Gardening books can make a treasured Christmas present if they provide new information as well as inspiration.
The book should be well written with plenty of accurate information and easy-to-follow illustrations as well as awe-inspiring pictures. Such a book encourages armchair gardening throughout the winter months.
Choosing the right book can take time as there are many good ones to choose from. It is advisable to narrow down the topic.
Most gardening books can be divided into plants, landscaping, garden structures and houseplants.
Plants are the mainstay of the garden and can be divided into the type of plant: trees and shrubs, perennials, grasses and annuals.
Books that list trees and shrubs should include Zone ratings. In the Central Alberta area, most of the trees and shrubs grown are classified as Zone 1 to 3. It is possible to grow some woody Zone 4 plants if they are placed in a warm micro-climate and given winter protection. Books that contain more than a handful of Zone 4 plants are suited for gardeners in other climates.
The Zone rating for perennials and grasses are not as accurate which means that many Zone 4 perennials will grow in Central Alberta as long as they have the good winter cover along with the correct soil, water and sunlight requirements. Examine the book carefully to ensure that all these topics are covered as well as the Zone.
It is harder to find books on specific types of plants that will thrive in the Prairies. When searching for books on alpines, roses, clematis or peonies take time to look through all the pages. There must be enough plant material listed lower than Zone 4 to make the book worthwhile.
Annuals and container plants can be from any Zone. These plants need only live for one season which means that given the correct cultural requirements they will thrive in most areas. Annuals that have a longer growing season are sold as bedding plants and are set outside when they are close to or are flowering. They look great all summer and die in the fall.
Useful books in this category will discuss and have pictures of combination planting; taking the guess work out of companion planting.
The basics of landscape design, transcends most climates. While plant material is dependent on climate shapes, patterns and features are universal and can be replicated in most climates. How the projects are constructed is dependent on temperature and soil type.
For this reason, choose books that take into consideration the freeze thaw cycle of the Northern winter.
Before purchasing a book on making garden structures, examine the projects and find out the skills needed to complete the project.
To avoid frustration it is important to match the skill level of the person receiving the gift with the level in the book. The other alternative is to attach a note promising to help complete the project.
Growing plants indoors rests more on the individual building and room than it does on the areas’ climate.
Choose books that have good pictures and information on watering, light and temperature. A section on insect control is also useful.
Once the books from other Zones and the wrong topics are discarded, sit and take time to read though the remaining books.
Choose ones with information and let the gardener plan and dream of summer.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist and educator living in Rocky Mountain House. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org