New garden books will brighten your yard

April 25, 2005|by JEFF RUGG/Copley News Service

I love books and I enjoy reading. I occasionally get free books in the mail that the publishers want me to review. I prefer learning about new books through Web sites. Books featured on Web sites are usually read by editors and other people familiar with the subject of the book, so it is more likely to be a good choice.

However, a couple of weeks ago I received three books in the mail. It felt like my birthday. Not only did I get three books, but I got three of the best books I will have in my library.

The first one is "The Gardener's Guide to Growing Hardy Perennial Orchids" by William Mathis, Ph.D. (Wild Orchid Co.) Most people don't know that there are about 60 species of native orchids in North America, from the Gulf Coast to Alaska. A few of the southern ones grow in trees, but the rest grow in the ground. Some grow in prairies, some in the woods and, of most interest to me, some grow in wetlands. I will be adding some to my water garden this spring.


A book on orchids must have color pictures and this one is filled with them and excellent color diagrams for illustrating how to plant orchids in your garden. There is general information for each type of habitat, such as upland woods versus shoreline, and there is also detailed information on each of the orchid species that grow in that habitat, including the soil preparation, watering, cultural requirements and pest control.

Each habitat area also has information on the companion plants that grow in those conditions. For instance, if you can grow native trilliums and ferns or garden perennials such as hosta, astilbe or bleeding heart, you can also grow yellow lady slipper orchids, among other native and introduced orchids. Check out the book at

The next book I read is the revised and updated "Right Plant, Right Place" by Nicola Ferguson (Fireside Books). This has always been a good book, but now it is even better. It includes more than 1,400 plants and more than 1,000 color photographs. There are numerous lists, such as plants suitable for shade or clay soil. Other lists are more specialized, like the list for trees and shrubs suitable for windswept seaside gardens.

The book is well organized and would be useful for any gardener. It has more than 350 pages and sells for about $35.

Another book that I will be using for the new garden is a special issue of Fine Gardening magazine called "Plant Combinations." It has 55 easy-to-follow designs that are guaranteed to create beautiful garden areas. Whether you are looking for harmony or contrast in your colors, textures and plant forms, this magazine has one just right for your garden.

Each garden vignette has a large color photo and a smaller version of the same picture with the outlines of each plant highlighted to show you which plant is which. All you have to do is pick the picture that you like, and then pick up the plants at the nursery. Now, you must understand that just because a pair of plants is pictured so beautifully in the book, doesn't mean that both will grow in your region. Sometimes, one plant may not be as hardy. Show the picture and the plant list to your local certified nursery professionals and get their opinion of the plants.

E-mail questions to Jeff Rugg at

Copley News Service

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