Book review: Gardening Complete by Authors of Cool Springs Press.

Gardening Comp

Gardening Complete: How to Best Grow Vegetables, Flowers, and Other Outdoor Plants – Authors of Cool Springs Press (George Weigel, Katie Elzer-Peters, Lynn Steiner, Dr. Jacqueline A. Soule, Jessica Walliser, Charlie Nardozzi, Rhonda Fleming Hayes, and Tara Nolan) – 2018 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., Minnesota

I ♥ the concept of this book! Take eight highly knowledgeable and experienced garden experts and get them to write individual chapters covering essential gardening topics and bundle it all into one comprehensive volume. Everything you need to know to start a new garden or refresh a mature one is here: understanding soil, managing weeds, planting, watering, fertilizing, pruning, composting, mulching, propagation, and harvesting. The detailed, accessible writing and sumptuous photography make this book a delight to browse AND the kind of reference you’ll find yourself going back to over and over again. The design chapters are also highly useful, addressing native plants, water-wise gardening, pollinator-friendly landscapes, and container and raised bed set-ups.  This is a well-researched and beautifully-presented project – definitely a recommended read!

*Quarto Publishing Group generously provided me with a copy of Gardening Complete; as always, my opinions about the book are my own.

Tuesday tidbits.

If you love peonies, this post about “peony anatomy” may be of interest. Or you can just ogle the beautiful photos. Either way, it’s a win.

I found a really cool site containing microscope photography by Dr. Gary Greenberg – my favourite pics are of the jewel-like sand grains, here, but the whole gallery is worth a gander.

Yummy recipe alert: these muffins are tops!  Except I didn’t have ube and substituted yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes…plus, I didn’t add walnuts due to my allergies, and I skipped the glaze, as it really isn’t necessary and sort of makes them cupcakes instead of muffins, doesn’t it? They’re sweet enough as they are, but the glaze would make them special-occasion-worthy: like a “I managed to get out of bed this morning to go to work, so let’s celebrate!” kind of muffin/cupcake/whatever.

Even if you’re not a fan of Martha Stewart, her latest book Martha’s Flowers is absolutely droolicious (drooleriffic?). I know, I’m making words up here but there aren’t sufficient superlatives in the English language to describe the photography and artful styling in this book.  If you can get your hands on a copy from your local library, do treat yourself.  I haven’t even gotten around to reading the text yet (ahem) as I keep staring at the photos and stammering out awe-struck gibberish.

From the Boast and Braggart files…a couple of articles I wrote about herb gardening have been recently published: “Tea Time: Growing Herbs for Tisanes” appears in the Winter 2018 issue of Archive magazine, and “Designing a Meadow Garden” is featured in the Winter issue of Herb Quarterly.

Have a wonderful week!

Book review: Practical Organic Gardening by Mark Highland.

Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally – Mark Highland (2017, Cool Springs Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group, Minnesota)


Gardening is all about inputs (and, obviously, outputs): you need the water, nutrients, light, soil, seeds/cuttings/transplants, and a bunch of elbow grease and sweat and love and passion to reap the rewards.  I’m thinking that most gardeners have substantial overflowing reservoirs of passion and love for their plants, but I’d argue that one of the most important of the remaining inputs is soil.  Specifically, healthy soil.

Which brings me to one of my favourite aspects of Mark Highland’s new book Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally.  He talks a lot about soil (he does, after all, own a soil company in the United States).  More importantly, he stresses how to respect instead of work the soil – a statement which really aligns with my whole abject laziness when it comes to that elbow grease expenditure.  I can respect with the best of them!  Seriously, however, his discussion of the significance of the relationship between the microbial activity in the soil and organic gardening/no-till (or low-till) principles is one many gardeners may be interested in.  No matter if you garden organically or not, knowing something about the biological and physical properties of your soil will help you offer the very best for your plants. And understanding how to conserve your soil brings your garden closer to sustainability.

When he’s not presenting valuable tips about boosting soil health, Highland covers everything from irrigation and siting, to amendments and mulching, and using organic controls within Integrated Pest Management.  He talks about food forests and mushroom farming.  He offers solutions for container and raised bed gardening, and explores xeriscaping design.  He wades into the lawn/no lawn debate. Chapters explore planning your garden, seed starting, and vegetative propagation.

With its accessible layout, excellent photography, and straightforward, experienced voice, Practical Organic Gardening is comprehensive and highly informative; I can easily see this as a go-to manual for both novice and experienced organic gardeners.

*Quarto Publishing Group generously provided me with a copy of Mark Highland’s Practical Organic Gardening; as always, my opinions about the book are my own.

Tuesday tidbits.

While putting away picture books at work this past week, I came across an illustrator I am now officially absolutely gaga over: Sonja Danowski.  You can see some of the work she did for Michael Rosen’s story Forever Flowers here, as well as a gallery of other art she has done. An incredible talent!

Despite its name, the site American Literature doesn’t feature strictly American authors; it’s actually a great source of public domain short fiction, novels, and poetry from writers from all over the world.  Enjoy!

Although I found it a bit late (the article was published in June of last year), this information about discovering rare plants in Hawai’i using drones is fascinating (and you have to watch the breathtaking video at the end!).

Have you ever come across a dead tree with an odd spiral shape?  I’ve found a few examples on our mountain hikes but unfortunately the only photograph I have of one was taken with a film camera way back in the early 2000’s and a printed copy that I can scan and post isn’t immediately at hand.  Although the title of this article is sort of misleading, the explanation it offers is accurate. Another interesting thing to watch for during those walks in the woods!

My fave “new” recipe of last week?  This sweet and sour chicken. (I didn’t make the fried rice; I just served it over hot cooked basmati. I reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup, cut back the vinegar to about 1/3 cup, and used only one egg).  Easy and delicious!

Cool beans.


Okay, it’s that super sweet time of the year…I’ve got all the seed catalogues open at the ready and I’m wanting to order some “new-to-me” varieties of beans. (I’m a total newbie bean grower – scarlet runners are the extent of my experience.  They are so fun I’ve decided beans are totally my thing and I must. grow. more.). Before I make a decision, I thought I’d do a little brain-picking: what bean varieties have you grown and loved and would recommend to me?  Pole/climbing beans only, please (I don’t have room for bush beans). I’m looking forward to hearing about your favourites!

Tuesday tidbits.

Does anyone out there grow paprika peppers?  I’ve used sweet paprika in a few recipes but just recently discovered smoked paprika when I made a spice mix for use as a dry rub in grilling. Now I’ve been putting smoked paprika on everything: scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, slow cooked beans…and as everyone but me seems to have already known, it elevates deviled eggs to a seriously crazy pinnacle of excellence.  I’m curious, what are your favourite ways to use this fantastic little spice in cooking? (Tell me how you use other types of paprika as well!). And if you’ve grown the peppers, please tell me about your successes (or failures) with them.  I don’t think I can easily grow them here without the benefit of a greenhouse, but I am nevertheless very interested….

I came across a fascinating article about the history of embroidery – although it references 900 years of the craft, it’s a very brief overview so it won’t take you long to read.  The photos are fantastic, too.  Check it out here.

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, you may enjoy this little piece posted up at – it’s a thought-provoking take on writing botany into fantasy fiction.  How do you name and describe plants that exist in worlds that aren’t real?  Stuff like this is why writing is so fun….

Oh yes, and let’s cycle back to food: I posted a recipe for zucchini and salmon loaf up at last week. Use fresh salmon if you have it. If you’re vegetarian, I think you could make a variation with scrambled tofu.  And throwing in a few diced mushrooms and red or yellow peppers would be pretty yummy, too.  Don’t forget the smoked paprika!  ♥


Book review: The Wellness Garden by Shawna Coronado.


Shawna Coronado – The Wellness Garden (2017, Cool Springs Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., Minnesota)

I actually wrote an article about this topic for Herb Quarterly magazine this year (“Designing a Wellness Garden,” Fall 2017), but of course, my measly two thousand words doesn’t even come close to encapsulating all of the immense detail and information Shawna Coronado has gathered for her book The Wellness Garden: Grow, Eat, and Walk Your Way to Better Health. I hugely enjoyed researching what are sometimes termed “welltality” gardens for my article – there are many facets to these types of designs, where healing, rejuvenation, and healthy maintenance of the whole body and mind is emphasized.

Shawna Coronado’s fight against her own chronic illness and pain was the inspiration behind The Wellness Garden; despite suffering from osteoarthritis, she didn’t stop gardening when the pain became too much.  She realized the benefits of being outdoors, of keeping active, and of tending and harvesting her own healthy food crops – and the point of her book is to encourage others to turn to (or keep on!) gardening as a way to cope and heal and stay fit and focused (and more positive!) in the face of illnesses such as arthritis and depression.  Gorgeously presented, thorough (and thoughtful) research, and meaningful, practical solutions make The Wellness Garden a stand-out: Coronado covers everything from fragrance/sensory and therapeutic garden designs, to selecting and growing nutrient- and vitamin-packed edibles (including tips for composting and boosting soil health), and choosing and using ergonomic, safe, and appropriate garden tools that don’t stress the body.  The second part of the book is specifically devoted to fitness: walking outdoors, and yoga practice (as well as breathing exercises), meant to be undertaken in the garden.  Frequent interaction with nature is key, as there is no doubt about the benefits of being outdoors and the way it elevates mood and well-being.  This valuable book will inspire you to get out there and enjoy your garden even more!

*Quarto Publishing generously provided me with a review copy of The Wellness Garden, but as always, my opinions are 100 percent my own.