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Some garden books to inspire and inform Alaskans while we’re between seasons

  • Author: Jeff Lowenfels
    | Alaska gardening
  • Updated: January 28
  • Published January 28

I can feel the daylight increasing, and it feels good! Still, January is in-between-season time, and I usually fill my columns with lists. I haven’t covered books in a while, so here goes.

Let’s start with the Garden Communicators International’s 2020 gold award-winning book: a fun work by Ken Druse, “The Scentual Garden: Exploring The World of Botanical Fragrance.” It must be good, as it is also the 2020 American Horticultural Society’s award winner. The praise from fellow garden writers suggests this is a real winner, and it is.

Next, the updated, third edition of “Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest,” by Arthur Kruckeberg and now, Linda Chalker-Scott, won the gold award for reference books. With 900 photos, it is a beautiful and useful book. I am all for using native Alaska plants over other perennials.

There are two other book awards from the American Horticultural Society: “Fruit Trees for Every Garden,” by Orin Martin and “The Melon,” by Amy Golden. These may not be wholly applicable to our conditions, but if you want to learn to prune a fruit tree, check out Martin’s book. Similarly, if you want great garden writing and passion for a subject, Golden’s is worth a read.

Next, more and more of us are growing in the winter. I always scream about setting up lights for growing, but what about a book to help? There is a new one out, “Gardening Under Lights,” by Leslie Halleck. It is highly recommended by several garden writer friends whose opinions I respect.

If you are looking for a useful information woven together by wit and a wonderful writing style, check out the late Christopher Lloyd’s “The Well-Tempered Garden.” This is one of those books you don’t need to read cover to cover. You can literally open it up someplace and just start reading.

Have you ever wanted to have the perfect garden? (Who hasn’t?) If there is a book that will get you there, or at least let you dream about one, it is “Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture,” by Toby Hemenway. Just one look at any of the illustrations of gardens, and there are many, will show you just how a perfect garden looks. Even if you don’t end up with a perfect garden, at least you will know what a wonderful ecosystem your yard can be.

Since we are dreaming, consider “Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces,” by Michelle Slatalla. This one has planting templates based on beautiful gardens from around the world. You may not be able to duplicate an Italian landscape garden or a proper English garden, but you will pick up lots of landscape tips that can be used in Alaska.

I have mentioned Doug Tallamy before in the context of urging Alaskans to use native plants. If you have not read “Bringing Nature Home,” you should. His second book, “Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard,” is the follow-up and a call for a new type of conservation initiative. (I am on board!) I am pretty sure both of these books are available in audio form, so you can listen as you putter around the greenhouse.

Finally, Peter Wohlleben has written the book, “The Hidden Life of Trees.” A very good friend thought it good enough that she lent me her copy. This was just pre-COVID, and it is still sitting on my desk. Now that Alaska is rushing toward herd immunity, I better finally read it as she is going to come and take it back! I guess I know what I am going to do for the rest of January.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Have you joined yet? Take advantage of a full year’s worth of family activity at the garden, discount purchases from the nursery’s collection of unique cultivars and so much more. Plus, you get the monthly newsletter and announcement emails.

Thrips: Saw a few. Also saw a mention that you can put a cut potato down on soil and trap the larvae. That works.

Cannabis growers: If you are starting seeds, do not use hydrogen peroxide to sterilize them. Contrary to advice, you want them coated with the bacteria they come with.