Celebrate Arbor Day with a book from the Juneau Public Library

Posted: Sunday, May 16, 2004

Alaska celebrates Arbor Day every year on the third Monday in May, which makes tomorrow Arbor Day! It was begun in 1872 to encourage tree planting and care, but I'm expanding the definition a bit to celebrate the gardening season, too. Therefore, this week's column is devoted to new tree care and gardening books at the Juneau Public Libraries!

"An Illustrated Guide to Pruning," by Edward F. Gilman: Did you know that how you prune a tree depends on how old it is? Do you know how to tell if a grown but neglected tree is worth the work of rehabilitation? Tons of information is packed into this dry-looking but quite readable text. No splashy pictures, just lots of useful and easy-to-decipher diagrams and drawings. Pick this up if you have trees you want to maintain correctly. There's even a short chapter on shrubs!

"Manual of Woody Landscape Plants," by Dr. Michael Dirr: A great reference book for anyone considering adding trees to their property or wanting to learn how to care for the trees they've got, this is the "bible" of the tree industry. It lists trees by common or scientific name and offers lots of information on their propagation needs, care, hardiness, and growth rate, as well as foliage, fruit, and flower type. The more common the tree, the more information there is, but even relatively rare plants are listed here, and with the extensive bibliography, supplementing the book's information is fairly easy.

"Trees and Development," by Nelda Matheny and James R. Clark; "Arboriculture;" and "Principles and Practices of Planting Trees and Shrubs," by G.W. Watson and E.B. Himelick: All three of these books tackle trees from slightly different angles. One of the most useful to those who are planning new construction or remodels is "Trees and Development," which addresses ways to preserve trees during land development. The other two titles are more concerned with tree planting, placement and maintenance ("Arboriculture" also has extensive chapters on tree diseases and tree hazard management.)

"Lilies," by Pamela McGregor; "Hostas," by Rosemary Barrett; "Columbines," by Robert Nold; and "Reliable Roses," by Philip Harkness: Each of these titles does just what it says: specializes in one plant to the exclusion of all else. Each has landscaping suggestions, information on propagation and care, varieties within species, as well as some historical perspective. For those who want to deepen their knowledge of any of these plants, this is the way to go!

"Planting the Natural Garden," by Piet Oudolf: Oudolf makes the case for planting a "wild" garden that is tame at heart in the first few pages of his book. Noting that true wild plants usually have small flowers that require the gardener to plant enormous quantities of them to have any impact, he advocates instead using plants that have been cultivated to improve their appearance while maintaining their wildness. Plants are grouped in the book by their qualities: "airy," "blazing," and "exuberant" are just a few of them. Beautiful photos for inspiration and plenty of information to aid in decision-making make this a book worth picking up.

"Small Space Gardens," by David Stevens: The photos are striking, but the real appeal to this book is the way it makes you think about gardens. Instead of putting plants and planting first, Stevens recommends considering the space you've got thoughtfully and thoroughly. By deciding early on what elements you need to include (play space for kids? an area for barbecuing?), you can work out plans that take advantage of what you've got and maximize your garden's success.

"The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food," by Tanya L.K. Denckla: This beautifully organized book is alphabetical within the categories of vegetables, fruits and nuts, and herbs. Every entry contains information on germination times, soil, water and site needs, pests and diseases to which the plant is suceptible, and good companion and ally plants. Denckla advocates sustainable gardening, and nearly half the book is devoted to strategies for improving your garden's soil and destroying pests organically.

"The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Flowers from Seed to Bloom," by Eileen Powell: Planning charts that lay out bloom time, color, and height, guidelines for caring for over 600 plants, and color photos of over 500 plants make this a useful addition to gardeners' bookshelves. Aimed at those who have grown comfortable gardening with transplants and are ready to turn their green thumbs to seeds, each section is organized by scientific name with a common-to-botanic name glossary in the back. The opening chapters address various forms of propagation, and are followed by admirably concise and to-the-point entries to aid gardeners concerned with particular plants.

"Joey Green's Gardening Magic," by Joey Green: This small book contains a wealth of gardening tips - everything from keeping cut flowers healthy longer with 7-up and vodka to killing off developing mosquito larvae with olive oil. All the tips use brand-name products like Pampers (open one up, pour out the absorbent flakes into a vase and add water for a decorative, spill-free look) and Kellogg's Frosted Mini-Wheats (add crumbs to your soil or potting mix - the sugar feeds microorganisms and the cereal adds potassium), which can make for stilted reading, but the ideas are certainly interesting!

Remember! Story- and Toddler-times are in recess until the beginning of June as our Youth Services librarians visit the schools to spread the word about the Summer Reading Program!

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