By Ann Marie VanDerZanden
Iowa State University
Making or selecting gifts for my gardening friends is one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. My enjoyment of this winter time ritual is part of the reason I have written my December column on gift ideas for the gardeners in your life the past couple of years. Since I have received a number of calls and e-mails both years wanting more information, I decided to continue this theme for another year. This year I am going to focus on reading materials that any gardener can enjoy when the wind is howling and there is a foot of snow on the ground.
This year Iowa State University (ISU) Extension has three new publications that will be of interest to home gardeners. These publications can be ordered online via the Extension publications Web site (www.extension.iastate.edu/store/) or through your local ISU Extension county office
Home Landscape: Understanding the Basics of Landscape Design (PM 2004, price, $6.50) gives an overview of the basic principles of landscape design and several examples of how to incorporate these concepts into a home landscape. The 32 pages are filled with color photos of the different design principles and beautiful planting combinations, as well as step-by-step guidelines on how to work through the design process.
Landscape Plants for the Midwest (PM 212, price, $10) provides a 68-page list of information on how to select the right plant for the right place in Midwestern landscapes. The publication is organized by plant type and size, and information for each plant entry includes the USDA Hardiness zone, light requirements, growth habit, flowering and fruiting characteristics and additional attributes or comments. The index in the back makes it easy to find plants using either botanical or common names.
The Garden Guide to Midwest Annuals and Perennials (PM 1966, price, $8) is designed as an easy to carry guidebook useful to homeowners visiting their local nursery or garden center on plant hunting trips. It is also provides a quick reference for people visiting public gardens since it includes many ornamental plants commonly grown in Iowa. The 104 pages are filled with color photos and basic information about growing 300 annual and perennial flowers, Buck roses (developed by Iowa State’s own Griffith Buck), ornamental grasses, herbs, vines and even water plants.
Again this year, there is a plethora of new books available from publishing houses (e.g., Timber Press and the American Horticultural Society) that specialize in garden-related books. Some of the new books focus on a particular group of plants such as orchids, hebes, hollies, bamboo and hellebores, just to name a few. Other books focus on gardening under unique growing conditions such as small spaces, urban settings and green roofs. There are also a number of new titles that address gardening with perennials including design, sequencing bloom times, choosing plants with unique seed heads and maintenance issues. Another group of books focus on insects in the garden, soil microbes and garden remedies all of which can be a nice change of pace for avid gardeners. As always, if you aren’t sure which one to select, a gift certificate to a local bookstore allows your gardener to select what interests him or her most.
Another idea is to purchase a subscription to a magazine your gardening friend doesn’t currently receive. There are so many to choose from. Some focus on garden design in general, others on specialty gardens like wildflowers, attracting birds and butterflies and yet others center on certain plant groups such as daffodils or dwarf conifers. A membership in a particular garden society will give your gardening friend an outlet to share their passion with other like minded folks, and many organizations supply their members with a regular newsletter. Who knows, maybe they will be inspired to build a model railroad in their backyard after joining a local garden railway organization.
If you still can’t decide on a publication of some type, one more gift idea from Iowa State is the annual Extension Garden Calendar (PM 815, price, $8). This year’s theme is container gardening and the beautiful color photos of unique container gardens provide inspiration to any gardener. What makes this calendar distinctive, are the many garden reminders and tips compiled by ISU Extension horticulture specialists. In the calendar you will also find a list of additional ISU Extension gardening publications and contact information for other horticulture resources.