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Before blogs there were books. Or maybe I should say, before I read so many blogs I read a lot more books.

I have mixed emotions when I look at the 3 nooks where I keep my unread garden-related books. There is excitement and anticipation, I can tell you when, where, and why I purchased each title (or put them on my wishlist, from which they were purchased for me, by others). There is also a little guilt and regret, why haven’t I read them already! I must read them!

Then there are the two towering shelves that house my library of already read garden books, so many jewels on those shelves, I feel rich when I look at these books. How lucky am I to have them right there waiting for me to rediscover them at any moment.

It’s that latter group of books which I am to focusing on today, last week I took the time to look them over and think about which ones really inspired me, and why. I’d like to say I did it just because, but like most things there was a push, a deadline of sorts. I’d agreed to be part of the Autumn in the Library event at our local Hardy Plant Society (the HPSO) and was asked to share some of my favorite titles. But how to narrow down the list? It would have almost been easier to just bring the group to my house!

In the end I took a representative sample, books that meant different things to me, fulfilled a need. Here’s the six I chose, I’m sure on a different day the collection would not have been the same …

Private Landscapes for Modernist Gardens is a design book, in it’s pages I found inspiration for how I wanted my garden to look. The book profiles 19 gardens (and the houses that share their space) designed by famous mid-century architects such as Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler and Raphael Soriano. “These architects saw the garden as an outdoor extention of the space of the houses they designed, rather than a neo-Spanish fantasy to be added later by a “landscapist.” Their modern gardens made use of low-maintenance, drought-resistant plants, and made room for informal outdoor living…”

Derek Jarman’s Garden is the story of the creation of his garden in Dungeness, Kent. The land on which the garden is created is not the slightest bit hospitable – I doubt anyone would look at it and say “I could make a garden here” – yet he did (you’ll probably want to grow Crambe maritima after reading). The book contains photographs and drawings and is magical. It’s also a sad tale because as the garden evolves Mr. Jarman is wasting away.

Sharp Gardening, I was thrilled to discover this book years ago – I felt like it was written specifically for me…”Think of a phormium, an erupting fan of lance-like leaves conjuring up a subtropical landscape, or an agave, its rosette of leaves lethally margined with shark’s teeth and ending in neddle sharp tips. Thse compelling plants epitomize the ‘sharp’ gardening style which uses exotic planting to achieve an exciting contemporary look.”

Back in the Garden with Dulcy is a collection of Dulcy Mahar’s columns from the Oregonian (our local newspaper) compiled and edited by her husband, Ted. When I first moved here, and knew no one, Dulcy (and Kym Pokorny, former garden writer for the Oregonian) were the ones who taught me about gardening in Portland. I received a complimentary copy because they used one of my flamingo photographs (from this post) in the book. I also mistakenly thought I’d read most of her columns, not true! There is much more to discover.

Desert Plants, A Curator’s Introduction to the Huntington Desert Garden was a discovery on the remainder shelf at a local bookstore. When I discovered the book I’d never even heard of the Huntington, which I now think of as Heaven on Earth. This book got me hooked on the idea of public gardens as travel destinations. There’s no looking back now.

And finally, Exotic Planting for Adventurous Gardeners was the first of Christopher Lloyd’s books I read, and in truth it’s more by his friends (the book was finished after his death) such as Dan Hinkley, Helen Dillon, and Roy Lancaster, than by him. The book chronicles the story of Christo deciding to rip up the famous rose garden at Great Dixter and replace it with exotic plants. It’s a wonderful read which I think I’m going to have to give another go.

So those are my books, my fellow panelists also had many wonderful recommendations, here are a few of their favorite titles that sounded interesting to me…

Garden Design Details, Arne Maynard
Real Gardens Grow Natives: Design, Plant, & Enjoy a Healthy Northwest Garden, Eileen M. Stark
Green Thoughts, Eleanor Perenyi
A Pioneering Plantsman: A.K. Bulley and the Great Plant Hunters, Brenda McLean
A Pattern Garden: The Essential Elements of Garden Making, Valerie Easton
The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden, Stanley Kunitz

Do you have any recommendations to add?