Top 10 Garden Books of 2017

Here is a list of the best gardening books that came out in 2017 as reviewed in Washington Gardener Magazine. Buy a few of these for yourself and for the plant geeks, garden lovers, and hort heads in your life! These 10 selections are in no particular order. (Note that if you click on the links, it takes you to the book's Amazon page and I get a few pennies if you order it from there.)

1. Prick



Reviewer Nicole Reisinger, said: "Leon’s styling tips and advice are plainly written; her simple guidance is inspirational and makes creating a calmer and brighter space achievable.
   In addition to her styling tips and plant gallery, Leon’s care guide to help your cacti and succulents thrive is extremely thoughtful and well-informed. From scorching, disfiguration, discoloration, wrinkling, and overwatering, Leon covers all the bases on what to and what not to do.
      The book itself is attractive, with an abundance of cacti and succulents engulfing the cover. Leon’s beautiful photography makes her work feel like more of a coffee table book than a how-to guide. Don’t judge a book by its cover, though, because the knowledge and information tucked alongside each picture is just as expert.
    Prick is a perfect holiday gift for all plant lovers who want a burst of style."

2. Florilegium



Reviewer Jim Dronenburg said: "The book, published in two centuries’ retrospect, is much more than pretty pictures, although you could certainly buy it for the prints alone, and it certainly is a coffee-table-sized book. But the first part (14 pages) is text and pictures related to the subject, first describing Banks, his staff, the ship, crew, captain, and the voyage from start to finish. For anyone with any interest in botany or history, it is a fascinating read. The second part (pages  21-295) is the plates themselves. Each has a description with it-: Latin genus and species, native name, English common name, a description of the plant and where it grows, quotes from the various journals of the voyage where applicable, uses of the plant, and a quick run-through of the plant’s botanic name and any changes. Very well annotated, too.
   This is expensive, but a great present to yourself. It is a great present for any gardener you know. I myself intend to get this book."

3. Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix



Reviewer Erica H. Smith said: "Every once in a while, a gardening book comes along that isn’t merely another nice resource I’ll point out to others, but that feels like it was written just for me. Veggie Garden Remix is one of these. It’s all about the weird and fascinating food plants I like to try in my garden—and unlike so many of the articles and lectures that have claimed they’d introduce me to something new, actually describes quite a few I haven’t grown! It’s also my favorite type of gardening book in that it tells a story about a personal journey, in this case Niki Jabbour’s decision to make her garden into an international wonderland. Her journey began after her Lebanese mother-in-law pointed out that the snake gourds intended for Halloween decoration were in fact edible and known to her as cucuzzi.
   I love that Jabbour gets this and writes with equal fondness of all the vegetables coming out of her garden and appearing in the pages of this lovely book. This book is a great addition to the gardening library of adventurous and timid gardeners alike; it tells the story of how trying something new isn’t scary, even if it does make a good Halloween decoration. Even those more experienced in growing the unusual may find surprises here—I’ll be browsing again when it’s time to make choices for next year’s garden."

4. A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future


Reviewer Uyen Nguyen said: "A New Garden Ethic is very timely. As the threat of climate change looms and more agricultural spaces pop up in urban areas, author Benjamin Vogt asks humans to, in short, be humane. He asks us to reconsider the way we garden; more specifically, to see the value in gardens beyond their physical beauty. Not only do gardens serve as sanctuaries for its owners, but did you ever think about all the organisms that live and thrive in your garden? We should not view the small animals that inhabit our gardens as pests. If you see “fat yellow, black, and white-striped caterpillars” chewing on and destroying your “ten-dollar plant,” you’d probably want to grab pesticide and spray it on those pests. But you should also keep in mind that those same “pests” will grow into beautiful Monarch butterflies, which signifies you have a healthy garden.
   In just 163 pages, Vogt is able to fit in so much passion—supported by extensive research—about reconnecting with nature through ethical gardening. His vivid prose makes the narrative very easy to follow and keeps you invested in his persuasive argument.
   Anyone who gardens, either at home or professionally, should give A New Garden Ethic a read. This is a cathartic piece of literature that goes beyond telling people how to garden; rather, it provides a fresh take on the importance and ecological benefit in gardening ethically and sustainably. As a non-gardener, this book makes me want to start my very own garden so that I can contribute to the environment."

5. Glorious Shade



Reviewer Maeve Dunigan said: "In Glorious Shade, Jenny Rose Carey takes the reader on a beautiful adventure through the shady areas where breathtaking gardens grow. With detailed descriptions and stunning photos, the author is able to teach the nuances of this type of gardening while providing plenty of context and personal anecdotes along the way.
   Carey does not limit herself to England and Pennsylvania—photos of gardens span from those in Wyoming, to Illinois, to Maine, and even one local area garden. Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, MD, is featured as having purposeful paths and well-informed design in the section of the book that provides inspiration for garden arrangements and schemes.
   Save for a select few, Carey photographed almost every landscape seen in the book. Her photo skills rival her writing, as each image perfectly complements the text alongside it. Images in a book such as this are of the utmost importance, since it can be hard to envision the spaces only through description. Each photo, in bright, stunning color, is a lesson in successful shade gardening.
   Overall, Jenny Rose Carey’s Glorious Shade is an overwhelming success. The book, packed with pictures and tips, can soothe trepidations anyone may have about the seemingly difficult act of starting a garden in a shady area."

6. The Naturalist’s Notebook



Reviewer Nicole Reisinger said: "The Naturalist’s Notebook is a charming, yet practical, guide that gives any lover of the outdoors the chance to develop their own insights about the world around them. The book highlights plant life, insects, birds, and a range of other topics to help the reader establish new habits and techniques.
 Throughout the book, Wheelwright shares anecdotes about his experiences as a naturalist. This personal approach gives readers an example to emulate and some ideas to consider while conducting their own research. 
   Heinrich’s beautiful illustrations capture the beauty of the natural world and inspire the reader to do the same. There is even a glossary for readers to create their personal abbreviations so they can keep track of their notes.
   This charming book with its gilt-edged pages and classic illustrations would make a great holiday gift for any nature lover or outdoor enthusiast."

7. Big Dreams, Small Garden



Reviewer India Hamilton said: "This is the great book for gardeners who may be both passionate and experienced, but not able to create their ideal garden because of limited resources. Willburn, originally from California and now residing in Lovettsville, VA, has been a Master Gardener for over 20 years and has an award-winning blog, “The Small Town Gardener.”
   Big Dreams is organized into four sections (Visualize, Achieve, Maintain, and Enjoy) as steps for helping troubled gardeners complete a project from start to finish. Pleasantly designed, Willburn’s book includes a ton of personal experience, photos, and useful information that beginner or intermediate gardeners might not think about. Profiles of small space and limited-resource gardens are sprinkled throughout the book, complete with pictures and advice to recreate what is shown. Big Dreams is the perfect addition to your gardening library."

8. The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife



Reviewer Jamie Moore said: "The Humane Gardener embraces “compassionate landscaping,” a method of gardening that takes into consideration the needs of wildlife, whose habitat is being increasingly replaced by deserts of concrete and turf grass. The book is very readable, with instructive chapters interspersed with profiles of scientists, activists, naturalists, and gardeners who have turned their yards into beautiful havens for both themselves and wildlife. Photographs are sprinkled liberally throughout the text. The principles described in the book appear straightforward and easy to apply.
   I truly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to creating a more wildlife-friendly yard. I have become more aware of the corruption of nature in my suburban neighborhood. Instead of birdsong, the most frequent sounds I hear are lawn mowers and leaf blowers. For the past few years, I have been working to replace my lawn with plants that attract beneficial insects. The Humane Gardener has showed me many more ways I can repair the balance of nature in my yard, and I hope to inspire my neighbors to do the same."

9. The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly



Reviewer Erica H. Smith said: "Those of us who love monarch butterflies are eager to share their story and to learn more about it ourselves. This book is a great way to do that. Only 160 pages long, an afternoon’s reading, it nevertheless covers monarchs in plenty of detail, including life cycle, migration, threats to survival, and ways to help these fascinating creatures escape extinction.
  This is an attractive book, chock-full of information, that would be useful to anyone from a teen-aged student to a veteran gardener. If you love monarch butterflies or want to learn more about them, check it out!"

10. Big Ideas for Small Spaces Creative Ideas and 30 Projects for Balconies, Roof Gardens, Windowsills and Terraces



Reviewer Teresa Speight said: "This is a manual, not a book, on how to assess the space you have and create the larger vision you desire. Taking the reader from the options of where you can garden and why, to what types of spaces one can grow, is amazing.  There is even a chapter to encourage the reader to expand the possibilities by thinking outside the box. The authors urge us to consider things that might make the available space more appealing, like lighting, art, water, or exotic plant material.
   The chapter on Projects was simply amazing—from descriptions that included everything you would need to complete a piece to a suggested plant list. My favorite was the succulent picture frame. A little mesh, a frame, some screws, and, of course, succulent plants, voila! This is a idea that is great for the backyard terrace wall and even as a gift.
   Big Ideas for Small Spaces also has a resourceful section on how to use certain plants, how to choose plants, and a listing of a few common problems you might encounter and how to solve them.
   If you are looking for a manual on innovative ways to work with the space you have available and not break the bank, this is a must-read book. I would also suggest this book as great gift for anyone who is looking to make gardening just a bit more rewarding no matter what kind of space you have available."


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