There is no such thing as a no-maintenance garden, unless you pave the whole thing, and, even then, weeds will find a way through. ~Janice Wells
If you are a long time reader of this blog, then you know I love garden books. As a lifelong learner, I am always searching for great garden advice as I know I can’t know everything. With this year’s garden now put to bed, I am thinking about next year’s garden. What issues do I need to deal with, what new veggies will I be trying, how can I add more cut flowers to feed my vase filling obsession, and where do I start to make changes? And of course this doesn’t even address the normal maintenance I need to catch up with finally.
So when I saw this book recently making the rounds on blogs and social media, I was intrigued. I wanted to see what information I could learn that might save me some time in the garden. After all who wants to waste time in the garden when there is so much work to do.
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: St. Lynn’s Press (May 15, 2014)
Amazon Price: $13.61 (Hardcover)
In A Few Words
It is a garden tradition to pass along garden wisdom. Some of it good, some of it folklore as we may later find out, and some of it based on good research. And this is the premise with which C. L. Fornari explores 71 common garden practices to uncover what is true, what is not and the history and reasons behind these myths.
The book is laid out in 6 sections as the author goes through some of the biggest myths in these areas: annuals and perennials; vegetables; shrubs, trees and vines; compost, soils, mulch and fertilizers; insects, diseases, and other problems; and random folklore.
What the author does with each myth is to address the myth and where it originated, discusses her experience with the myth, gives the experts’ advice and any research or sage advice that addresses the myth. There are also many inserts with additional information. And the author’s award-winning full color photography is included throughout the book.
What I Liked
I found the author’s use of advice from gardeners from over 100 yrs ago to be delightful. In preparing the book, she has done a tremendous amount of research. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all the sage advice and discovering it is much more reliable than much of the myth we find today. And even more fascinating was the idea that the majority of these myths are in fact from the mid-20th century.
I also really enjoyed exploring many of these long held beliefs because I had been taken in by them as well. I found the author actually courageous to take these on as you will find some of your own firm gardening beliefs here, and like me you may not want to give up on them. I actually bristled at a few and thought….no way. I do this and it works. Well maybe, but probably not for the most part.
Here are a few of the many myths the author busted that I found intriguing:
- Daffodils need to be deadheaded-wow was I thrilled to finally find out this is not so. And you know I stumbled upon this fact when I couldn’t get to this seasonal chore the last couple of years. I actually found my daffs did just fine if I left the spent flowers alone and let the foliage compost naturally.
- Squash and pumpkins need to be planted in mounds-again this year I discovered that this is not the case. I started them in my raised bed with no mounding and they did great. And what about the volunteer plant that crops up never being planted in a mound. Actually the author notes the term”hill” that the seed packets refer to means cluster. Well who knew. And the author actually gives further great advice for planting these veggies that I will be following next year.
- Rusty nails help turn hydrangeas blue-if you have ever tried this and you have alkaline, clay soil you know it will likely never happen. It never happened for me and I drove several in and around the hydrangea…nothing but pink flowers. I love her explanation of the best methods to help hydrangeas turn blue, and why this method is less likely to work. Saves me time.
- Lighten clay by adding sand-now here I wish I had known this before I added all that sand. What I can tell you is follow the author’s advice and mine. Do not do this. It actually makes the drainage worse and is one reason I now have a bog in part of my garden. Our solution to this problem is part of a redesign for next year. But had I known this, I could have actually saved myself, time, money and aggravation.
Not So Much
As I warned, there will be myths here you will want to hold on to. But perhaps, like me, you will see them in a new light. Case in point is her challenge of planting marigolds in veg beds to get rid of bad bugs. After reading this, I do agree that you will not get rid of bad bugs, maybe not even critters who want to munch on your veggies. But they look great, and like the author are a tradition I continue. Another reason I like to plant marigolds with my tomatoes is they bring the pollinators to the veggies and any plant that helps with pollination is a great asset.
It is hard to hear that long held beliefs really have no scientific basis or actually may be a detriment, but I was happy to learn some of very useful advice. Besides it was very entertaining reading about folklore and learning some “new” best ways to garden from long ago. So do I recommend this book; yes, highly recommend this book no matter how long you have been gardening. It is a great book to curl up with this winter, and explore some of the best garden myths now uncovered. Oh and don’t forget to check out C. L. Fornari’s blog, Coffee For Roses.
“Some beautiful things are more dazzling when they are still imperfect than when they have been too perfectly crafted.”
– La Rochefoucauld
In A Vase On Monday
As I do every Monday, I walk through the garden looking for what plants might make for a lovely vase to bring indoors. And now with winter weather blowing through the garden, it is a quick, cold trip outside to look for interesting foliage and plant material to create an arrangement. Cathy@Rambling in the Garden hosts this wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday. I am also linking in with Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles, and Judith’s meme, Mosaic Monday.
I had an idea of what I wanted to cut for my vase before I ventured outside. Which was a good thing as windchills were in the teens with a dusting of snow whipping around me as I went after my targeted plant material. And here is the arrangement….
Can you believe it, my cattails from earlier vases were still going strong, so I easily reused them for this vase. I may even have a few more for another vase next week if they don’t pop and become fluff.
So what else is in the vase. Dried coral-colored fairy roses were calling out to me again as they would add some color, even after being touched by frost and dried naturally. Then autumn colored foliage and seedheads from St. John’s Wort were still hanging in there but not for much longer so I cut a few. I love the curly foliage of bayberry and the dried miscanthus grass that are shining in the winter garden. And I think they both add wonderful subtle colors to the vase. I wasn’t sure how I was going to display the dried grass, but pulling it apart and adding it throughout made for a nice effect. Almost like raffia ribbon.
So that is the vase for this week. I need about 16 more to have a vase a week through winter. Will I make it? I think I might. It is amazing what you can find in your garden even in winter, under a bit of snow.
Next up on the blog: Wednesday I will have a native plant profile. And Saturday brings another Seasonal Celebrations. Time to celebrate the seasons. I hope you will join in to the meme. Even though I don’t want to see winter come, I rejoice at the solstice as we begin to see more sunlight and are closer to spring.
I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.