Better Homes and Gardens - Four new books for plant lovers

Better Homes and Gardens gardening books have some of the most beautiful photos in the publishing world. Their photographers are many of the best in the business and it shows throughout all four of these books I received for review.

I must wonder out loud why books about organic gardening by experienced gardeners show worn tools, dirty boots, windblown hair and soiled workbenches while most others illustrate new boots, clean hands, bird houses without chewed openings and spotless glass.

My conclusion is that most books are offering us the unspoiled ideal, and for inspiration they can't be beat. These new BHG books, published by Wiley, will raise your gardening aspirations to new levels.

 "Orchid Gardening" is both gorgeous and instructional. The Gallery of Orchids from page 132 to 214 is separated by Alliance such as Cattleya, Cymbidium, Jewel, etc. and would be perfect to take to the store with you. Four orchid photos to a page with requirements and assets (e.g. long lasting bloom). The bulk of the book is all the stuff you need to know to succeed with orchids: Selecting, potting, soil, fertilizer, trouble shooting, fertilizing, dividing.

"Herb Gardening" Most of us need to grow more herbs, whether we tuck them between perennial plants, dedicate an entire bed to them or put them in a shrub row. Their benefit to the natural environment cannot be disputed and most are low-care plants.

My garden does not even resemble the ones in the book. With 3-acres and no hired help it cannot. And, most of our beds have herbs in them for at least one season. However, I learned several new things in this 200-page paperback.

Topics include: Controlling opportunistic plants that can become weedy, cook's garden, how to harvest and preserve herbs, architectural plantings, and, my favorite, how to propagate herbs.

Another unique topic is herbal entertaining by season - maximizing your herbs for decorative tablescapes.


 "Water Gardening" is a topic I cannot learn enough about. Would you like to have a container or in-ground water garden? A dry creek, flowing stream, bog garden or fountain? This volume will help you get it done this spring.

There are illustrated planting plans and plant suggestions along with construction tips, how to partner with nature, attract butterflies and birds, as well as other wildlife. (I want more frogs.)

On the pragmatic side: Water garden care in all seasons, problems and solutions, pest control, site considerations and how to build several sizes of fountains.

Overall a good reference.

 "Gardening Made Simple" would make a perfect wedding shower or house warming gift because it has a little bit of everything a new gardener needs to know. The sections are short, understandable and informative.

Painting with flower colors, how plants are sold, choosing and using tools, pruning basics, improving soil, mowing, reliable perennials - every topic a new gardener needs.

For the second year in the house: Planting shrubs, trees, hedges, climbers and support.

The vegetable garden: Selecting varieties. Fruit trees and vines. Seed germination indoors and in the planting beds. Seed balls - how to make and plant. Which mulch to use where. Watering.

Anyone looking for a gardening reference that communicates without lecturing, will appreciate this one. Instructional photos, lots of quick tips, and those gorgeous photos.


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