12 December 2009

The Gardener's Bookshelf, Part the First: Books for Plant Lovers

We are currently in the middle of a frigid gale, one that's impressive even for those of us who are regularly scoured by gale-force winds. The house has stood here for over 100 years and withstood worse, but it does moan, grumble and shudder by times when a particularly virulent blast comes in off the Bay.

This makes it more than a little hard to concentrate, to sleep, to work...so I'm quasi-working by attempting to reorganize my bookshelves, and then getting distracted by titles and falling into them. I have a lot of books, both from my days at university (where I majored in Can Lit and minored in Can History and biology) and from my life as a bibliophile in general and plant/gardening nut in particular.

Since we're heading towards Christmas at a speed even faster than those galeforce winds, I thought I'd post some of my favourite books, both new and old. I do book reviews for the provincial newspaper, including garden books whenever possible, but there are a lot of books that don't get the attention they deserve. Perhaps they're a couple of years old, or more. Perhaps they're caught up in the deluge of books that are published every year, and get lost in the shuffle. Or maybe they're just so good that I think everyone should have them.

So while the house shakes, Bruce Springsteen croons on my speakers, and I amuse myself by checking in with Twitter every little while (yes, I capitulated, finally. You may now laugh), I offer you the first of several lists of books I think every plantlover should have. We're starting off with books about plants: not so much about how to garden, but merely about the awesomeness of plants AS plants.

My friend Kylee also wrote about Planthropology at her book-blog, Gardening By the Book, and she also loves it. I keep it at my bedside so I can peruse a section or two and ogle the photographs and just be glad of authors like Ken Druse, who writes deliciously about the plants of his life. Last year in my garden roundup column for the paper, I wrote "If you add only one gardening book to your library this year, Planthropology should be that book."

What's the must-have book for this year, in my opinion? Come back to the next post to find out.

I simply HAD to have the two volumes of The Botanical Garden when they came out a few years ago. (Actually, I just checked. It was seven years ago. Gleep!) They are two of my most cherished books, and if you have any books by Phillips and Rix, you know why. They developed an innovative and stunning way of photographing plants, showing individual structures and not just the whole plant.

What I especially like about books like the two Botanical Garden volumes is that they introduce me to plants from around the world that I would otherwise never see, unless in passing mention on someone's blog or in a book. The plants are divided up into families, so it's very cool to see what all is in the Ericaceae (heath) family, or the Caryophyllaceae (pink) family along with the standards that I know.

Though this may seem sacrilege to many Canadian readers, I'm not a big fan of Marjorie Harris. I do, however, love this book, which is a wonderful course in the native plants of North America. There are wonderful stories of the plants' places in history, in their uses past and present, far beyond just as mere garden ornamentals.
I get sent a lot of books in the run of a year by publishers, some that I've requested, others that just arrive here in hopes I'll review them. This one, Flora Miriabilis, I ordered myself after seeing it on a few lists and seeing Kylee's review of it. I use the Missouri Botanical Garden's website as a source of great information on a regular basis (and hope to get to MoBot some day--I did go to Powell Gardens last year when I was in Kansas City, but MoBot is in St. Louis). So knowing that people from MoBot were involved in this book, and that National Geographic published it...I ordered it promptly. It just arrived today, and by the time you read this post, I'll be in bed, heating pad on my feet, reading away at it. But just a half-hour browse through the book showed it was well worth purchasing. My library is happier for its arrival. So am I.


  1. Wonderful selection of books Jodi! I love your first photo! Is that from your garden? Good luck with the winds! Beautiful post! Carol

  2. Oh Jodi, Thanks for this - great Christmas gift ideas.

  3. I had to add a couple of these to my Amazon wish list. Thanks for the suggestions.

  4. Hi Jodi! I put the first one on my list. I love the name!

  5. Jodi:
    Alas, we must both be pondering the bookshelves at the same time. I just signed Planthropology out at the library - not a big Druse fan, but respect his work (sort of like you and 'Lady M')Will see where it takes me. I am in the midst of two Monty Don books as well - one a big photobook,and the other excerpts from his years writing for the 'Observer' entitled, Monty Don: My Roots. Most anxious to see your wust have selection for the past year. Mine would have to be SPIRIT: Garden Inspiration by Dan Pearson. Have you read? Try and stay warm.

  6. Nice choices! But I prefer to spend my winter writing.

  7. Jodi, it looks like you have quite a gardening book collection. Beautiful choices. I'm going to have to look for The Botanical Garden. (I love hort books that have several volumes) and Planthropology is on my wish list for Christmas.

  8. Jodi, a great collection of plant lovers' books. Can't wait to see what you come up with next.~~Dee

  9. Just as you commented on my list at Gardening by the Book, I have most of these, too! LOL. The only ones I don't have are the two-volume set and now I want those.

    I absolutely concur with your choices here! Now...off to find affordable copies of the ones I don't have. :-)

  10. Wonderful choices, jodi (love your 1st poppy photo) ... I want them all but one (Planthropology) will do! SANTA, DO YOU HEAR!

  11. Thanks for introducing these books. As someone else said, they'd make great Christmas gifts. I enjoyed your post.

  12. Thanks for a great overview, Jodi! Now you just have to tell me how to get publishers to send me all those books!!!

  13. Hi, Jodi, I've mentioned your blog revamp on mine. Hope you enjoy it.

  14. Sorry you are up there blowing away but that's how I picture that area this time of year. I see drifts of snow up to the top of the barn and trees growing at angles to the wind. It was like that when we lived in North Dakota. The howling would get to ya. A good book can be the best of friends.

    I would buy any book you recommend and will make sure that Mr D sees this list. Wishing you warm hot chocolate hugs with lots of fluffy marshmallows.

  15. Hello, this is my first visit to your lovely "blog garden." I love your book selection and was wondering if you had read "Crazy About Gardening" by Des Kennedy. I do believe you'd enjoy his sense of humour :)

  16. I heard Ken Druse speak several years ago, and he was very entertaining. I have several of his books, but not this one. I will put it on my wish list. I'm glad I discovered your blog. It is interesting and informative.

  17. Great tips, Jodi! I don't purchase a lot of gardening books, but prefer to check them out of the library first. I did get a free copy of "Flora Mirabilis," too, and agree it's a beauty. "Planthropolgy" is going on my wish list!

  18. Thanks for drawing my attention to Planthropology by Ken Druse.
    The cover photo is so intriguing that I can hardly wait to read this book.


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