeding cattle or pigs or horses.  You can do it.  Joseph Tychonievich’s Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener makes it fun and easy to create your own flowers and vegetables.
You make your own recipes, right?  You can make your own fashions, right?  You make your own spices, right?  You see where this is going. OK – so you can “make” your own “Unique Vegetables & Flowers” following Tychonievich fun and easy-to-follow “breeding recipes.”
At this year’s second annual NYBG School of Professional Horticulture’s “Hortie Hoopla” plant breeder Tychonievich was a featured keynote speaker. That’s where I first met the “plant whisperer.”  He signed his book to me: “Leeann, Have fun making plants have sex. Joseph”   
With that autograph, you can readily see that Joseph takes a whimsical approach to making and creating plants.   

In addition to a brief history of plant breeding, the book goes on to feature seven chapters that detail key elements of plant breeding, including: The Blank Canvas – Making Breeding Goals, How to Make a Cross – as in the breeding (One can just hear a theme song with whistling words in the background — “Birds do it, bees do it, even the tweezers do it – no wait!)
Seriously. Moving ahead, the following chapters attest to the DIY focus – and easy-to-do  plant breeding: Genetics Made Easy – and Why It Matters, Narrowing the Field – Evaluating and Selecting Your Favorites, Beyond the Backyard – Advanced Techniques and How To Breed Select Flowers and Vegetables…
Why breed plants? I mean, who has the time for this seeming esoteric pursuit?  Except for the “god” factor it would seem plant sex is best to left to the expert breeders — and to the plants…
And yet, while Joseph cites several reasons to engage in breeding, not the least of which is the fun and the ability to produce greater flavor in the plants for you — AKA the breeder – central to breeding is the ability to promote disease resistance and create stress tolerance for the plants. And well, for you too, in a matter of speaking.  
Plus, there is the opportunity to sell your creations.  Joseph points out that the widely successful ‘Knock Out’ roses, the “beautiful hybrid hollies of Ilex xmeserveae, and other many popular, successful plants were bred by amateur breeders.”
All good enough reasons.  No argument here.  But I will venture that just like foodies like to cook good homegrown food, gardeners like/will like, to breed their own homegrown plants.  
It’s not enough for a foodie to serve up just any ol’ beets, for example.  They will seek out the greenmarket’s chiogga beets because they are special – more rare.  
So too for authentic, impassioned gardeners.  
How can we ever go back to just store or nursery-bought coleus when you can create these colorful, frilly ornamentals that was a favorite of the Victorians, according to Joseph.  
Especially since they are so very easy to propagate.  Same goes for tomatoes.  I think it’s especially beneficial to home breed these favorites of the home garden given the blights these fruits have experienced lately.  Not to mention how the commercial tomatoes have too often had the taste bred out of them.  Now you can readily breed your home tomatoes and dial up the sweetness to your tongue’s delight.
Seriously – he had me at homegrown popcorn!
A bespoke plant world awaits…

Further, I also believe that once gardeners are introduced to the concept and practice of breeding; we’ll do it.  After all, we start our seedlings indoors for spring planting in the temperate zones.  So it’s not much more of a leap to breeding.  
Plant breeding is authentic, artistic and a heady hort pursuit.  
Joseph’s book is your How-To, step-by-step guide.
The author also offers a plethora of Useful Website of other plant breeders at all stages of expertise and plant varieties, such as tomatoes, roses, daffodils or edible homesteading.  He also provides recommended reading for breeding ornamentals and edibles and seed saving, too. Finally there is a fairly extensive Plant Sources.
Plant Breeding is almost a too-perfect segue to the next book, Grow More with Less Sustainable Garden Methods.  “Less” as in “Less Water, Less Work, Less Money.”  

It’s been almost a year to the day that I got the book and had it signed by author Vincent A. Simeone. He wrote: “Dear Leeann, to a fellow author and garden lover, wishing you all the best in the future!”  
See, there were three of us gardening authors who were asked to provide a book talk and book-signing at the annual Plant-O-Rama — the plant world’s favorite horticulture trade show and symposiuum.
We three anchored Plant-O-Rama’s premiere author/book component. Curiously or surprisingly, books were never before featured at the signature Plant-O-Rama event — surely a head-scratcher that both Metrohort and NYBG’s Charles Yurgalevitch and founding father Bob Hyland soon remedied.
While Plant-O-Rama is a popular, over-subscribed professional garden lover’s must-attend event, there hadn’t ever been a book component until 2014! I was honored to have been asked to speak and contribute to this “garden first.”
Besides Vinnie and me, there was gardener and author, Marta McDowell, there for her then, newly-released book: Beatrix Potter Garden.

Vinnie is a well-respected horticultural professional and gardening consultant and his talk was very well attended.  Attendees wanted to learn more about how to create a sustainable home landscape.  
Missed the talk?  No worries.  You can learn how from his highly-readable advice and recommendations.  Easy-to-follow charts — as in Weed-Suppressing Groundcovers, presented by Plant, Habit, Height, Ornamental Value and Culture or Plants That Attract Wildlife in the Garden offer turbo-charged information at a glance. Likewise, the images are most helpful — and nice to look at.  The pictures provide a high-quality look at not only the plants: both good ones and invasives — so you will know what to look for but also for the pruning and tools, along with what invasive insects look like.  Tips on keeping accurate records, such as Vinnie’s sample IPM Record Keeper provide the amateur and sustainable gardening “newbie” a roadmap to how to go about eliminating pesticides.  

Grow More with Less part of the sustainable garden is providing a natural, healthy garden that encourages wildlife to share your garden.  Too often, us garden designers hear would-be clients ask to have butterflies in the garden but not bees!  Yikes.  And our gardens have become so sanitized that I never, ever see snakes or frogs or bats as was once common.  I did see a lone box turtle trying to get back to the untamed garden below our yard. But that was a singular sensation that frankly I think was the result of Hurricane Irene’s hocus pocus.  Grow More with Less points out how these reptiles or amphibians – -along with mammals and insects — are a very beneficial — essential really – to “controlling a wide variety of pests, including snails, millipedes, and harmful insects.  
Besides, it’s more interesting to have diversity – in the garden and in life.  A boring monoculture is a one-trick pony that is finally rallying food enthusiasts to embrace a greater variety of ingredients. So too should home gardeners insist on inviting birds, bees, and frogs and toads into the garden.  After all, you never know – one could turn out to just be a prince..

The chapter heading tell you what to expect in reading Grow More with Less.  For example, The Right Plant for the Right Place (a gardener’s mantra), Water Conservation (how to use Grey Water) , Eco-Friendly Strategic Planning For Your Garden, IPM, Sustainable Lawn Care (choose a fescue that serves your needs – lawns don’t have to be “high-maintenance or water guzzling,” he advises. And go ahead and mitigate the turf – put in edible!);  and Maintaining a Healthy Garden From the Ground Up (composting, soil management, planting and pruning)
While you may spend less money and time using Grow More with Less, you will assuredly learn a whole lot more using this helpful and interesting guide book to creating sustainable habitat in your home garden. Plan now for spring is less than a dozen weeks away.  
Another helpful, hands-on guide to gardening is the powerful Citizen Farmers The Bioydynamic Way to Grow Healthy Food, Build Thriving Communities, and Give Back to the Earth, by Daron “Farmer D” Joffe.  
In the food and garden talks for my book, The Hamptons & Long Island Homegrown Cookbook I often cite how food is a prism through which we can view our world.  Look closely and you can see politics, immigration, a fair wage, the environment, health, art, and so on.  
It’s fun to read that, launched by a turkey sandwich that “spoke” to Joffe, Citizen Farmer is motivated by some of those issues; mainly community, health — for both our bodies and the earth’s — and food.  
He was hooked on biodynamic farming after attending a seminar on the teachings of Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf education, a leader in social reform, music, arts, and architecture, and the father of biodynamic farming.
The sandwich told him he was a consumer – taking more than he was giving back.
Steiner’s teachings led Joffe to pursue a sustainable life.
Joffe writes: Biodynamics that is akin to The Farmer’s Almanac: Plant and harvest with the cycles of the moon and stars. Raise animals, make compost, grow crops replenish the soil. Produce rather than import “input”  — such as feed and fertilizer.  
It becomes apparent that the sandwich and Steiner speak from the same truth.
Citizen Farmer tells the ancient story of good stewardship:  The chapters salute the sustainable, biodynamic lifestyle.  The soft cover book is a handy reference that can be used as a guide while plotting and planning your sustainable garden, as well as an easy-to-tote assistant to take along to the nursery.  
There are plenty of photos, drawings, lists, tips, and charts to help guide you. He’s done all the work. Of particular note is his “Harvest Meditation” – it’s downright spiritual.  He writes; “It’s is not ironic that we often bow down toward the earth when picking produce. I see this as a gesture of humble gratitude to the forces of Nature…”
The most beautiful coffee table garden vanity book is bar none – Manolo Valdes, Monumental Sculpture: At the New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) from the astonishing spanish artist, Manolo Valdes  
The photographic art is the essence of this art book, published by Assouline.  (Ok, the sculpture is grand and bold and subtly powerful…) 
The garden art here is rendered by my friend, James T. Murray  He presented us with a signed copy earlier this year. What a glamorous gift… We love showing it off to our guests.

Murray is the exuberant, singularly talented photographic artist whose work makes this book so compelling to look at.  And so enduring and haunting that you will return to to the pages to indulge in the imagery over and over…   Murray’s stunning photographs capture the soul of the towering sculptures. His work pays homage to the other arts.  

He documented Valdés installations at the Garden’s seasonal outdoor exhibition, Monumental Sculpture, that was on view from September 22, 2012 to May 26, 2013.  Created specifically for this exhibit, the nine-month display featured seven enormous bronze, steel, and aluminum sculptures  — some over 17 feet tall and weighing more than 20 tons.  The “Towers of Culture” forms were all sculptured female heads adorned with hats or headdresses referencing the plant world.  Poised, or posed, in a “stately gravitis,” the seven ancient goddess were inspired by Nature and the Garden’s horticulture, according to Valdes and their monikers bear witness too: Butterflies, Ivy, Fiore, Guiomar, Alhambra, Galatea, and Arcadia.

These ladies of the garden offered an “air of serenity, watching the seasons, and the weather,” including the winds, and rains of Superstorm Sandy.  Murray captured their shimmering essence, photographing them in all four seasons.  Each sculpture takes your breath away.  Some are featured as full pages, others as double-page beauty or fashion layouts.  Murray’s eye and lens captures the light just so… The look is ethereal and romantic and mysterious..  
I think I like the Autumn and Winter best. The colors of the autumn are so rich – soaking up and burnishing the sculpture’s bronze leaves. The winter photos embellish the palette – a gilding of the lily, if you will, that works like magic, making it appear just this side of heaven.   The sugary snow and the sun shining beyond – “kiss” the sculptured art so that the light glimmers off the silver metal making it appear not unlike like jewelry set on crystal.  This book is a must-have for your garden room or coffee table.
And finally, in a rather direct aside to Murray and Valdes’ garden art, is Foraging & Feasting – A Field Guide and Wild Food Cookbook by Diana Falconi and Illustrated by Wendy Hollender.

The author and illustrator collaborated on a Foraging & Feasting Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded March of 2103.  The two artists’ appeal read: “Celebrate our local bounty and traditional foodways.
We are self-publishing this book and hope you will purchase it now to help us pay for production and printing costs! We believe you will appreciate Foraging & Feasting as an educational tool that can foster a more sustainable, regenerative and ecological way of eating. Foraging offers an adventurous and satisfying way to eat locally and seasonally. Our book will help readers reclaim the lost art of foraging and become immersed in the “Kitchen Arts.” Readers will be able to identify, harvest, prepare, eat and savor the wild bounty all around them. Surely everyone will appreciate learning to create delicious, nutritious, healthy meals from scratch for a modest amount of money.”

Foraging & Feasting video created for successful Kickstarter campaign 

Fast forward. The book is artfully produced.  It’s a joy to read and view.  Knowing their passion for the project just makes the reading all the more exciting.

“The book features beautiful, instructive botanical illustrations and delicious, enlightening recipes.”  The two plant artists said “They shared this project .. out of our long commitment to connecting with nature through food and art. The effort weaves together Dina’s 30 years of passionate investigations into wild-plant identification, foraging and cooking with Wendy’s deft artistic skills honed over 15 years as a botanical illustrator. For the past three years we have been writing, drawing, designing and testing the recipes for this book. The result is an abundance of recipes and illustrations that celebrate wild plants and creative ways to bring them into our lives.”
The Foraging & Feasting book is a rare combination of a coffee table art book and a food and drink cookbook.
Dina is a home herbalist and mixologist.  Wendy is a world-class botanical illustrator.  Together they have created an exhilarating, informative guide to living a better, more interesting life.  Really.  Half the book is like viewing an exciting plant hunter or adventurer’s notebook (Think Darwin or more recently, Eat, Pray, Love’s, Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest book, The Signature of All Things: A Novel whose female star falls in love with a too-handsome botanical illustrator) with the beauty of the plants all there while also serving the very real purpose of indicating what to look for when identifying the plant while foraging.  The Forging & Feasting book presents tips on foraging and DIY herb care, along with delicious and I daresay, never before made recipes that should be crushing the foodie and culinary world as “the next Big thing.”
I’ve known Wendy since I studied at NYBG to earn my certificate in Landscape Design. (Today, I am instructor at the Garden.) The New York Botanical Garden where she was the Coordinator – i.e. head – of the esteemed Botanical Art & Illustration certificate program.  I was so taken with Wendy’s botanical artistry  I just had to write a feature piece for the NYBG Garden’s Member Newsletter  — and as you can see– I can’t stop writing about her botanical art.  Writing that story, I learned how she was able to put the images directly onto fabric; she created scarves with botanical art by running the textiles through her printer.  Later, when I worked at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, we worked with Wendy to have her create a special cherry blossom scarf to mark a 25th Anniversary milestone of the cherry blossom celebration.
As a card-carrying member of the Wendy Hollender fan club, when it came time to create window treatments for our Garden State country house, there was never any double that I would have to have Wendy’s artful work accessorize our home.   
I wanted to create a very light, scrim-light kind of relaxed balloon window look, while showcasing local area native plants. I researched the plants I wanted to feature, including shore mallow and orchids and herbs and collaborated with Wendy, selecting the botanical art from her portfolio. She suggested we use Spoonflower fabrics. I loved their whisper-light fabric and the near-perfect soft blue/white that almost was too good a match to the window molding.  And this was a full year or so before Spoonflower earned/won a American Made by Martha Stewart Award

In terms of the book, Wendy’s botanical art opens the hardcover,  230+ pages of the Foraging & Feasting book.  Gotta get the ingredients first!

So from Amaranth to Violet, the botanical art’s plant ID’s are there for you to locate and the plant that will be used as the main ingredient in the recipes that follow.  The authors suggest the plant IDs are best referred to as plant “maps.”  They write: … “Plant maps will help you navigate your way around the 50 wild edible plants “ featured  in the book.
The full-color, full-page foraging plant pages are rendered in full, glorious, botanical illustration  – meaning you can readily see the leaves, fruits, and explanation – just like those intrepid plant hunters. But here, your value-add is the bottom-of-the-page bar, noting the plant’s Habitat and its Culinary Uses.
Wendy explains “Botanical Art are plant drawings that are scientifically accurate.  Botanical illustrators draw what they want you to see  –  It’s my job to kind of lead the viewer around the plant and allow you to see what the artists want you to see,” she explains.    Dina says Wendy’s art offer a kind of bold, rich soulfulness to the book.  

The botanical art is reason enough to buy this book.  The locavore, homegrown recipes from clinical herbalist Dina are a homegrown, healing and delicious collaboration of “new” and tradition that “Turns the plants into delectable dishes.”
She goes on to explain that the book offers 100 master recipes – then throttling down on the feasting element of the book, she says you can make 30-40 variations for each recipe thereby you have potentially 3-4,000 recipes!   
The ingredients are local, so zero carbon footprint and zero cost. On the other side of the coin is the superior nutrition these ingredients provide.  “Find what grows in our ecosystem,” suggests Dina.   

Enjoy all these garden and edible/food books.  For years and years to come… You are their stewards. You can pass them on.

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"Love of beauty is taste. The creation of beauty is art."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

 I adore plants. Plants are my muse ~ they are my paramour… I’m a garden artist; a nature lover, & horticulturist. I’m an author & writer. My passion for culture & beauty, along with my trait curiosity, brings you an authentic celebration of life. I’m a storyteller ~ weaving the artful gifts of horticulture, garden design, tablescape decor, floral design, cocktail culture, garden-to-glass recipes & their glamorous garnishes, homegrown edibles, food & drink; & cooking, to bring you my flair & what I’ve been told is an avid elan ~ as well as the stories from those who inspire me ~ to pursue an elegant, enduring, & joyful, entertaining lifestyle. It’s an honor & a privilege to do what you love.

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