February is the shortest month of the year, so why does it always feel like it’s the longest?

There are telltale signs of life out in the garden, verifying that spring is right around the corner, but winter’s chill reminds us that we must be patient.

I do most of my reading during the winter months. A stack of gardening books collect dust during summer and fall, but once the holidays are over, I finally sit down and indulge. Here are some of my new favorite books.

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If you’ve had the pleasure of visiting Marietta and Ernie O’Bryne’s Northwest Garden Nursery in Eugene, you know what a beautiful place it is. Imagine having a book that details the making of this fantastic plant-filled oasis.

“A Tapestry Garden: The Art of Weaving Plants and Place” takes us back to 1972, when Marietta first acquired 70 acres west of Salem. At that time, the land sported an aging farmhouse and unkempt fruit trees, but it was the billowing maples and Douglas fir trees that won Marietta over. And the journey began.

“Neither I nor Ernie is interested in ‘low-maintenance gardening’ (the kind) with orderly shrubs surrounded by chipped mulch and plants that don’t touch,” Marietta writes. “I have heard these words so often, ‘Oh that must be so much work.’ But we love what we are doing and get enormous satisfaction from an accomplished task and the pleasing result.”

You will see those pleasing results on page after page of drool-worthy photos and, if you’re like me, you’ll be taking notes on what to amend in your own garden when the weather is conducive. The prose is a delightful, conversational read that takes us on a journey of paradise in the making.


Another useful and educational book for gardeners is “Gardening in the Pacific Northwest: The Complete Homeowner’s Guide, Plant Picks, Growing Advice, Style Tips.” In the first half of the book, Paul Bonine, co-owner of Xera Nursery, and Amy Campion share their years of gardening knowledge. This includes understanding and amending the soil to assure healthy plants, being mindful of climate change and employing intelligent watering methods.

Because this book is geared to this region, there is a section dealing with local weather, including our infrequent but damaging ice storms. The rest of the book features many of the plants that thrive in our climate. From gardenia to agave, you’ll learn about many heat-loving, winter-hardy plants that do surprisingly well here in the Pacific Northwest, especially valuable for us plant geeks who are always looking for the unique.


Fall and winter seem to be when I am most likely to hear our resident great horned owl. On winter evenings when all is quiet, my husband and I will catch the telltale “hoo, hoo-hoo-hoo” emanating from a nearby dark treetop. “Birds of the Pacific Northwest” by birding enthusiasts and photographers John Shewey and Tm Blount states that this is a mating call which makes sense given that occasionally we’ll be especially honored to hear two owls hooting back and forth. This delightful, full-color book provides general information on the birds of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia.

I’ve enjoyed learning about the many birds that visit my garden, including some that stay year-round such as the spotted towhee and the Anna’s hummingbird. With hundreds of fabulous photos this is the perfect book for anyone who enjoys our feathered friends.

All three books are available from Timber Press.

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