Years ago I wrote a post about the 8 books every garden creator should own. I’ve revisited it a few times since and found little need to update what I said back then.
I realize that while I still insist that you need at least one book about gardening in your region and you also must have at least one plant encyclopedia – there is another type of book you really ought to have. It is a hybrid of these two types of books.
A gardening book for your region will help you to understand the seasons and the culture of growing where you live. It will also give you advice on how to care for plants that are typically favored by gardeners in your area. And an encyclopedia’s main purpose is to help you move beyond the typical – to help you stretch and find something special and different. It is for research but most of all encyclopedias are arguably the richest source of inspiration a person can find for discovering something they didn’t even know to look for.
As we increasingly understand that our private gardens profoundly impact the health of ecosystem beyond the fence, it becomes important to think of our managed areas in the context of how they impact everything around us. Native plants help us to reconnect the ornamental and utilitarian garden plants with what might have otherwise grown wild. The wild plants support habitats for wildlife and insects and they define the vernacular of a region. Native plants are often easier to grow – often requiring less water resources, fertilizers and pesticides to thrive.
So I propose you need a 9th book (in addition to the other 8). And that is a book about the native plants in your region. While a book about all regional natives is interesting – I’d suggest that you should focus your choice on a book that aims to narrow the list a bit – and present just the natives that are good for gardens. It is true that many natives are not very showy, or they struggle to meet the exacting desires of most garden designers. It is worth seeking out the best varieties for your region and keep it easy by letting a knowledgeable author do all the research for you.
If you are in New England – Mark Richardson and Dan Jaffe (of The New England Wildflower Society) have a new book called Native Plants for New England Gardeners with over 100 great native plants for New Englanders. I’ve already made a short list for some my spring projects.