Gift books for gardeners
Whether for spring prep or winter lounging, these choices offer beauty and information
For Western New York gardeners, winter is a time to plan, learn, look at seed catalogs, and maybe travel to places where gardens are still in full bloom. Books can help with this, maybe better than any other resource. Although gardeners are increasingly turning to the internet for gardening advice—it’s temptingly easy and the results are instant—the answers are often too general, too simplistic, or just plain wrong. Many of these sites exist exclusively for revenue; they are not run by people with gardening expertise and use freelancers for articles that are not fact-checked. It’s time to revisit books.
Nature into Art: The Gardens of Wave Hill
Timber Press, 2019
Just half an hour from midtown Manhattan, there’s a twenty-eight-acre oasis overlooking the Hudson River. It was founded in 1965 as a city-owned nonprofit, but gardens have existed there since a private estate was built in the mid-nineteenth century and owned by successive (and prominent) New York families. The Greek Revival house was finally demolished in 1926, but, over the years since the estate was donated to the city, the neglected gardens have been redeveloped into specific plantings—Shade Garden, Flower Garden, Wild Garden—and trails. In addition, a new central structure, Wave Hill House, has been built. The views from Wave Hill across the Hudson to the Palisades are so spectacular that gardeners have had to create special features that tempt visitors to look away from the river to the gardens as well as incorporate parts of the gardens into these all-encompassing views.
Thomas Christopher’s words and Ngoc Minh Ngo’s photographs tell the story of Wave Hill and each of its ten major features. Christopher explains how the new gardens arose from neglect and how the soft, undulating style of plantings Wave Hill is known for came into being. Ngo’s images will undoubtedly make anyone who sees them want to visit this gorgeous estate—which isn’t all that far away from Buffalo.
A Way to Garden
Timber Press, 2019
Former Martha Stewart Living editor Margaret Roach is known for her blog A Way to Garden, which has evolved into a podcast and expansive website, loaded with information about plants, gardening, and country living. Roach is someone Western New Yorkers should know about; she gardens in the Hudson Valley, which is close enough to make her recommendations relevant here. Roach’s new book is an updated version of 1998’s A Way to Garden; the title plays with the idea of gardening as an escape, which it literally was for Roach, who abandoned Manhattan life for the country about a decade ago.
A Way to Garden is organized by season, as Roach leads us through all the chores, highlights, and how-tos associated with running a large country property that combines ornamental and edible plantings. She explains how her garden has changed over the decades, as certain plants became known as invasive and she began to gradually exchange lawns for meadows. There is a advisory on nuisance animals—squirrels, racoons, woodchucks, deer, she has them all—and how to diagnose the damage and take preventative measures. Other plant-specific chapters take on lilacs, tomatoes, clematis, hydrangea, and many other favorites.
Leslie F. Halleck
Timber Press, 2019
Turning to the indoor garden, Leslie Halleck offers a way for houseplant fans to add to their collections without financial hardship. Though the propagation of other types of plants is included in this general advisory on cutting, dividing, and seed-starting, most of the illustrations are of indoor plants. The book offers basic knowledge that too many gardeners lack; we’re used to buying what we need at the garden center. It’s fun to create your own baby plants; it also gives indoor and outdoor gardeners a better idea of how plants work.
The Artist’s Garden
White Lion, 2019
Close connections between artists and the natural world are obvious almost every time we walk into a museum or gallery. These relationships are always worth exploring; they reside at the heart of centuries of art history. The Artist’s Garden explores those relationships at an essential level. It takes readers on a tour of the gardens that have been central to more than two dozen artists, many of them household names.
Most know that Monet had a garden at Giverny, but understand less about his previous gardens at Argenteuil and Vétheuil. No outside place to work was a deal breaker for this artist, who tried always to paint en plein air. Bennett provides the history of all Monet’s gardens and what he did in them, contemporary and archival photography show the gardens themselves, and art reproductions indicate the results.
This combination of research, facts, photographs, and reproductions is repeated for the other artists and there is visiting information for each of the locations, which include properties inhabited by Peter Paul Rubens, Pierre-August Renoir, Salvador Dali, Frida Kahlo, even Leonardo da Vinci. A few of the gardens that inspired these artists have been continuously maintained but, in most cases, decades of neglect has been followed by heroic restoration efforts that often used paintings to figure out the original garden layouts.
The Artist’s Garden is a great coffee table book; it’s also a great idea for a world gardening tour.
Grow Great New York Vegetables
Timber Press, 2019
The title of this book may alarm gardeners who know quite well that New York is a big state with a wide variety of climates, but rest assured, that diversity is taken into account, with clear charts on the different zones and different frost dates. Just as an example, Old Forge experiences its average first frost September 1–10, while Buffalo is five weeks later. After a first chapter on these and other weather concerns, Ianotti’s book gets right into the seasons, starting in January/February (planning and preparation), March (indoor sowing), April (outdoor planting starts), and so on. The instructions, charts, lists, and illustrations couldn’t be clearer. Anyone who wants to get started with vegetables in Western New York will profit from this well-written, fact-filled, and easy-to-scan book.
For gift ideas for the chef in your life, check this out!