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Armchair Gardener #1: Let Them Read Books!

Listen to Ketzel talk about Armchair Gardening Join the Doyenne of Dirt in the first of her winter Armchair Gardener series, as she peruses the aisles of Powell's Bookstore in Portland, Ore., and talks with three of the city's irredeemable plantaholics.

Ketzel, Paul, Verne and Nancy
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From left to right, Ketzel with Paul Bonine, Vern Nelson and Nancy Goldman at Powell's
As gardeners throughout the country stare longingly out their windows at soggy, snow-covered, and altogether barren winter gardens (stop snickering, you Zone 9+ers), perhaps the single most consoling thing we can do is crack open a good gardening book. To that end, I offer you a list of books by a few of Portland's consummate gardeners. Just do me a favor and pace yourself! Lest your pulse races, your face flushes and your credit card explodes.

Dick Turner's List | Nancy Goldman's List | Vern Nelson's List | Paul Bonine's List | Ketzel's Book Shopping Tips

Pacific Horticulture
Pacific Horticulture
**Web Extra!** Dick Turner's List
Dick Turner, consultant to our series, is editor of Pacific Horticulture, one of the undeservedly best-kept secrets in American gardening. While the magazine does focus on plants and gardens that thrive on the left coast, it also offers ample inspiration (as in eat your heart out) and information for all.
  1. Western Garden Book, by Kathleen Norris Brenzel (Sunset Books)
  2. The Undaunted Garden, by Lauren Springer (Fulcrum Publishing)
  3. Planting Noah's Garden, by Sara Stein (Houghton Mifflin)
  4. Taylor's Master Guide to Gardening, by Frances Tenenbaum, ed. (Houghton Mifflin)
  5. Landscape Plants for Western Regions, by Bob Perry
  6. 100 Great Garden Plants, by William Frederick (Timber Press)
  7. The Principles of Gardening, by Hugh Johnson
  8. The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping, by Rosalind Creasy (Sierra Club Books)
  9. Stalking the Wild Amaranth, by Janet Marinelli (Henry Holt & Company, Inc.)
  10. A Full Life in a Small Place, by Janice Emily Bowers (University of Arizona Press)

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Pacific Horticulture
Dream Plants for the Natural Garden (Timber Press)
Nancy Goldman's Top Ten
If you're in Portland during the Garden Conservancy's Open Days, make a beeline for Nancy's romantic, amiable and idiosyncratic garden. Her slogan: "Junk is art!"
  1. Garden Junk, by Mary Randolph Carter (Penguin Studio)
  2. Ann Lovejoy's Organic Garden Design School -- A Rodale Organic Gardening Book
  3. Beth Chatto's Gravel Garden, (Viking Studio/Penguin Group)
  4. Dream Plants for the Natural Garden, by Henk Gerritsen and Piet Oudolf (Timber Press)
  5. Plant This!, by Ketzel Levine (Sasquatch Books)
  6. Shocking Beauty, by Thomas Hobbs (Raincoast Books)
  7. The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials, by Daniel J. Hinkley (Timber Press)
  8. Illustrated Encyclopedia of Perennials, by Ellen Phillips and C. Colston Burrell (Rodale Press, Inc.)
  9. The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Books, Christopher Brickell and Judith D. Zuk (editors), (DK Publishing, Inc.)
  10. Time-Test Plants: Thirty Years in a Four-Season Garden, by Pamela Harper (Timber Press)

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Forest Gardening
Forest Gardening (Chelsea Green Publishing)
Vern Nelson's Top Ten
Vern is THE MAN around town for information about edible plants. You can read his weekly columns from The Oregonian at The Vern Nelson Archive
  1. Forest Gardening, by Robert Hart (Chelsea Green Publishing)
  2. Encyclopedia of Asian Food, by Charmaine Soloman (Periplus Editions)
  3. Edible Flowers from Garden to Palate, by Cathy Wilkinson Barash (Fulcrum Publishing)
  4. The Beautiful Food Garden: Encyclopedia of Attractive Food Plants, by Kate Rogers Gessert (Van Nostrand Reinhold)
  5. Cooking from the Garden, by Rosalind Creasy (Sierra Club Books)
  6. Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally, by Robert Kourik (Metamorphic Press)
  7. Winter Gardening, by Binda Colebrook (Maritime Publications)
  8. Four Seasons Harvest, by Elliot Coleman (Chelsea Greeb Publishing)
  9. Pruning, by Christopher Brickell (Simon & Shuster)
  10. Exotic Herbs, by Carole Saville (Henry Holt)

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An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Clematis
An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Clematis (Timber Press)
Paul Bonine's Top Ten
If you've ever submitted a question here at Talking Plants, chances are good Paul Bonine had a hand in the answer. He is phenomenally well-versed in all matters horticultural, and is the co-owner of a new, take-'em-by-storm wholesale nursery in Portland called Viva Plants!
  1. Designing with Plants, by Piet Oudolf (Timber Press)
  2. An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Clematis, by Mary K. Toomey and Everett Leeds (Timber Press)
  3. The New Perennial Garden, by Noel Kingsbury (Frances Lincoln Limited)
  4. Botanica's 100 Best Flowering Shrubs for Your Garden (Laurel Glen Publishing)
  5. The Undaunted Gardener, by Lauren Springer (Fulcrum Publishing)
  6. Plant This!, by Ketzel Levine (Sasquatch Books)
  7. Dream Plants for the Natural Garden, by Piet Oudolf (Timber Press)
  8. The Collector's Garden, by Ken Druse (Clarkson Potter)
  9. Passionate Gardening, by Lauren Springer and Rob Proctor (Fulcrum Publishing)
  10. Botanica: The Illustrated A to Z of 10,000 Garden Plants (Welcome Rain)

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Ketzel's Tips for Buying Gardening Books

"It's gorgeous! I've gotta have it!" All right, let's make one thing clear. A thousand tips on How To Buy A Gardening Book will always pale in the face of lust. However, on the outside chance that you are willing to think before you buy, consider the following:
  1. Who's the author? Experience and reputation counts. How else to be sure they know what they're talking about?

  2. Who's the publisher? In the event that you've never heard of the author, the publisher may address issues of legitimacy. A book by Timber Press will assure you of solid information; something in the Taylor's Gardening Guide series spells experience.

  3. What, no author? If there's no author on the cover, think twice. This is likely a packaging job, an amalgam of writers and editors all miserably underpaid; the result may lack a dependable voice. Certainly there are exceptions, e.g., the Fine Gardening Design Guides. In that case, it's the magazine that confers legitimacy on the publication (if not cash on the contributors).

  4. Table of contents tells all. Unless you're in it for the pretty pictures, look for a well-organized book. If you can't find what you want easily, what's the point? I'm particularly a sucker for a strong index; gets you right where you want to go.

  5. Location, location, location! Here's where we get into the English Author Syndrome. Naturally, I'd jump at a book by Christopher Lloyd, Beth Chatto, Penelope Hobhouse, etc; but if you're looking for a how-to book with regionally appropriate information, stay with authors who "get" where you garden.

  6. Reprint or update? In the case of older books, e.g., illustrated gardening encyclopedias, you may be using source books with dangerously outdated information. I say dangerous because older texts (even from the '80s) are cavalier about using toxic materials to kill diseases and pests. Old is great (often incomparable!) for ideas, inspiration and essays, but not for treating disease.
Gift Books Check out books from the 2001 Gifts for Gardeners

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Armchair Gardener Series:

Armchair Gardener 2Armchair Gardener #2: Charles Dudley Warner
Morning Edition, February 8, 2002
The series continues as Ketzel talks with writers Michael Pollan and Allan Gurganus about a little-known 19th century author who reinvented American garden writing.

Listen to Armchair Gardener #3Armchair Gardener #3: A Walk Through a Tasmanian Garden
Morning Edition, February 15, 2002
Ketzel takes us on a tour of a three-acre garden on the Australian island state of Tasmania. The catch is, she never leaves home.

Listen to Armchair Gardener #4Armchair Gardener #4: Winter Gardener Confessions
Morning Edition, February 22, 2002
In this fourth and final piece in Ketzel's series, The Armchair Gardener, Morning Edition listeners confess to the extreme measures they've taken to get their favorite plants through winter.

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