For those who like to get their holiday shopping done early, here are two great gardening books from one of America’s top gardeners.
• “The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting & Pruning Techniques” — the expanded edition, by Tracy DiSabato-Aust (Timber Press, $34) — is number one on my list of must-read gardening books because it takes the mystery out of how to become a first-class perennial gardener. The book details the whys and hows of dead-heading, pinching, cutting back, thinning, dis-budding and dead-leafing with easy-to-understand explanations and illustrations. These are the tasks that strike fear in many folks’ hearts, but DiSabato-Aust empowers the gardener to take control and have at it with confidence.
This A-to-Z encyclopedia of perennial plants that clearly states how to care for each plant is worth its weight in gold to the newbie who feels overwhelmed when spring arrives. It’s a roadmap for almost every plant in the garden.
DiSabato-Aust spent years pruning and dead-heading perennials to see what the effects would be on the plants. Would they re-bloom if dead-headed, and would early pruning delay flowering or improve their growth habit and prevent flopping? Through the process, like any good scholar, the author took copious notes to give an accurate accounting because weather can impact outcomes. The results are this groundbreaking work. The large appendix provides quick access to month-to-month planting and maintenance schedules. There are also lengthy lists to help choose plants that adapt to specific needs of the gardener and location. This book is a real winner.
• “The Well-Designed Mixed Garden: Building Beds and Borders with Trees, Shrubs, Perennials, Annuals and Bulbs” (Timber Press, $24.95) is much more than a book on garden design. DiSabato-Aust includes plant combinations and a directory of garden plants that allows the gardener to select varieties and cultivars of species that meet their needs and thrive.
DiSabato-Aust covers the basic design fundamentals including site evaluation, color theory and maintenance requirements in friendly, easy-to-understand terms. Readers often come away with the “I get it” feeling.
Whether embarking on a D-I-Y project, or enlisting the services of a professional, this book can save time and money and down the road and the reader will end up with a gorgeous garden that is easy to maintain. Now that’s a great gift.
Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit free-lance writer. E-mail her at Szerlag @earthlink.net. You can read her previous columns at detnews.com/homestyle.