It’s that time again. Time to trip merrily out to the mailbox each morning, knowing that what awaits you there is sure to herald hours of happy plant-coveting. Yes, the seed catalogs are coming thick and fast, to tempt us with hypothetically bountiful harvests & flower gardens so full of color and light as to make Martha Stewart herself run cowering to the garden center.
It is possible that receiving the catalogs in the mail is the best part of gardening. None of the plants shown in the glossy photos suffer from wilt or aphids or the dreaded suburban affliction of not-really-enough-sun-but-I-thought-I’d-try-it-anyway.They gleam up at you full of hope and beauty and fail utterly to remind you of the hours of digging and weeding to which you commit yourself. Anticipation is a reliable delight.
But if you actually want to know what you’re getting into, I recommend Barbara Damrosch’s The Garden Primer http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780761122753 . It will pretty much tell you everything you need to know about everything. (Though I, personally, feel that double-digging is overkill.)
The Garden Primer has been the go-to book for both home gardeners and garden professionals since it came out in 1988. In ’08 Damrosch updated & expanded the book to advise and explain completely organic gardening. And if that wasn’t enough: I know a former garden designer who still refers to TGP as “The Bible.” What’s really telling? She’s married to the rector of our Episcopal church.
Now, if what you want is to escape the grey and barren scene outside your window and thoroughly delude yourself with visions of garden grandeur, you need The Power of Gardens, by Nancy Goslee Power http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781584797579 . Power is a renowned landscape architect and suits her designs to their site in ways that are profoundly calming and inspirational. Most of us are not ever going to attempt anything approaching this sort of thing, but I defy you to put the book down without a few ideas for your own little corner of the natural world.
Now comes the fun part: A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed, by James Fenton http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780374528775 . This tiny little book is the key to garden liberation. You think you might have a black thumb? You just cannot be bothered to slog around your plot of land, wasting the precious summer days messing with twine and hoes? (Oh, look – a sort of gardening double entendre… I didn’t know it could be done). For the completely carefree garden, follow my advice – read this book. Buy packets of the seeds you like (and that suit your site), and fling the seed about. You’ll get flowers, and for the price of however many packets of $1.50 seed you choose to buy, you’ll learn what grows easily in which parts of your garden & really never have to do a damn thing. You can experiment, or keep going next year with your successes. You can’t have too many expectations with this method, but it’s fun and interesting and undeniably easy.
The really fun part? You can also practice this form of “gardening” in public spaces – parks, roadsides, cracks in the sidewalk… Think of it as your very own stealth urban beautification project. Or, possibly: Subversive Gardening
I will never tell.