You may already be the best expert for growing flowers, vegetables and other plants in your yard or on your windowsill. But others may need a little help. A book could be the answer.
If you’re still shopping for holiday gifts, these informative new books can guide plant lovers in the Pacific Northwest. The books, in printed, digital and sometimes audible form, can be found at most local bookstores or online, including Bookshop.org, which charges more than Amazon but financially supports independent booksellers.
Here are some top picks of gardening books released in 2021 that could be great gifts to yourself or another plant nurturer:
“The Beginner’s Guide to Growing Great Vegetables” by Loreen Edwards Forkner ($19.95, Timber Press; Amazon $12.29 paperback or $8.61 Kindle; Bookshop $18.35): This 224-page handbook by the Seattle-based former editor of Pacific Horticulture magazine helps new or seasoned gardeners improve their “skill sets” and includes region growing maps, explanations of microclimate and phrenology, and an emphasis on growing vegetables and herbs in the ground or in containers. Read more
“Under Western Skies: Visionary Gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast” by Jennifer Jewell ($50, Timber Press; Amazon $29.62 hardcover book; Bookshop $46): The author, best known for her Cultivating Place website, radio program and podcast, partners with photographer Caitlin Atkinson in this 412-page hardcover book to showcase 36 gardens in the American West, including some in the Pacific Northwest that are sure to inspire DIY garden designers.
“The Nature of Oaks: The Rich Ecology of Our Most Essential Native Trees” by Douglas W. Tallamy ($27.95, Timber Press; Amazon $23.33 hardcover, $9.44 Kindle or $12.99 audio CD; Bookshop $25.71 hardcover, CD out of stock): The 200-page hardcover book by the New York Times bestselling author is informative and helpful in selecting the best oak species for your area. The prose reads like a biography, chronicling the life of America’s National Tree and its ecological importance. Read more
“Fearless Gardening: Be Bold, Break the Rules, and Grow What You Love” by Loree Bohl ($24.95, Timber Press; Amazon $20.91 paperback or $9.99 Kindle; Bookshop $22.95 paperback): Bohl’s messages of “yes, you can” and “yes, you should” are the perfect antidote to a world filled with worry and a sense of helplessness toward the unknown.
Here, the Portland-based author, who also produces the empowering blog, “Danger Garden,” calls out to us to be adventurous; to unlock our passion and have fun while creating the garden we want.
The 256-page paperback begins with stories of rare plant collectors and unabashed rule breakers Ruth Bancroft and Ganna Walska, “enemies of the average,” who led Bohl to her practical and rebellious gardening commandments. Enjoy bold design inspiration, tips for growing outside your zone and a push to cultivate your garden style. Read more
“Garden Allies: The Insects, Birds, and Other Animals That Keep Your Garden Beautiful and Thriving” by Frederique Lavoipierre ($24.95, Timber Press; Amazon $22.49 paperback or $9.25 Kindle; Bookshop $22.95 paperback): The Washington-based author fills this 320-page book with ways to support wildlife that keeps your yards’ ecology in balance. Her prose is accompanied by handsome pen-and-ink drawings by Craig Latker.
“The Hummingbird Handbook: Everything You Need to Know about These Fascinating Birds” by John Shewey ($24.95, Timber Press; Amazon $15.69 paperback or $9.25 Kindle; Bookshop $22.95): The 240-page paperback book by a lifelong birding enthusiast in Oregon let’s us understand the importance of attracting, understanding and protecting these pollinators.
An identification guide makes these picturesque birds easy to spot in the wild, with stunning photographs, details on plumage variations and range maps showing habitats and migration patterns.
“Grow Bag Gardening: The Revolutionary Way to Grow Bountiful Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Flowers in Lightweight, Eco-friendly Fabric Pots” by Kevin Espiritu ($26.99, Cool Springs Press; Amazon $14.99 paperback, $29.78 spiral bound book or $12.99 Kindle; Bookshop $24.83 paperback): Portable, flexible fabric planters are popular in small-space gardens and on balconies, rooftops and patios since they create an environment with no weeds, no root circling and no need for digging or heavy lifting.
Just fold the fabric to store it, says Espiritu, best known for his advice on the Epic Gardening blog and for writing “Field Guide to Urban Gardening.”
The 176-page paperback also includes information on the optimal size, shape and material of the containers and plants that work well in grow bags. Read more
“Gardening in Summer-Dry Climates: Plants for a Lush, Water-Conscious Landscape” by Nora Harlow and Saxon Holt ($29.95, Timber Press; Amazon $24.49 paperback or $13.77 Kindle; Bookshop $27.55): The authors provide a clear definition of Oregon’s arid summers and soggy winters as well as the challenges and opportunities.
The 308-page book has fascinating chapters on the circumstances that create these unpredictable climates, with a focus on the influence of oceans and topography. Read more
“The Beginner’s Guide to Mushrooms: Everything You Need to Know, from Foraging to Cultivating” by Britt Bunyard and Tavis Lynch ($24.99, Quarry Books; Amazon $16.49 paperback or $11.99 Kindle; Bookshop $22.99): The 160-page paperback is comprehensive and highly informative, and the authors, both experienced mycologists, write clearly for people with all levels of gardening skills and interest in the fruiting body of fungi.
For more exploration into the musky world of mushrooms, there is a list of additional online resources as well as Bunyard’s mycology journal “Fungi.” Read more
“A Woman’s Garden: Grow Beautiful Plants and Make Useful Things – Plants and Projects for Home, Health, Beauty, Healing, and More” by Tanya Anderson ($24.99, Cool Springs Press; Amazon $19.59 paperback or $11.99 Kindle; Bookshop $22.99 paperback): This inspiring book links gardening to wellbeing, practicality and creativity. “A woman’s garden is a living expression … that can improve our lives,” writes the author, who is an organic gardener, beekeeper and plant-based beauty producer (see more at her LovelyGreens website, newsletters and on her YouTube channel).
Her 192-page paperback book is organized by uses of plants in the garden. The first chapters focus on edible herbs and flowers. Health and beauty is the second topic and includes skincare and medicinal herbs. The final section introduces the concept of gardens for the home and crafts – cleaners, sprays, dyes and candles are just a few of the 35 projects. Read more
“Micro Food Gardening: Project Plans and Plants for Growing Fruits and Veggies in Tiny Spaces” by Jen McGuinness ($26.99, Cool Springs Press; Amazon $22.40 paperback or $12.99 Kindle; Bookshop $24.83 paperback): The value of growing bite-size edibles in spots as small as a windowsill is presented at the start of McGuinness’ thoughtful, 176-page guide.
The organic gardener and writer, best known for her posts on Frau Zinnie, a self-described blog of ornamental and edible gardening adventures, offers details on nurturing seeds and starter plants to produce herbs, fruits and vegetables.
With more families living in cities and Earth’s population continuing to expand, space will become even more precious and micro gardening with mini plants can aid our challenge. Read more
“Tiny Plants: Discover the Joys of Growing and Collecting Itty-bitty Houseplants” by Leslie F. Halleck ($24.99, Cool Springs Press; Amazon $17.99 paperback or $11.99 Kindle; Bookshop $22.99 paperback): Why tiny plants? Halleck, a horticulturist, shares her passion for “perfectly petite plants,” like micro orchids, and the joy of growing and collecting adorable miniatures.
When space is at a premium and time is limited, mini plants are the perfect option. Place a small flowering plant on a desk, a succulent on a windowsill, a teeny tropical variety on a table, and aquatic and carnivorous plants in terrariums.
A major portion of the 176-page paperback book is dedicated to specific species of tiny plants. Each species is thoughtfully described and beautifully photographed. Read more
“Complete Container Herb Gardening: Design and Grow Beautiful, Bountiful Herb-Filled Pots” by Sue Goetz ($26.99, Cool Springs Press; Amazon $12.49 paperback or $11.87 Kindle; Bookshop $24.83 paperback): Readers will like this user-friendly, practical guide to creating a successful, small kitchen garden. The first area of focus is choosing the right pot, preparing it and caring for its contents over time.
As with all gardening, finding the appropriate location is critical. The author, a certified horticulturist, blogger and owner of the Creative Gardener landscape design company in Gig Harbor, Washington, does a stellar job describing all of the possibilities of placement. She offers tips on the best site, from a windowsill or porch to a corner of the yard.
— Sally Peterson with additions by Janet Eastman