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!


Recycling a Sofa

BEFORE:  Here’s the couch during the measuring process.

It was a bright, pretty couch years ago when I bought it.  But marriage, children and life had taken their toll.  So I set off to the furniture store for a replacement.  Problem was, nothing I saw compared in style or comfort to the old one.  So I decided to keep it and sew a slipcover.  Custom Slipcovers Made Easy by Elizabeth Dubicki is the book that helped me do it.

Post Format:  Top Five Reasons This Book Works

Custom Slipcovers Made Easy by Elisabeth Dubicki, 2007
  1. Simple instructions and lots of photos:  Dubicki couples her talent with needle and thread with a talent for clear writing. The pages are photo-heavy and text-light, a winning combination for a how-to book.  Fitted slipcovers aren’t easy.  I can sew, but this was the hardest project I’ve ever done.  Thankfully, Dubicki made things like calculating yardage and installing upholstery zippers doable.
AFTER: Here’s the couch now with its new slipcover.

2. The spiral binding:  All how-to books should be bound this way so pages open and stay put.

3. The ideas:  Most of the book deals with slipcovers for couches and stuffed chairs.  But there are also fun ideas for refurbishing dining room chairs, daybeds and headboards using the same techniques.

The welting or piping along the edges is both decorative and practical as it protects the seams.

4. The history:  Homeowners of yesteryear knew the value of slipcovers.  Slipcovers protected furniture and could be thrown into the washer and cleaned once or twice a year.  But slipcovers aren’t all about utility.  Women like her mother, Dubicki states, took great care choosing fabrics for the covers and had professional seamstresses craft them.  The seamstress “moved in” with their sewing machines and came each day to complete the custom jobs.  Dubicki also explains the basics of slipcovers. I learned that welting or piping (see picture at left) isn’t just decoration. The cording makes seams better fitting and stronger.

5. The Personality:  I read this engaging book cover to cover while at the laundromat prewashing and drying fabric for the project.   Dubicki’s passion for giving old pieces new life is evident in each chapter.  She grew up in a family that never got rid of furniture, they just handed it down.   In fact, Dubicki tackled her first slipcover project in college on a sofa “redistributed” to her after her mother bought a new one.  That same sofa is now owned by her sister and has been redone numerous times.

“It remains to be seen where this sofa will end up–and what its next slipcover will be!,” Dubicki said.