Reading and Seeding

A cheese tray, a bottle of wine, these are typical housewarming gifts.  An inspired friend gave my husband and me a gardening book when we bought our first home.  Nineteen years later, I still have the book, the home and the husband!  Garden Guide to the Lower South doesn’t have a flashy title or cover.  However, this practical manual has helped me beautify my Alabama home and garden.

Garden Guide to the Lower South by The Trustees’ Garden Club of Savannah, Georgia, 1991

Post Format:  Straight Talk

To be honest, the internet has made gardening books somewhat obsolete.  If your plant has a problem, you can diagnose and find treatments with just a few clicks.  If you want ideas for things like shade or sun-loving plants, a quick search will bring up countless ideas.  But to get all the information online that Garden Guide offers,  you’d be bleary-eyed and finger-cramped from typing. That’s because the book’s creators, the Trustees’ Garden Club,  have already whittled down plants that thrive in the South.  That alone saves time and money when choosing plants at the big box nurseries.

Lists like this one on ANNUALS help in garden design and planning.

The guide is spiral-bound and easy to read.  There are chapters on general care and special situations.  But the book’s beauty is its short chapters on the plant categories in any garden: trees, shrubs, annuals, etc.  Each chapter ends with extensive plant lists along with size, light requirements, bloom time, etc. (see photo) It’s a quick resource when looking for ideas.

The last section of the book is also invaluable.  Entitled “Gardening Month by Month”, it breaks out each month with gardening chores and blooming plants for that time of year.  This feature is a lifeline for a disorganized gardener like me.

“There is nothing quite as gratifying to the gardener as a full healthy plant…especially this is true when one has started it from a small seed.”

2007 edition

This book has provided many workable ideas for my garden beds.  One was planting an annual bed entirely from seed.   Now, every year I plant zinnia, sunflower and tithonia outside my kitchen window.  This year’s seedlings are off to a good start…and so are the weeds. But with a little luck and TLC, the garden will be a visual feast for us by summer and an edible feast for the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Note:  The Trustees’ Garden Club of Savannah, Georgia has since published a third edition (2007) of the book with updated information and a colorful cover.


Stay tuned as this colorful, imperfect garden takes shape!


A Challenging Read

I took a challenge recently, and it paid off.  READING WITHOUT WALLS  is a worldwide call to all readers that’s pretty simple.  Just read a book out of your comfort zone and see where it takes you.  My chosen book took me to Mars.  The Martian is a 2014 book written by Andy Weir.  Here’s more about this amazing tale and the challenge that inspired me to try it.

READING WITHOUT WALLS has three parts:

1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look or act like you:  Mark Whatney, the main character in The Martian fills this bill.  He’s male. I’m female. He’s in his 20’s.  I’m…well, let’s just say I have a few years on him.  He’s a botanist, an engineer, and an astronaut.  I’m an English major who works in a school library.  As different as we are, I grew to love this character.  Long story short, Mark is stranded on Mars after an aborted space mission.  His training, his intellect and his “never give up attitude” helps him survive the unforgiving planet for more than a year.  But his final rescue comes about through the herculean efforts of his fellow man.  Their actions fill him with pride and love for the human race.

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search.  If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood.  If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies.  This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception.  Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care.  But they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”


I took the READING WITHOUT WALLS challenge. Will you?

2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about:  Space travel, NASA, EVA suits, chemistry…I know little of these subjects.  But I learned about them and so much more.  Heck, I now know the basics of making water (mix two parts hydrogen with one part oxygen.)  Weir’s clear writing and humor make the science clear and even entertaining.


3. Read a book in a format you don’t normally read for fun (a chapter book, a picture book, poetry, or an audio book): I fell somewhat short in this regard.  The Martian is a novel which is my go-to format for pleasure reading.  It is, however, a genre I rarely grab–science fiction.  This challenge reminded that a good story is a good story, no matter how, where, or why it is written.

READING WITHOUT WALLS is the brainchild of Gene Luen Yang and the Children’s Book Council.  Go here to learn more.

BONUS BIT: Three other book’s I’ve read that challenged me and opened my eyes:

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, 2008:  This sweeping novel taught me about Afghanistan and its history.   I can now associate real places and people with this country that is so often in the news.  Plus Hosseini’s storytelling is superb.


Honey Bees: Letters from the Hive by Stephen Buchmann, 2010: This non-fiction book kindled a passion in me for honey bees and the food they produce.   I now keep a jar of honey in my pantry at all times.

Bomb: The Race to Build and Steal the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin, 2012: This book detailing the build up to the atomic bomb was fascinating.  It’s a real-life story that reads like a movie script.  Hollywood take note.

QUESTION:  Care to share anything you’ve read that was out of the ordinary?  I’d love to hear!