Loving the Alien (or Not)

Spring has sprung. The earth renews itself and the grand cycle of life continues. And, oh yeah, the damn weeds are taking over the yard again. While definitely not rational (nature always wins after all) I’ve always thought there was a certain doomed nobility in taking up arms, in the form of spades and shovels, against the weedy invaders in my yard.

But does my relationship with weeds and other ‘undesirables’ need to be adversarial? Recent books about our relationship with nature have opened up a debate about the whole concept of defining species as desirable or undesirable, native or invasive. Maybe the problem isn’t in the yard, but in my head. Here are three newer titles that explore the line between good and bad in the animal and plant kingdoms.

Inheritors of the Earth: How Nature is Thriving in an Age of Extinction by Chris Thomas

This provocative work states that the widely accepted idea of human activities causing the destruction of the environment and the loss of species is actually looking at the situation incorrectly. Humans are altering the environment for sure, but, Thomas argues, this new environment actually benefits certain adaptable species. The end result?  More new species will be created than destroyed. The key to his argument lies in examining the animals and plants that are labeled invasive. For the author, these species are simply the ones that successfully exploit the new environment and survive. For Thomas, nature is ultimately more resilient and adaptable than we think.

The Aliens Among Us: How Invasive Species are Transforming the Planet—and Ourselves by Leslie Anthony

Anthony has little sympathy for those who refuse to see invasive species as a threat or who downplay their impact on the environment. Instead, he advocates for a vigorous defense of the native and an eradication of the invasive. To prove his point he goes on the frontline with the scientists and environmentalists battling undesirable species (such as Scotch Broom, Lampreys and Pythons) and celebrates their hard work and dedication to the cause. He also goes into an enlightening history of specific species and how they ended up in the wrong places: the Norway Rat owes its presence in 90 percent of the world to trade by sea for example. This book is an entertaining call to arms.

Where Do Camels Belong: the Story and Science of Invasive Species by Ken Thompson

Thompson argues that the real problem when it comes to invasive vs. native species lies in definitions. As the title suggests, he uses the camel as a prime example. We think of camels as native to the Middle East but in fact they evolved and lived in North America for millions of years, retain their greatest biological diversity in South America, and are currently only ‘wild’ in Australia. So where are they native exactly? He makes a convincing argument using other species as well. In the end he advocates for getting beyond the stark and illogical definitions of native and invasive and simply judging species by their impact on the environment as it currently exists.

So what is a conscientious gardener to do: take up arms against all that is invasive or let nature take its course? We all have to make our own choices, but as for me I choose to play favorites. The native Kinnikinnick is a great ground cover, but once it start encroaching on my beloved, and definitely introduced, Monkey Puzzle Tree the shears are coming out.

Arts and Crafts at the Library

P1020257Did you know that the library offers many wonderful programs for children and adults? Well, if you missed our arts and crafts series called “Crafternoons” in July, here’s some of the books we used and the projects they inspired.

indexThere are 52 wonderful ideas in Art Lab For Kids by Susan Schwake. We used the ‘Tiny Paintings on Wood’ project but you may be interested in the drawing, printmaking, or mixed media ideas. This is a well-thought-out guide with simple, clear explanations of technique, combined with inspiration from established artists. These projects will enable children to feel successful and encourage them to explore art as a form of expression.

index (1)We used the ‘Watercolor Magic’ project from Art Lab for Little Kids by the same author. This project involved drawing with white crayon on white paper, painting with watercolor, getting the surface really wet and then sprinkling it with salt. The result was many fine abstract paintings.This book was developed for the younger set and begins with an introduction on materials and setting up a space for making art. The lessons that follow are open-ended and to be explored over and over – with different results each time.

h2o color

indexWe made (I think) awesome shopping bags out of old t-shirts. You can get this project and others from DIY T-Shirt Crafts by Adrianne Surian. Creating something useful and stylish doesn’t have to take ages or require expensive supplies. Complete with step-by-step instructions and stunning photographs, each T-shirt craft is simple enough for beginners to recreate and can be finished in 60 minutes or less.

tshirt

 

index (1)Print & Stamp Lab by Traci Bunkers includes 52 ideas (I guess one for each week of the year) for handmade, up-cycled print tools. Learn to create print blocks and stamp tools, all from inexpensive, ordinary, and unexpected materials: string, spools, band-aids, flip-flops, ear plugs, rubber bands, school erasers and a slew of other re-purposed and up-cycled items. We used paper cups to create the music prints below:

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index (2)We plan on using Paper Playhouse: Awesome Art Projects for Kids Using Paper, Boxes and Books by Katrina Rodabaugh for planning our fall craft projects. Focused around surprising and easily accessible materials like shipping boxes, junk mail envelopes, newspapers, maps, found books, and other paper ephemera, it has 22 projects aimed at inspiring children to create amazing paper crafts. I love the tiny Airstream trailer made using duct tape. You will too.

index (3)If you and your kids are not that into crafts, try these other ‘lab’ books. Kitchen Science Lab for Kids by Liz Heinecke includes 52 fun science activities for families to do together. Using everyday ingredients, many of the experiments are safe enough for toddlers and exciting enough for older kids, so families can discover the joy of science together. You can whip up amazing science experiments in your own kitchen.

index (4)The title of Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments to Learn, Grow, Harvest, Make, Play and Enjoy in Your Garden says it all. It is a refreshing source of ideas to help children of all ages learn to grow their own patch of earth. The lessons in this book are open-ended and can be explored over and over.

 

Our wonderful librarian Elizabeth has also organized a craft table at the Evergreen Branch which is there everyday! Children who visit the branch are able to do awesome, creative crafts each time they visit the library. These crafts provide fun hands-on activities for kids and their parents to do in the library. They also connect art and science with featured books and help develop small motor skills – many kids enter school not knowing how to hold a pencil. Don’t wait for our fall craft programs. Come on down to the library and check out these and other books to unleash your creative spirits!

Northwest Flower and Garden Show Books

content_15_nwfgs_windermereIf you’re like me, you didn’t make it down to last week’s Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle and even if you did, it’s unlikely that you had time to attend all of the author seminars. Never fear because your local public library has your back. I was pleased to see that the library has almost all of the gardening books that authors were selling at the garden show. Why not just borrow them from the library? It’ll be like you attended the lecture and you can decide whether or not you’d like to purchase your own copy. Here’s a run-down of the hottest new gardening books.

index (5)index (6)Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives and Hellstrip Gardening: Create a Paradise between the Sidewalk and the Curb are both by Evelyn Hadden. These books are your ticket to a wild and crazy front yard. Let’s shake it up, Everett!

index (7)Coffee for Roses is by Cynthia Fornari, a writer, professional speaker, radio host, and self-described “out-of-control plant person.” She looks at 71 common garden practices and uncovers the truth behind the lore. With humor and affection, she goes back in time to sort out the good, the bad and the just plain silly…and tells us why. This book combines gardening history and expert advice into one useful, time and money-saving package. Get those grounds from Starbucks and feed your roses.

index (8)Container Gardening for all Seasons by Barbara Wise provides a shopping list of materials and a helpful planting diagram for each of the more than 100 container options. Designed like a recipe book, the book offers even the most novice gardeners a no-fail, easy-to-follow instruction format for each container. This book includes all you need to know to plan, plant, grow and maintain a container garden.

index (10)Cultivating Garden Style by Rochelle Greayer shows ways to create outdoor areas that are charming, comfortable, appealing, and reflect individuality. It features twenty-three unique garden styles accompanied by advice on how to recreate the look. Simple step-by-step projects, like how to make a macramé plant hanger, help the reader personalize the space. And helpful tips and tricks, including how to pick the right tree and pick the right combination of plants and containers, offer essential lessons in gardening and design.

index (11)Epic Tomatoes by Craig LeHoullier offers everything a tomato enthusiast needs to know about growing more than 200 varieties of tomatoes — from sowing seeds and planting to cultivating and collecting seeds at the end of the season. He also offers a comprehensive guide to the various pests and diseases of tomatoes and explains how best to avoid them. No other book offers such a detailed look at the specifics of growing tomatoes. Savor your best tomatoes ever!

indexEveryday Roses: How to Grow Knock-Out and Other Easy Care Roses by Paul Zimmerman is a complete primer on how to purchase, plant, care for and maintain easy care modern roses. Aimed at gardeners who want the beauty of roses without the fuss, this book offers an approach that is more accessible and environmentally friendly than competing volumes–and no other book in the current market focuses exclusively on modern roses and getting the most out of them.

index (10)Gardening in Miniature: Create Your Own Tiny Living World by Janit Calvo is very, very fun! It’s full of great information for the complete novice in miniature gardening. Calvo gives detailed information on materials and plants and she also gives detailed information for both outdoor and indoor creations. I’m all inspired to see if I can create some of these projects in my own home and garden.

index (11)Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning techniques for Small Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees by Ann Ralph. I. Cannot. Wait. To grow a little fruit tree. This book makes fruit tree growing sound like a piece of cake. It has simple, precise directions that teach you exactly what and when to cut so that your tree doesn’t overtake you. I like Ralph’s idea that fruit trees are similar to pets – they must be trained if you want them to behave.

indexThe Know Maintenance Perennial Garden by Roy Diblik.  This book explains how knowing (get it?) your plants is the key to a beautiful, low-maintenance garden. This is your ticket to a gorgeous perennial garden packed with color, texture, and multi-season interest. Your yard will look like it was designed by a professional and maintained by a crew if you read this book.

index (1)The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year Round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage by David Culp. The author explains the design technique of layering: inter-planting many different species in the same area so that as one plant passes its peak, another takes over. The result is a nonstop parade of color that begins in spring and ends at the onset of winter. As practical as it is inspiring, this book will provide you with expert information gleaned from decades of hard work and close observation and will show you how to achieve a four-season garden.

index (2)Pacific Northwest Garden Tour: The Sixty Best Gardens to Visit in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia  by Donald Olson is a guide to take you to the best public gardens in the Pacific Northwest. Use this guide and its enticing photographs and easy to use format to discover  little-known gems or classic gardens. Everett’s own Evergreen Arboretum and gardens is one of the featured gardens.

index (6)Small Space Vegetable Gardens: Growing Edibles in Containers, Raised Beds, and Small Plots by Andrea Bellamy tells you how to grow your own incredible edibles. This book covers everything you need to know to get growing, from choosing and planting containers, to designing show-stopping edible container displays. It also covers small-space techniques such as succession sowing, vertical gardening, and season extension. This summer you’ll be harvesting a bounty of edibles.

index (4)Timber Press Guide to Vegetable Gardening by Lorene Forkner is a growing guide that truly understands the unique eccentricities of the Northwest growing calendar covering Oregon, Washington, southeastern Alaska, and British Columbia. The month-by-month format makes it perfect for beginners and accessible to everyone – you can start gardening the month you pick it up. Here’s my own advice: plant your peas on President’s Day. Soak them first!

index (7)The Wildlife Friendly Vegetable Gardener: How to Grow Food in Harmony with Nature by Tammi Hartung offers insights into different wildlife issues that commonly arise in the garden, and effective but peaceful ways to address those problems for gardeners wishing to co-exist with wildlife rather than “ban” wildlife. Discover which plants, tools, and remedies can be used to discourage or re-direct critters, repel or distract wildlife, and ways to totally prevent access, without causing harm, to wildlife as a last resort when all else fails.

This is just a smattering of all of the fabulous gardening books available at the library where we bring the Northwest Flower and Garden show to you!

Welcome to the Jungle

There is no doubt about it. Spring is here. So, is the glass half empty or half full? If full, you might see this time as a period of wonderful regeneration with the earth awakening from its slumber and bursting into life. If empty, you might cast your gaze at all that bursting life and see a tide of noxious weeds attempting to drown all that is desirable. Whichever position you take, a certain fact remains: weeds exist and must be dealt with. Luckily, the library has a wide variety of materials to help you in your dealings with these undesirables.

gardeningPerhaps it isn’t surprising, but books whose sole topic is the art of weeding are few and far between. Don’t despair, however. Contained within the many books we have on gardening, are myriad chapters on weeding. Interestingly, they tend to shy away from the term ‘weeding’ and instead go for the more broad ‘garden maintenance.’ A good example is Gardening: The Complete Guide by Miranda Smith where you will find weeding information in the chapter titled ‘Maintaining Your Garden.’ There is a lot of good, practical information in this chapter and, as a library worker, I especially appreciate the author’s knowledge is power approach to weeding:

You’ve no doubt heard the cliché about weeds being nothing more than plants ‘out of place.’ But no matter what your relationship to the weeds in your garden, you’ll be able to control and, believe it or not, use them better if you understand them.

weedingwithoutchemicalsIn addition to the more general gardening books, we have an excellent weed-specific title that should be of service. Weeding Without Chemicals by Bob Flowerdew is a handy little tome that points out the many ways you can keep weeds at bay without resorting to harsh chemicals. Don’t think this is a weak-willed approach to weeding however. Some of the techniques, my favorite being open flame, are pretty hardcore. The author is also an advocate of what he terms ‘weed exclusion’ but which I’ve always thought of as ‘find a dog who’ll eat a dog.’ Heather, which is so dense that it essentially smothers anything underneath it, is an ideal candidate. In fact, my yard could easily become all heather one day.

waroftheworldsLet’s face it, once you are suited up and ready to weed, the act itself isn’t the most exciting of activities. Sure there is a certain primal satisfaction when you yank out the final tendril, you hope, of horsetail, but the thrill tends to fade with time. I find distraction is necessary and turn to audiobooks to help me. We have a large selection of audiobooks in both CD and downloadable format from which to choose. Recently, I’ve found that radio programs provide the perfect balance between distraction and the limited concentration necessary to yank out the weeds. The library has great collections of radio programs to try out, including classics like Dragnet and the Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds, as well as programs produced by the BBC and NPR.

feastofweedsFinally your weeding shift is over and you have a large pile of the creatures at your feet. You could compost them, but a new trend is emerging that offers a surprising alternative: dining on their interloping bodies. If you choose this option, The Front Yard Forager: Identifying, Collecting and Cooking the 30 Most Common Urban Weeds by Melany Vorass Herrera will show you how. In addition to having many recipes this book is a concise and detailed field guide that helps you select your victims appropriately. If you need some more ideas, definitely check out A Feast of Weeds by Lugi Ballerini which gives a definite Italian and literary slant to the concept with recipes for Nettle Risotto and Spaghetti with Prickly Pear and Yogurt.

In the grand scheme of things, it is probably true that the weeds, and nature herself, will win out in the end. Armed with information from the library, however, we can go down swinging.

It’s Time to Garden! (Or at Least Read About it Until the Rain Stops)

My gardening life is cyclical…non-existent in the winter, heavy-duty in Spring and Summer and occasional in the Fall.

I am spending all of my free time these days out in the yard, but let’s face it- it’s been pretty damp lately. The reasonable alternative is to check out all of the gorgeous new gardening books from the library. Here’s a quick review of some of the more popular and enticing new ones, along with some really beautiful and excellent older titles. Hope you enjoy them!

All the Garden’s a Stage: Choosing the Best Performing Plants for a Sustainable Garden by Jane C. Gates.

In this book allthegarden'syou’ll learn how to choose the right plants for growing your best garden. The author encourages you to think of gardening as staging a theatrical production, with tips for lighting, temperature, drainage, and developing a sustainable landscape. The text is entertaining, with easy-to-remember facts and suggestions for putting on the best garden show ever.

Beautiful Edible Garden by Steffani Bittnerbeautiful

I am in line with a hold for this title so all I can report is what our catalog summarizes:  “A stylish, beautifully photographed guide to artfully incorporate organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs into an attractive modern garden design.”   Sounds perfect as I’m always up for edibles.

The Drunken Botanist: Plants that Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart

indexThis book was all the rage at the 2013 Seattle Flower and Garden Show. The author gave a hilarious talk, so I’m sure that her book is just as funny. Why not grow what you drink in addition to what you eat?

Grow Vegetables in Pots edited by Emma Callery.index

Every rabid gardener is always looking for new soil to till and it’s so much easier to buy a new pot, fill it with soil, and plant away, than to take up sod, isn’t it? This is from DK publishing so it has many gorgeous photos in addition to fantastic container ideas.

indexThe Layered Garden by David L. Culp

Loads of beautiful photographs of the Brandywine Cottage garden illustrate design lessons for you to create a succession of plant combinations which will bloom from earliest spring until latest winter. A dreamy book!

Powerhouse Plants: 510 Top Performers for Multi-Season Beauty by Graham Rice

indexI love the layout of this book: Clear and simple information on one side with a nice photo on the other side. This book profiles annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, vines and grasses that would all be hard-working additions to your garden. Be sure to have pen and paper in hand as you read so you can create a plant shopping list.

Western Garden Book: The Twenty Minute Gardener:  Projects, Plants and Designs for Quick and Easy Gardening edited by Kathleen Norris

indexThis book is as easy to use as it is inspiring, whether you grow plants on a balcony, patio, or huge estate. This is a compilation of articles from Sunset Magazine. I’m a twenty-minute gardener every morning before work as I take our dog out into the yard for slug hunts and other business. With the help of this book, you too can be a twenty-minute gardener.

Why Grow That When You Can Grow This: 255 Extraordinary Alternatives to Everyday Problem Plants by Andrew Keys

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Do your Hybrid Tea roses have black spot? Try ‘Knock Out’ or ‘The Fairy’ roses. Are your peonies fussy? Try hellebores.  This book offers specific substitutes for troublesome plants.  Try it. You’ll like it!

And now for a few awesome, albeit older, book titles which still grace our library shelves:

index1000 Garden Ideas by Stafford Cliff is quite the visual sourcebook. It’s like Pinterest in print. If you like pictures, this is the gardening book for you as that’s all it is: Photos. There’s no text (oh, okay, there’s a little if you search for it). This book is definitely for the visual gardener.

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Better Homes and Gardens Beds and Borders includes plans for more than ninety plant-by-number gardens you can grow yourself. This book is packed with loads of great ideas.

indexContainer Gardening: 250 Design Ideas & Step-by-Step Techniques from the editors of Fine Gardening is a fantastic book. There are lots of great color photographs along with ideas and step-by-step instructions for creating beautiful container gardens. Love it!

indexCAEPO15NGarden Gallery: The Plants, Art, and Hardscape of Little and Lewis by George Little & David Lewis is a photographic tour of the private Puget Sound garden of internationally famous artists and plants men Little and Lewis. They share their personal wisdom for what informs and inspires their wild fantasia of plants, hardscape, and art.

Shocking Beauty and The Jewel Box Garden by Thomas Hobbs

indexindexCAED1KAU

These books from Vancouver B C’s most extravagant gardener are simply gorgeous. They are good for creative ideas, in particular if you like to make the odd ‘shocking garden statement’ yourself. Just leafing through the artful photography will inspire you to try something a little different. Be forewarned, this book will have you ripping out all yellow & red tulips combinations as clichés just won’t cut it for you anymore.

Hey! I think that the sun’s out. See you in the garden!

Leslie

To Grow or Not to Grow

Spring has finally arrived. After perusing the seed catalogs in January, attending flower and garden shows in February, and watching the days get longer in March, it’s time to think about what and where to plant. Whether you have acreage or a container garden on your balcony there are decisions to be made. Should you grow flowers or vegetables? Should you start from seed or purchase seedlings? 

Because of today’s economy, many people are deciding to grow their own vegetables. If you only have a small garden space you might peruse A Little Piece of Earth: How to Grow Your Own Food in Small Spaces.  This paperback size book with hand drawn illustrations is an eco-friendly guide with fun and easy projects for all levels. It doesn’t matter whether you have a yard, a terrace, a rooftop, or just a windowsill—you’ll find plenty of ideas and inspirations, as well as recipes and a complete resources section. One Magic Square: The Easy, Organic Way to Grow Your Own Food on a 3-Foot Square is another good book if you only have a little space. The author claims that one square yard of garden will provide a tenth of a person’s food needs, and she encourages everyone to start a magic square or two.

For those with a little more space, there’s Small-Plot, High-Yield Gardening. The most impressive thing about this book is the array of garden plans for different garden sizes. The author presents plans for a 750, 1,500 and 3,000 square foot gardens drawn to scale with succession plantings dates for mid-summer and fall crops, as well as plans for many other types of vegetable gardens.

If you are overwhelmed at just the thought of starting a garden, there’s Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens. This book offers a  foolproof approach that will appeal to both new and experienced gardeners. Each garden plan is laid out with a precise list of materials and plants based on detailed landscape plans suitable for small city gardens as well as larger suburban backyards. 

 Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces teaches you how to choose a location and make the most of your soil (even if it’s less than perfect), build a raised bed, compost bin, and self-watering container using recycled materials, and many more useful tricks. The author’s website is another excellent source of gardening information. 

The library also has many excellent magazines, such as Fine Gardening, GardenWise, and Gardens Illustrated, in the Home & Garden section.  So, after deciding what to grow, it’s time get out your gloves, spade and a kneeling pad and start digging!

Suzanne

Weed of Deceit

ivyCertain events make you question some of the basic things you take for granted in life. While it might not seem so at first, ivy removal is one of them. In my innocence I thought that when you uprooted a plant it was gone. Not so the Class C noxious weed English ivy which seems to regenerate in a matter of minutes. As I found myself devoting a soggy November afternoon to making yet another attempt to eradicate the endless vine, I began to wonder what weeds are exactly and why we devote so much time and effort trying to get rid of them.

If you want to delve a little deeper into the ambivalent nature of weeds, A weed by any other namethere are two new books that will help you explore the topic. In A Weed by Any Other Name by Nancy Gift, who is a weed scientist, the author argues that it is best to learn to accept weeds rather than waste your time fighting them. She does this by exonerating several weeds and showing how useful they are.

wicked plantsIf you prefer your weeds on the dark side, however, definitely check out Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart. She details a rogue’s gallery of botany with chapter titles such as “Killer Algae” and “Weeds of Mass Destruction.” In her book each weed is a possible murder suspect.

Whether you consider them good or ill, weeds have to be dealt with in one weed'em and reapway or the other. Perhaps it is best to adopt author Roger Welsch’s attitude in his book Weed’em and Reap: A weed eater reader and get those weeds on your plate. You may lose the battle to keep your lawn respectable in the eyes of your neighbors, but you will have a steady source of nutrition.

Richard