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 Garden Edition: From the Garden Bookshelf

by Linda Coyner

The Southern Garden
by Lydia Longshore with the Editors of Southern Accents (Bulfinch Press Book, Little, Brown and Company)

Author Longshore is an editor with Southern Accents, a magazine about southern interior design, lifestyle, and garden. For this book, she and her co-editors at the magazine reach out to a broader audience with glimpses of the designs of several southern gardens. The result is a good idea book. The garden design photos should prove useful to any gardener wanting to expand the house into the garden with outdoor living space, something Southern gardeners have a lot of experience with.

The gardens featured are not typical; they're upscale properties and estates whose owners most likely employ gardeners. Geographically the gardens range from Maryland to Florida and Texas, an amazing testament to the breath and depth of what's considering the South. That encompasses five gardening zones whose low temperatures range from 0F to 40F. The gardens include a variety of styles, from tropical flowering, formal parterre, to a working farm.

The author takes us on a tour of the gardens, chapter by chapter, focusing on various styles and elements (formal, cottage, water features, ornamentation, etc.) relying on beautiful photos and a brief narrative.

Between tours, you can expect information on such topics as garden design principles, the pros and cons of lawns, and water conservation. Don't expect how-to-grow or much in the way of photo IDs for plants. In fact, most photo captions don't identify plants in them and two that did were inaccurate (one mistook an alocasia leaf for a banana; another, a begonia for a euphorbia).

Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul 101 Stories to Sow Seeds of Love, Hope and Laughter
by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Cynthia Brian, Cindy Buck, Marion Owen, Pat Stone, Carol Sturgulewski (Health Communications, Inc.)

As I opened this book, I had low expectations. After all, there are almost as many Chicken Soups out there as there are Dummie books. How good could it be? Like the other Chicken Soup books, it's a collection of stories by celebrity-gardeners and real-life gardeners. With an audible sigh, I started in the middle with Love in Bloom and read a few essays, then flipped to the beginning to Joy of Gardening, where I read one right after another into the wee hours of the night.

The stories are poignant and earnest, humorous and sad, and all are straight from the heart. They made me laugh and sniffle and smile. Each story was a different personal tale but each was about the rewards of gardening and the lessons learned therein. Some are plucked right out of history—a Vietnam vet venting his anger by talking to his garden plants or a gardener who took care of the rose nursery of a Japanese-American neighbor interned during the War.

Other stories are tied to loved ones now gone or memories of special times: an ivy slip from a bridal bouquet that is rooted and passed down to other generations; a daffodil planting that survived the gardener; a stray cat that inspired a family to cultivate a vacant lot as a wildlife sanctuary.

Sunbelt Gardening Success in Hot Weather Climates
by Tom Peace (Fulcrum Publishing)

Like most gardens and gardeners, this book and author are ambitious: "Learn the art and science of creating spectacular hot-climate gardens coast to coast with year-round beauty." What is accomplished is a useful and knowledgeable introduction to exotic and tropical plants at a time when gardeners on both sides of the sunbelt are experimenting with the sizzling colors and arresting shapes of exotics.

The book describes many uncommon plants as well as unusual varieties of common plants. Peace frequently suggests companion plants that co-exist aesthetically and culturally. His knowledge about heat-lovers and their use in the landscape is evident in the advice and information he shares.

The first part of the book is about cool-season gardening, with the author encouraging those of us in warm-temperature zones to take better advantage of two-season gardening. The second part focuses on hot and humid growing conditions and the third, hot and arid growing conditions. In each section, Peace uses the tools of botany and taxonomy to help us understand what plants need to flourish in those particular growing conditions. The author's does so occasionally with humor: "Whenever I see queen palms growing, I must resist the overwhelming temptation to declare a holiday and order refreshing, fruity rum drinks with umbrellas in them while I relax in the shade".

Dogs in their Gardens
by Page Dickey (Stewart, Tabori & Chang)

This small coffee-table book contains plenty of fetching photographs of purebreds and mutts. Sometimes they're caught lounging or romping in famous gardens or with famous gardeners (Vita-Sackville West with her Alsatian, Edit Wharton with her Pekingese, Lawrence Johnston's dachshunds at Hidcote.) The text takes us on quick tours of a wide range of European and American gardens, introducing us briefly to their gardeners and showing us their furry friends making themselves at home.

Six-Legged Sex: The Erotic Lives of Bugs
by James K. Wangberg (Fulcrum)

Wangberg. a professor of entomology, ventures into the world of publishing to share in layperson's terms some of the lesser-known information about insect behavior. Obviously enjoying himself, the author exposes the weird and unusual sexual insect behavior that is buried in scientific literature. Explaining it in human terms, he mixes in love, lust, and heartbreak to create personalities and relationships akin to mini-soap operas, but X-rated, of course.

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