Garden Clippings: What to Do When You're a Zombie

Try Our End-of-Summer Reading List.


It’s so hot I can almost hear my plants screaming. It is a sound similar to the one I make when I open my DWP bill.

With the outside temp at 101, I’ve turned into a zombie. Other than to "clomp" "clomp" out to the crybabies to water them, no other work will get done. What’s a garden junkie to do?


The crop of gardening books released this year largely addresses the trends du jour: growing your own vegetables, eco-friendly garden design, xeriscape. The highest profile entry was Michelle Obama's American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America (Crown), which kick-started many on the sidelines to start a backyard vegetable patch.

This July, as drought began to grip the nation, many of us scoured the public libraries and bookstores for tomes offering "green" design ideas and recommendations for drought-tolerant plants.

So for whiling away the hours when the sun is tortuous, here is our Top Ten List which includes a few oldies but goodies.

Find a working AC and happy reading!

1.The New Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide (Sunset Western Garden Book). In the venerable magazine’s latest edition you’ll find 2,000 full-color photos, an all-new and invaluable PlantFinder guide, and no-fail gardening tips geared to our climate.

2.From Seed to Skillet: A Guide to Growing, Tending, Harvesting, and Cooking Up Fresh, Healthy Food to Share with People You Love (Chronicle Books). In this indispensable resource, Los Angeleno landscaper/ farmer’s market guru Jimmy Williams and writer wife Susan Heeger serve up edible garden ideas with cultivation and cooking tips using vegetables, herbs, and fruit seedlings you can grow in a small backyard.

3. A Year in the Life of Beth Chatto's Gardens by Rachel Warne and Fergus Garrett (Frances Lincoln). A year in the life of British garden icon Beth Chatto's gardens with inspirational and gobsmacking pictures of her dry, damp, woodland and gravel gardens with tips on how to take a difficult gardening situation and turn it into something gorgeous.

4. Succulents for the Contemporary Garden by Yvonne Cave (Timber Press). Published several years ago, this pricey book is enjoying new life as succulents--with their great variety of color and shape and well-deserved reputation for drought tolerance--are making grand statements in Valley gardens. Here Cave offers en masse, specimen and container plantings in the garden as well as info for hundreds of species and cultivars.

5. Counting in the Garden illustrated by Patrick Hruby written by Emily Hruby (Ammobooks) is a great start for young children. Whimsical illustrations are the hallmark of this chunky board book aimed at teaching toddlers to count to twelve. Every other page introduces a new plant into the mix until finally all plants pop up together in the lush garden. Lessons of ecology combine with fantastical graphics sure to spark a kid’s imagination.

6. Fairy Gardens by Betty Earl (Mackey Books) is for the kid in you. The latest rage, fairy gardens use live mini plants arranged in a dollhouse-sized garden setting. This how-to book helps you create these miniatures, while delving into fairy lore, and introducing the plants and accessories to make this offshoot of garden enthusiasts a success.

7. Small Green Roofs by Edmund C. Snodgrass (Timber Press). Garden Clippings had a green roofs feature earlier this year. If you were inspired, this paperback is a how-to on turning the roof of a garage or changing rooms by the pool into ecological cooling stations. It shows more than 40 projects of everyday homeowners targeting water conservation, energy savings, and storm water management. From studios to sheds, there are details for each project.

8. Small-Space Container Gardens by Fern Richardson (Timber Press) is a nod to modern life where many who live in condominiums, apartments and on small lots have limited green space but would love to garden.

9. The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting and Pruning Techniques (Timber Press) by Tracy DiSabato-Aust This expanded edition is a tell-all on perennials. For anyone just getting started, it's a must have read about designing from scratch, how to prepare beds, deadheading, pruning, cutting back. And more experienced gardeners will find tips galore about perennials and soil conditions, height control, and design.

10. Swoon over the cottage garden in these old and new classics soon to be dog-eared: The Cottage Garden by Christopher Lloyd and Robert Bird (John Wiley &Sons, now in paperback) is my dog-eared classic with paradise-found photos; Gertrude Jekyll and the Country House Garden by Judith B. Tankard (Rizzoli) an intimate look at the gardens of Jekyll, the most important garden designer of the twentieth century who upended formal orthodoxy in favor of an informal, naturalistic look; English Cottage Gardening: For American Gardeners, Revised Edition (W. W. Norton & Company) by Margaret Hensel, a reverential look at the humble cottage garden, this book discusses architectural elements such as an ornate gate or a brightly painted arbor; the tending of roses; mass plantings of  herbs; a guide to getting the plants to work together; and an extensive appendix of resources and index of cottage perennials with photos to drool over!


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