For the past twenty four hours, we have had more or less constant rain and sleet with temperatures hovering right around freezing. The ground is warm, so we don’t have much accumulation. But the weather doesn’t make me want to go outside, not even to the greenhouse. This is a day for lighting the wood stove, drinking tea, and reading.
Reading. If I write about gardening books, I won’t have to go outside. So, for my first “Six on Saturday, Library Edition,” here are six books that I think will be of interest to gardeners in the NC piedmont (and, perhaps, further afield).
1. Elizabeth Lawrence (1991). A Southern Garden, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill and London.
A Southern Garden was originally published in 1942 and has remained a favorite of North Carolina gardeners ever since. Elizabeth Lawrence structures her book around the four seasons, describing the bulbs, perennials, and shrubs blooming throughout the year in her Raleigh garden. The book is an eloquent description of the joys of gardening in the south, and its advice is still valid. At the end of the book are exhaustive tables indicating earliest and latest date of first bloom and length of blooming season collated from notebooks kept by Elizabeth Lawrence and her mother. The index of my 1991 reprint includes updated botanical nomenclature, as well as the names originally used by the author.
2. Nancy Goodwin, with illustrations by Ippy Patterson (2005). Montrose: Life in a Garden, Duke University Press, Durham and London.
This book can be viewed as an updated successor to A Southern Garden. As indicated by the title, it is a month by month account of life in Montrose, Nancy Goodwin’s garden in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Descriptions of plants and animals are interspersed with anecdotes from the Goodwins’ life and beautiful black-and-white or color illustrations by Ippy Patterson.
3. Scott Ogden (2007). Garden Bulbs for the South, Timber Press, Portland.
Many books on bulbs focus on plants suitable for northern Europe, or the northeast and northwest United States. It is great to find a book covering those bulbs that grow well in the southeast and return year after year. In addition to describing heat-tolerant varieties of old favorites like daffodils and tulips, Ogden provides welcome information on southern specialties like Crinum, Lycoris, Hymenocallis, and ornamental gingers.
4. Albert E. Radford, Harry E. Ahles, C. Ritchie Bell (1964, 1968). Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
This massive tome (1183 pages) is invaluable for identifying wild flowers and garden weeds or for determining if native plants offered by nurseries are really native or just “native.” Each genus has a key of native and introduced species, and the range maps show distribution in North and South Carolina at the level of counties. My main problem with this book is the same issue I used to have with encyclopedias (for the youngsters, those were like wikipedia printed out on paper and bound in multiple volumes). When paging through to find a plant that I have identified in the index, I am often so distracted by other plants that I forget which page I was looking for. It sometimes takes be three or four returns to the index before I actually get to the plant I originally wanted to read about.
5. William Chambers Coker and Henry Roland Totten (1945). Trees of the Southeasten States, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
Although smaller than Vascular Flora of the Carolinas, this book is just as distracting when I am searching backwards from the index. I found this 1945 second edition (first edition, 1934) in an old bookshop in Charleston, South Carolina. My copy came with an inscription from “As You Like It” written by the original gift-giver, and old dried leaves, presumably inserted by the gift recipient. The authors were professors of botany at the University of North Carolina, and the scientific summaries are leavened with delightful descriptions of individual trees they knew and loved. Many of those trees have been replaced by houses and shopping centers, but some, particularly those on the UNC campus, can still be seen.
6. Bernard S. Martof, Wlliam M. Palmer, Joseph R. Bailey, Julian R. Harrison III, photographs by Jack Dermid (1980). Amphibians and Reptiles of the Carolinas and Virginia. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill.
Gardens aren’t just about plants. Hopefully, we are also creating habitat for native wildlife. To identify the creatures sharing your garden, you could use the Peterson’s field guide covering the eastern U.S. or the Audobon Society Guide covering all of North America, but this book focusing on three states has much more relevant detail and more useful range maps. I like to use the margins for notes indicating when I see a particular species for the first time.
That’s my six for this week. For more Six on Saturday posted by gardeners who might actually have gone outside, head over to the Propagator for the proprietor’s Six and links to other blogs.