Gardening: Time to curl up with a good book

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

Now that Mother Nature has closed up shop in the garden, it’s time to dive into some great green reading. Here’s what’s next to my easy chair this month.

Hot off the press is a book by Michigan’s rising horticultural star and self-proclaimed, obsessive plant geek, Joseph Tychonievich. His second book is “Rock Gardening: Reimagining a Classic Style” (Timber Press, $34.95). Joseph takes us on a pictorial tour of 50 fabulous private and public rock gardens throughout the United States and the United Kingdom to show a range of garden design. Then he presents a practical how-to section delving into the techniques and methods specific to creating and maintaining a rock garden, large or small, that will work for every need – from collections of hyper tufa troughs, to dish gardens, to hillsides covered in scree. And finally, Tychonievich provides a palette of 50 rock garden plants to select from to make a dream garden a reality.

Ecological and sustainable gardening are more than just hot buttons with today’s gardening crowd. Young and old alike are looking for keys to creating healthier landscapes and happier gardeners who aren’t required to spend hours weeding and manicuring their yards. “Garden Revolution: How Our Landscapes Can Be A Source of Environmental Change” by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher (Timber Press, $39.95), shows how an ecological approach to planting can lead to beautiful gardens that buck much of conventional gardening’s counter-productive and time-consuming practices.

The advice comes from Weaner’s hands on experience – a lifetime of garden design, installation and management and while the projects are mostly large acreage efforts, there’s much for the average homeowner to learn from and use.

New homeowners who inherited older gardens and landscapes and those who want to do some updating are often at a loss as to where to start. Troy Marden’s book “Plant This Instead: Better Plant Choices” (Cool Springs Press, $24.99) looks at older annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines and ground covers and recommends newer varieties or better alternatives, providing longer and better blooms, easier care, drought tolerance and more. Marden also includes tips on plant placement and care to help ensure success.

“The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks,” by Amy Stewart (Algonquin Press, $19.95) is a great read for gardeners who hang with those who think artisanal alcohol is all the rage. Stewart’s fascinating mix of history, biology, chemistry, etymology, and mixology – with more than 50 drink recipes and growing tips for gardeners, makes for interesting conversation with the cocktail crowd. Published in 2013, it remains atop the Amazon’s best-seller book list.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.