82 gardening book reviews and counting


Browsing for a few good gardening books to get you through the dark days of winter? I’ve got a running list of 82 book reviews and recommendations I’ve written over the years: design books, plant books, artful gardening books, garden-craft books, native-plant books, sustainable gardening books, how-to books, children’s garden books, garden memoirs, and even a couple fiction and poetry books about gardens.

That’s a lot of reading — and a lot of reviewing. And now those reviews are easier than ever for you to find and browse. I’ve compiled them alphabetically onto a Book Reviews page, which can be found under “More Good Stuff” in the drop-down menu bar near the top of the screen. I’ll keep the page updated with future reviews and hope you’ll find it useful.


I’m sure you’ll find something to read that stands out from the herd.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

posted in Books

New year in green and gold: January Foliage Follow-Up


It’s a new year in the garden, and I haven’t really been out in it for a while. An unusually long stretch of cold, gray days had me feeling like I was in Seattle, and let me tell you, it made me feel pretty gray myself. But yesterday the sun came out, the skies turned blue, and with a pleasant chill in the air it was the stuff of winter-in-Texas dreams. So let’s kick off Foliage Follow-Up for 2015! I’ll start with my ever-so-slow-growing Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) lawn, studded with a few lemon-lime ‘Margaritaville’ yuccas. I love this little sedge lawn so much more than when it was St. Augustine grass, and I only have to mow twice a year (with a quiet, battery-operated mower). Yippee! If you’re curious about the palm in the middle-back, it’s a Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), which will eventually fill that spot with tropical-looking foliage.


My pipe-planted toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) is an FFU favorite of mine, but I have to show it off again but it looks so freaking fantastic, like a giant’s fiber-optic mood lamp shimmering by the front door. I felt like I was taking a chance on this plant when I bought it at Big Red Sun exactly 3 years ago, but boy has it paid off.


At the time (and even today) I rarely saw toothless sotol planted around town, and I wasn’t sure how it would hold up, especially in such an elevated, tight spot. However, it sails through winter freezes and blistering hot summers and only requires watering maybe once every two weeks in summer. I do think that sharp, sharp drainage and lots of sun is key to making it happy. For a laugh, here’s my post about my pipe-planting goof, but you can also see how much it’s grown since I planted it.


In the same space, softening a corner and screening the laundry room window from the western sun, is ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo, which I’m enjoying much more since I took the time to prune it up and show off its golden “legs” last fall. I need to stay on top of the pruning. Bamboo gets waaaay out of hand if you don’t, even clumping bamboo like this.


Foxtail ferns (Asparagus meyeri) in white pots sit atop short cantera stone columns gifted to me by my gardening friend Randy. (Thanks again, Randy!)


More golden foliage is glowing in the newish front-side garden, courtesy of two variegated maiden grasses (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’). Particularly observant readers may notice a lot more sunshine in this area now. Yes, indeed! While having my oaks trimmed last fall, I convinced my neighbor to have the arborist remove a half-dead, truly pitiful, tree-sized red-tip photinia from her side yard. Its trunk was at least a foot in diameter, and coppery, dead leaves clung to it all year, plus it was leaning over my new fence. Once it came down, the whole space was opened up, and now this part of the garden gets a good dose of morning sun, which should make everything quite happy.


What kind of foliage is making you happy in your January garden? Please join me for Foliage Follow-Up, giving foliage plants their due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I really appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves!

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Read This: Cultivating Garden Style

Cultivating Garden Style

Style, which is about expressing yourself and your unique taste, applies as much to making gardens as to fashion or interior design. Most gardeners naturally prioritize plants when making a garden, but who doesn’t also enjoy accessorizing his or her outdoor spaces with color, furnishings, and accessories like pots, cushions and pillows, and lighting?

In her new book, Cultivating Garden Style: Inspired Ideas and Practical Advice to Unleash Your Garden Personality, Rochelle Greayer, the blogger behind the well-known Studio ‘g’, has fun categorizing gardens with a stylist’s eye. Like a friend who’s good with design, she’s here to help you pinpoint the style your garden leans toward, so you can enhance it, or, if you feel your garden lacks style, help you figure out what you like. The book is essentially a collection of 23 garden mood boards: images of gardens, products, and plants but also works of art, actors in costume, and travel scenes — i.e., anything that evokes a particular mood or style. To use a more contemporary example, mentioned by the author herself, reading the book is like exploring a designer’s Pinterest boards. Stylistically, it also reminds me of HGTV Magazine: visually dynamic, a bit busy at times, and ideal for digesting over short stretches, like your lunch break.


I enjoyed Greayer’s creative and evocative names for the various garden styles she explores. You’ll find Enchanted Bohemian, Tropical Noir, Low Country Shaman, Forest Temple, Playful Pop, and Homegrown Rock ‘N’ Roll, to name a few. Each chapter — each mood board — starts off with an image-dominated, four-page spread outlining the style and the motifs typically used to illustrate it.


Over the next two pages you’re given ideas for accessories to bring the style into your garden, accompanied by pithy descriptions of variations on the style.


Suitable plants are suggested in the next two-page spread.


Then you get a “garden story,” a virtual tour of a real garden that illustrates the style. This section impressed me the most, no matter which garden style I was reading about. Greayer’s ability to find beautiful images of far-flung gardens, and to write about them and their owners as if she knows them personally — well, this is not easy, folks. I don’t know whether she travels widely herself to pull off this feat or if she has a gift for making a stranger’s garden seem intimately familiar, but it’s one of the things I admire about her blog and this book.


Each chapter concludes with two pages of practical information: design tips, how-to projects, horticultural information, and the like. Here Greayer shares a mishmash of handy info about everything from choosing outdoor fabric to firescaping to making your own light fixtures. Newbies will learn some useful gardening information, and DIYers will rejoice over new projects to try.

At 323 pages, the book is packed with colorful photos (including one of mine, from a garden I toured in Austin), accompanied by Greayer’s breezy, conversational text. In spirit it reminds me of Judy Kameon’s Gardens Are for Living, which I reviewed last summer. If your garden is as much for people as for plants, you’ll enjoy reading Cultivating Garden Style to find your favorite style.

Disclosure: Timber Press sent me a copy of the book for review. I reviewed it at my own discretion and without any compensation. This post, as with everything at Digging, is my own personal opinion.

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

posted in Books, Decor, Design