Gardening books are plentiful this spring
Northwest authors come on strong this season, with books on everything from a venerable estate garden near Tacoma to farming in the city.
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Valerie Easton writes in her blog about gardens and the people who make them. A columnist for The Seattle Times' Pacific Northwest Magazine for the last 14 years and author of four books on gardening, she lives on Whidbey Island where she loves to hike, read and garden.
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THIS SPRING'S crop of books is all about growing food. Publishers are madly churning out vegetable gardening books, and a few are really useful. Northwest authors come on strong this season, with books on everything from a venerable estate garden near Tacoma to farming in the city.
One of the prettiest of the new titles is "Sugar Snaps and Strawberries: Simple Solutions for Creating Your Own Small-Space Edible Garden" by Andrea Bellamy (Timber Press, $19.95). The author, who also writes the popular blog Heavy Petal, gardens in Vancouver B.C. on her balcony and in a community garden. The photos of her compact yet productive garden are inspiring, and, best of all, Bellamy tells us which varieties of vegetables do best in containers in our climate. Seed starting and practical organics are also themes. This is the most basic of vegetable-gardening books, but its realistic and encouraging tone and beautiful photography and design will keep you reading.
"Your Farm In The City: An Urban Dweller's Guide to Growing Food and Raising Animals" (Black Dog and Leventhal, $18.95) comes with creds. It's written by Lisa Taylor and other gardeners from Seattle Tilth, a nonprofit leader in the organic-food movement. If I was going to choose one book on everything sustainable, this would be it. It covers everything from how to grow organic lettuce to harvesting rain and enriching the soil. Born of teaching and answering questions, the information is clear, practical and concise, if sometimes a bit random. But where else are you going to find a recipe for green-tomato muffins along with detailed instructions on how to replace a leaky hose coupling? Lively graphics, plus plenty of drawings and photos makes this the local book of the vegetable gardening year.
And whether you appreciate or avoid them, to garden is to coexist with creepy crawlies. Amy Stewart's new "Wicked Bugs" (Algonquin Books, $18.95) is a fascinatingly dark look at the world of wonders that buzzes, burrows and reproduces all around us. I have to admit I stopped reading at the chapter "The Enemy Within" about tapeworms. Stewart's research is prodigious and her writing precise, whether she's telling the tale of a caterpillar that looks like a tiny Persian cat or more about fleas than you ever wanted to know. Read this book and you'll always keep your gardening gloves on. I kept looking for stories about a beneficial insect or two, but Stewart concentrates on scarily diabolical bugs, to great effect.
I was one of several who worked on a new book that's a visual history of Lakewold, the estate garden on Gravelly Lake just south of Tacoma, but that shouldn't preclude my mentioning it. Each chapter of "Lakewold: A Magnificent Northwest Garden" (edited by Ron Fields, University of Washington Press, $50) is written by a different author, including Dan Hinkley, Steve Lorton, Lakewold gardener Katie Burki and Bill Noble of the Garden Conservancy. Their voices weave together to tell the history of an inspired collaboration between gifted gardener Eulalie Wagner and designer Thomas Church. Their lifetime of work and friendship created an essentially formal garden set into a quintessentially Northwest setting. Lakewold is open to the public in every season of the year.
Gardens play a starring role in Whidbey Island architect Ross Chapin's first book. "Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small-Scale Community In a Large-Scale World" (Taunton Press, $30). Many of the photos are of Northwest communities with flourishing gardens at their heart. Homes face inward toward shared garden spaces rather than out toward the street. Footpaths and lanes encourage walking while giving prime visibility to plantings. And when eight to a dozen houses face a shared green space, plantings provide vital privacy. "On the one hand, landscape can serve as decoration... but on the other hand, landscape can be integral with building forms, woven so that both reinforce one another," writes Chapin.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "The New Low-Maintenance Garden." Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.
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