DIGGIN' IT: Good books for the gardener


In this last month of 2016— yes, I’m also wondering where the year went — I thought I’d inspire you with a little armchair gardening.

While I don’t read garden books as much as I did when I was new to gardening, I still enjoy a good read now and then. My favorite books are ones that are personal, taking me inside the gardener’s head to understand her thought processes and her vision. If the book is superior, it’s because I’ve forged a connection and see myself in her.

This is what happened years ago when I read Barbara Blossom Ashmun’s book, “Married to My Garden.” I was aware that she gardened in Portland, so with that local connection in mind, I knew I was in for a treat. Imagine my delight when this past spring we connected on Facebook and then met in person at a garden club event. She’s definitely a kindred spirit.

“Married to My Garden” is a series of short essays detailing different aspects of her gardening life, emphasizing her devotion to her lovely space. It’s the kind of book you can read through in one sitting or pick up and read when you’ve got a few minutes before the timer goes off. I highly recommend it.

As a garden columnist, I have access to the newly re-leased garden-related books. I was particularly intrigued when I came upon Jan Coppola Bills’ new book, “Late Bloomer: How to Garden with Comfort, Ease and Simplicity in the Second Half of Life.”

Here is a book that balances basic concepts of gardening, such as design, compost and proper tools with garden related philosophy, such as em-bracing imperfection and deepening our connection with nature.

I especially like her view on “Overgrown… or lush?” and how to tell the difference. And maybe most importantly, I like that Jan encourages us older people with the truth that, “Getting older means a greater appreciation for letting things be, without interruption. As a result, I am happier and heal-thier, watching my gardens grow and evolve naturally.”

You can find both Blossom Ashmun and Coppola Bills, aka “Two Women and a Hoe,” at Amazon.com or your favorite brick and mortar book-store. If you’re looking for a gift for that special gardening friend, one or both of these books might be just the thing.


Bulbs should be planted no later than the end of this month for spring bloom. If your garden soil is too soggy, you’re out of room or crunched for time, purchase a bag of potting soil, choose a container with drainage holes and bury the bulbs, water and leave the pot outside to chill. Next spring you’ll be so glad you did.

Leaf raking can be a great aerobic activity to work off those impending holiday pounds. Be sure to tuck the leaves into an obscure corner for decomposing. Leaf mold is a very beneficial soil amendment.

Now is a good time to shop for conifers including living Christmas trees. For the health of the plant, it should be kept indoors no longer than 10 days. To ensure its success, plant it outdoors in an area suitable to its matured size and with good drainage — not where water can make puddle. Several heaping shovelfuls of compost in the planting hole will provide additional soil nutrition. The existing evergreens in your garden can be lightly pruned and brought in-doors to deck the halls. Have fun.

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