“Book of Lists” a gardener’s best friend • Stephanie Hudak
I’ve already told you that books are my passion and addiction, but you absolutely can never have enough gardening books. I use all of my books at some time or another, most are dog-eared from continued research. And a true favorite is The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists (the best plants for all your needs, wants and whims) by Lois Trigg Chaplin.
So what does a book of lists have in it– well, over 200 lists! Along with wonderful bits of garden advice from well-known garden gurus like our very own Sam Jones of Piccadilly Farms in Bishop. Besides listing his top 20 perennials for southern shade such as toadlily, false solomon’s seal and epimediums, he points out that “the secret of successful shade gardening is careful soil preparation, with raised beds and high, open, light shade.”
Last week I told you about that wonderful Rufous hummingbird and the vines that will attract them. Well, this book goes further and lists all sorts of others plants they love and also ones that attract butterflies. Then how about a list of tenacious shrubs for banks and slopes; or narrow, upright shrubs for tight places. And for those of you lucky folks who have a beach house there is a list of plants that do well in sandy soil or salty air.
Ferns– bet you thought you could only grow them in the shade. With good soil and “plenty of water” (always a catch) there are a number that will survive and maybe even thrive in the sun: Japanese painted fern, Royal fern, and Southern shield fern to name just a few. Many more that like dry ground, climb or could be ground cover. Who knew they were so diverse. And speaking of ferns… for those of you who are following the growth of the city containers, here is an update on that tropical fern in the box at the corner of Main and Washington. It is still alive! Even after this week’s hard frost and bone-chilling winds. True, it is sheltered by the brick buildings and gets generous heat from all the passing traffic, but still, that is one tough plant.
And while I’m talking about the containers, I hope you take the time to check them out. The cold weather testing that ‘Blue Crisp’ fern is making all the kales and mustards very happy. Lots of trimming has been done to keep them from swallowing the violas, but the combinations are coming together to create some neat arrangements. I really like the container by Perk Avenue with ‘Silhouette’ pansies (purple and yellow combo) that has yellow snapdragons in the middle– downright cheerful.
Back to the book. Found another tidbit that I had to share with you. It was printed under the listing for “vines feared for their vigor.” Yes, my friends… be afraid of these. They don’t have the same reputation of kudzu which grows inches a day, but they will take over. Most everyone knows about wisteria– awesome in spring when those purple blooms cover the trees but it is silently strangling the poor trees to death. And then there is English ivy– how could something that is so sweet looking take over the earth (ask Rena Holt, she’ll tell you how). Read this:
A landscape architect in Richmond, Virginia said he “...once saw a foot-long piece of English ivy under a table in the living room of an older home. A closer look revealed it was growing out from under the base molding. The ivy had made its way up the stone foundation, through the siding and into the house.” Sounds like something from an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
The Book of Lists is easy to find and at a reasonable price. Check it out– enlighten and entertain yourself. And don’t forget– give someone you love a hug today.
Printed in the February 21 edition.