book review

The New Southern Living Garden Book is a great resource that entices readers with beauty and information…

I’m a collector.  I’m a collector of plants, pottery, dishes, bird statuary and many other things.  Aside from plants, I derive the most enjoyment from my garden book collection.

I have books on perennials, vegetables, design, famous gardeners and gardens, drought-tolerant gardens, heat-tolerant gardens, children’s gardens, succulent gardens, vertical gardening and gardening inside the home.  I love my books.  I never tire of pulling one out and perusing all the beautiful photos and unique stories, tips and guidelines.

While I have an assortment of comprehensive and encyclopedic books, I may have just found my new go-to bible.

It’s not always easy to find resources that provide real-life, detailed information about gardening in the south — specifically the southwest.  Redesigned and updated, The New Southern Living Garden Book is a beautiful compilation of plant and garden information dedicated to how WE garden in the South and here in Central Texas.

More than 8,000 plants and 2,000 stunning photos of plants fill this 768-page book.  The plant encyclopedia includes information about light and water needs, several climate zone designations and adaptability as well as toxicity.  The entries also outline many of the different varieties of each plant, highlighting all of their unique characteristics. 

Then, it does the work for you.  You can slice and dice the information in a whole host of ways in the pages that provide information and recommend plants for seasonal color, cutting flowers, colorful foliage, winter interest, fragrant flowers, showy border perennials and more.  When I’m searching for inspiration and ideas, this is how I want my information presented.  Next come the sections that highlight plants for coastal gardens, drough tolerant gardens, deer resistant gardens, hanging basket and window-box gardens, southern natives and plants that attract butterflies and birds.

And there’s more – practical garden tips and advice about soil, fertilizing, watering and pruning.  It includes a detailed aseasonal garden checklist, and my personal favorite — “Solving the Mystery of Botanical Plant Names.”  Wow.  Did you know that ‘angustifolia’ refers to  a narrow leaf form in a plant?  Or that ‘barccata’ means berried or berrylike?  Or that riparia means ‘of riverbanks?’  Ah, one I knew — ‘texana’ means of Texas!

As I was soaking it all in, I turned the page and found a double-page spread showcasing the beauty of the fall garden with a gorgeous photo of the Gentling garden that I visited on the Garden Bloggers Fling in Asheville in 2012.  You can tour the garden with me here  here

Here’s an excerpt from the book:  “Leaves Blazing — Bathed in early November’s late afternoon sun, trees catch fire around Peter and Jasmin Gentling’s rustic home in Asheville, North Carolina.  Mountainous locations like this provide the South’s most dependable fall color.”

Just as the computer can entice me into rabbit holes for hours and hours on end, this book lured me in and I soon found myself lost in its glossy, plant-filled pages.  It’s the perfect way to spend a winter evening, or two or three or four.

Note:  Southern Living sent me this book and I chose to read and then review it.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and am sharing with you my personal opinion.

A must-read for gardeners and wannabes: The Layered Garden

In my spare time, I’ve been devouring the The Layered Garden, by David Culp with Adam Levine.  The title jumped out at me when I got the latest email promotion from Timber Press, so they sent me a copy and I’m reviewing it.

As part of their fall promotion, Timber Press is giving away an amazing deal – 5 books, a tote bag and a signed print by Brooke Weeber.  Just go to Timber Press to enter and win. 

All the books look great, but an entire book on layering in the garden, the history of David Culp’s garden and then, the icing on the cake, Rob Cardillo’s photographs — well, I just couldn’t resist.  And I’m glad I didn’t.

The Layered Garden is an inspiration for experienced and new gardeners alike.  Filled to the brim with beautiful photographs — especially long shots with detailed design components — it offers a full pallet of ideas.

The book chronicles the creation of the gardens of David Culp and his partner, Michael Alderfer, at Brandywine Cottage in Pennsylvania.  Purchased in 1990, the cottage itself was built in the 1790’s and the original farmland subdivided into 2-acre lots.

Both a garden designer and a plant collector, Culp writes, “I express myself in two distinct ways: as a plantsman who enjoys collecting specimens…and as a designer who enjoys playing with plants to achieve a desired effect.”

The first section of the book weaves the tale of each of the distinct gardens and how they came to be so lush and full.  The gardens are designed to be layered in many ways — layers of sizes and textures and colors and layers that peak at different times of year, allowing different waves of bloom.  Other elements like pots and antique stone troughs add interest and more layers, and they plant them with seasonal accents and plant displays.

The garden includes layers of tall plants and man-made elements to provide vertical interest in the garden. 

Then I got to the third chapter of the book, “Signature Plants Through the Seasons,” where he admits, “Hello, my name is David, and I am addicted to plants.”  That really spoke to me!  Full of beautiful photos and detailed information about the focal point plants of each season, his collector’s passion is evident here.

He closes with a list of his favorite garden books, which I’ll definitely be checking out, too.

Layers and layers of plants and colors and textures — gardens waves of blooms that peak throughout the year — that’s what I want in my garden.  And I’ll be going back to this beautiful book time and time again for inspiration and ideas.

If you’re looking for some inspiration for layers in your garden, check out the Timber Press promotion at Garden Outside the Garden – maybe you can win it! 

Creativity in a Tiny Terrarium


It’s hot here in Central Texas. I know you’ve heard me say that before, but it’s really hot. We’ve had more than 25 days over 100 degrees since late May. We normally have an annual average of 12 days over 100. That makes gardening tough. Planting is impossible and even established plants and trees are struggling just to survive.

When the heat exhausts me and I’m forced indoors, I miss my garden. But when one door closes another door opens, and I find refuge in my garden magazines and books (and the air conditioning!)

So, I was excited when my friends at Timber Press sent me Terrarium Craft to review. I sat down with my preview copy and a tall glass of iced tea and had myself a little eye candy.

I grew up with an enormous floor-sized terrarium. My Mom created it and we had it as far back as I can remember. It was a beautiful bluish-green and I was always amazed at how the plants grew and thrived in that bottle.

The first thing you notice about Terrarium Craft is that it’s full of beautiful photos of the most creative little vignettes. It took me a while to start reading because I was mesmerized by the amazing miniature worlds.

The book provides a blueprint for 50 original projects, including options for materials, plants, and techniques. And it’s designed to spark your creativity and inspire you to make your own magical little glass world.

There are so many choices to put in your terrarium – sand, stones, shells, sticks, and even ball moss, with limitless possibilities for memorabilia.

After outlining information about all the categories of materials, the next section provides step-by-step instructions about how to assemble it all.

Then, pages and pages with an amazing array of terrariums — beach, forest, desert and fantasy terrariums.

Inspire me it did. Now I’m trying to decide what special things I want to put in my terrarium. Given my love of birds, I think it will include a little ceramic bird and some branches.

Now I’m going to walk around my air conditioned house and see what little goodies I can collect to put in my own special little glass world.