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!

Flowery Friday.


Sometimes it’s really easy just to sit, with a goofy, deeply satisfied grin on one’s face, and marvel at a flower. Especially when that flower belongs to an amaryllis.

Book review: Success with Succulents by John Bagnasco and Bob Reidmuller.

I have a feeling it’s rather hard to stick to just one when you’re considering growing cacti and succulents indoors…you might start off that way but then two years in, you stand in your living room and realize you have 300 of them (and 26 cuttings in various stages sitting on the kitchen counter) and you. want. more.  They’re just so easily collectible…all those beautiful and curious textures and shapes and exotic blooms, how can you possibly resist?  (Note to my hubby: this is my way of easing you into the grand concept of our future decor).  Unfortunately, if you’re me, you’ve already killed two cacti in unfortunate watering mishaps, and you’re not sure if you should brave dipping that toe in again.  The answer is yes, yes, I should.

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John Bagnasco and Bob Reidmuller’s new book Success with Succulents: Choosing, Growing, and Caring for Cactuses and other Succulents (2017, Cool Springs Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group) is comprehensive, yet easily accessible – the ideal title for both novice and experienced growers of these marvelous plants.  Not just restricted to houseplants, the book covers outdoor varieties as well, and offers tips for winterizing tender plants indoors if your climate isn’t favourable.  The first part of the book focuses on practical advice for selecting, planting, care, and propagation, including troubleshooting for pests and diseases. The rest of this fantastic resource is devoted to over 100 profiles of cacti and succulents, with gorgeous photographs and detailed descriptions that will help you identify mystery plants or serve you well as you wander the nurseries hunting for that special one.

Or six or twenty or….  😉

Do you grow cacti or succulents?  Which ones are your favourites?  (If you have  links to any of your blog posts about them or photos, please feel free to share!).   


*The Quarto Group generously provided me with a review copy of Success with Succulents. As always, my opinions and thoughts are my own.

Tuesday tidbits.

Time-lapse photography is awesome.  It’s even more awesome when it features spring flowers.  Don’t miss this! 

Here are some great photos illustrating crown shyness in trees. Next time you’re in a heavily wooded area, look up – maybe you’ll spot a display. I keep thinking I’ve seen it in aspens, but I have no documentation of it…I’m now on a mission to photograph it if I come across it. I’m not sure if Populus is a genus that exhibits it – not all trees do.

My article, “Growing Green Flowers,” published in the Winter 2017-18 issue of Heirloom Gardener, is available to read online here.

I didn’t do a lot of holiday baking, but this ginger cookie recipe was so good, I made more than one batch.  It’s gluten free but if you don’t have dietary restrictions, you should be easily able to substitute wheat flour for the GF blend.  The almond flour may also be successfully swapped out with the GF blend (or wheat flour) as well. And it’s cool if you want to omit the candied ginger, too – just add a touch more ground ginger.  ♥