Gardening Books With a Local Focus

Lone Pine Publishing is a Canadian company that focuses on publishing books about gardening and the outdoors with a regional focus. This year, they have published four new gardening books.

The best of the books is Gardening With Colour, by Rob Sproule. This book's main focus is on designing container plantings with annuals, specifically choosing plants that will thrive during the short growing season many Canadian gardeners encounter. (The author is co-owner of Salisbury Greenhouse near Edmonton, in zone 3.) The first section of this book explains how to design, plant and maintain a container garden and an explanation of the elements and principles of design, such as using the colour wheel, planning form, harmony or contrast, balance, repetition, scale and movement in the context of a container planting. The main part of the book gives "recipes" for container plantings (many of which are also suitable for beds). These recipes show where to place each plant to recreate the beautiful containers shown in the photographs. The recommended container size, height and spread of plants, sunlight, water and fertilizing needs are all included to help even beginning gardeners choose a design that will work in their chosen location. Next, each recommended plant is described in more detail, and several photographs are included of similar designs with some ideas for substitutions to help you create your own compositions. With sixty recipes, there are designs for every taste and level of experience. Beginners need only follow the instructions, but even experienced gardeners are sure to find some new ideas for filling baskets, pots and beds.

Vegetable Gardening for Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, by Laura Peters, is also published in editions for British Columbia and Ontario. This book is a handy guide for vegetable gardeners who want basic information about growing specific vegetables. The growing needs of forty-one vegetables are covered, including most of the basics (tomatoes, onions, lettuce) and some uncommon ones, such as sunchokes, amaranth and dandelions. Each vegetable description includes information on seed planting, when to plant relative to your area's last frost date, light requirements, preferred soil type and moisture levels, when to harvest, recommended species or cultivars for the prairies, the most common pests or diseases, ideas for incorporating the plants into the design of your garden and photos. There is also a pest and disease guide with some pictures, but it is very basic and will most likely be only a starting point, especially for serious problems. Although this is far from being a comprehensive vegetable growing manual, it has enough information to get those veggies in the ground and on the table.

Just Ask Jerry, by Jerry Filipski, is based on the author's gardening column for the Edmonton Journal newspaper. He includes a list of important tools to get you started, with a discussion on improving soil, composting and mulching. Most of the rest of the book takes a Question and Answer format taken from the newspaper column, and covers soil, vegetable gardening, lawns, perennials, container gardening and trees and shrubs. The author's experience as a landscape contractor seems to give him a focus on basic construction, planting and maintenance issues, and his solutions, although generally based on his own experience, seem generally sound and will probably give local gardeners success. This book focuses on problems gardeners have and their solutions, and so could be a handy resource for local gardeners that are looking for ways to overcome problems they encounter while maintaining their yards.

Beginner Gardening for Canada, by A. H. Jackson, shows its biggest flaw right in the title. The author seems to consider our rather large country to be easily generalized. The recommendations for trees, shrubs and perennials include no hardiness ratings, and a large portion of them are not hardy in many parts of the country. Despite this, some of these plants include reassurances that they will grow in "northern urban centres" or that they can easily be protected or "winterized". My personal feeling is that any guide that wants to provide success for beginner gardeners should only lead them to buy fully hardy specimens to avoid the discouragement of losing expensive plants. While there is some good, basic information in this book to get a beginner started, a lot of the instructions are vague or, even direct you to just look it up on the internet. This might be a good book to get a gardener started if they, like the author, live in Toronto and they don't mind some very opinionated statements ("Decks: A Bad Idea"), but this probably isn't the book to get a cold-climate novice started.

All these books are available through the publisher's website. You may also see them on display in the gardening section of a local retailer like Canadian Tire, or at your local library.

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