10 Best Books for Planning a Garden

The internet is weedy with words of wisdom on gardening, but sometimes there is nothing like settling down in a corner of your garden with an actual book. If you are planning a garden here are 10 of the best books available telling you everything you need to know to create the garden you have always dreamed of.

The Backyard Homestead gives details often lacking in other garden planning books. It breaks down exactly what you can expect to raise on a given size of property ranging from a quarter acres and up. Find out if you have room for just a few garden beds or bee hives, chickens, goats and more. It also includes how much you will need to raise to feed your family as well as detailed instructions on how to harvest vegetables, honey and more.

Storey’s Basic Country Skills is a prepper’s bible. If you have lots of property and energy to match, this book will cover everything you need to know to be completely self-reliant as you live off the land. If you only have a slice of land you can still learn lots of valuable tips for making the most out of what you do have.

If you don’t have room, time or energy for taking on a life of total self-sufficiency Mel Bartholomew’s updated version of Square Foot Gardening has you covered. Learn how to raise all the food you need in just a few raised beds.

No matter what size of space you have-even if it’s only a single windowsill-you can have a productive garden. Nothing gives you more return on your investment than herbs. Growing your very own blends of herbal teas is a wonderful use of your space. Herbal Tea Gardens introduces the reader to 22 plans for tea gardens that are easy to duplicate. It also covers specific applications you can grow tea for such as colds, headaches and arthritis as well as blends designed for energy boosts and to work as aphrodisiacs. Nothing can compare to settling back with a cup of tea and a good book unless it’s a cup of tea you have grown and blended yourself! This book will help you do just that.

If you prefer ornamental gardening you will love this book. Designing Borders showcases the work of seven renowned designers in detailed designs that anyone can copy into their own landscape. It’s kind of like a paint by number kit for beginner artists, except that once you’ve planted your border by following your chosen design, no one will ever guess you weren’t the original mastermind.

Continuous Bloom by Pam Duthie is a gorgeous coffee-table-type book loaded with color images and all the information you need to create a garden that never stops blooming right from its launch in early spring until the final hard frost of fall. If you are lucky enough to live in more temperate climates this book will help you achieve bloom year round. It also helps you choose plants to match your personal color scheme.

Continuous Color is another offering from Pam Duthie, this time featuring trees and shrubs in your landscape for year round attraction. The perfect complement to her first book. Armed with both of these works, any gardener can achieve show-stopping seamless landscapes that result in your very own personal botanical garden packed full of color and interest.

Humans garden for all sorts of reasons. Some focus on feeding their stomachs while others wish to feed their souls. If your gardening goal is to create a sacred space where you can unwind and find peace in an otherwise hectic life, Cultivating Sacred Space; Gardening for the Soul by Elizabeth Murray will help you achieve just that. Inside you will find a dozen gardens designed for serenity as well as all sorts of tips.

The Medicine Wheel Garden; Creating a Sacred Space for Healing, Celebration and Tranquility teaches the reader how to design their garden using the ancient Native American Medicine Wheel designed to harness energies from the earth. This book includes plants for every garden zone.

Just because you are short on space doesn’t mean you can’t unleash your botanical creativity. With the help of Container Gardening; 250 Design Ideas & Step-By-Step Techniques you can turn any pot of plants into a curb stopping work of art. As well as featuring 250 design ideas the book also shows the reader how to save money by making their own potting soil, creating Hypertufa pots, growing plants from cuttings as well as tons of tips on general container garden care.

Happy Reading!



24 Scented Flowers for Spring, Summer and Fall

Lily of the Valley


  1. Apple Blossoms (tree)
  2. Daphne odora (perennial)
  3. Grape Hyacinth Muscari armeniacum (perennial bulb)
  4. Lilac (shrub)
  5. Lily of the Valley (perennial)
  6. Primrose (choose white or yellow as blues and reds have little to no scent) (perennial)
  7. Wallflowers (short-lived perennials often grown as annuals)
  8. Violets Sweet Violet Viola odorata (perennial)


Sweet William offers up a wonderful clove-like scent


  1. Honeysuckle (vine)
  2. Jasmine (vine)
  3. Lilies (perennial)
  4. Lavender (perennial in warmer climates; annual in colder gardens)
  5. Mock Orange (shrub)
  6. Nicotiana (annual)
  7. Roses (perennial)
  8. Stocks Evening Scented (annual)
  9. Sweet Alyssum (annual)
  10. Sweet Peas (traditionally an annual though a few perennial varieties do exist)
  11. Sweet William (biannual)
  12. Valerian (perennial and can be somewhat invasive)




  1. Chrysanthemum (perennial)
  2. Hymalayan Balsam (annual)
  3. Katsura (tree) Cercidiphyllum japonicum
  4. Phlox (annuals and perennials)

Always check tags and packages to ensure you are choosing a fragrant variety. Many formerly dependable scented flowers, such as Sweet Peas (annual) and roses (perennial) have been bred up for eye appeal, losing much in the way of scent. A quick check of the label should tell you if you are, indeed, choosing a scented variety.

While we have included in brackets whether the plant is an annual, perennial, biannual, shrub or tree always check the garden zone to be sure how the plant will perform in your particular growing area.


Exciting News for Cold Climate Balcony Gardeners!

I ventured out to sweep, vacuum and mop my garden this morning in preparation for a possible (whisper) spring and guess what I saw? Buds! Several of them bravely pushing out from the American Cranberry Viburnum trilobum ‘Bailey Compact’ that I planted in a pot in my balcony garden last spring.

I can’t believe it!

Yes, all the experts say choosing a perennial or shrub that is at least one zone lower than the one you live in should ensure the plant survives balcony heights, but I had my doubts. We live in such a harsh climate and this winter we had cold weather, high winds and lots of freezing and thawing. And we officially live in 2b while this viburnum is simply zone 2. I wasn’t sure if zone 2 to zone 2b counted as a full zone, but no matter what the numbers say, the proof is in the bud and I am one happy balcony gardener!

I apologize for the blurry photo-I must have been shaking with excitement-but you can still see at least two fat green buds to the right.

And it gets better. The Sweet Grass is also sending green spears skyward and some crocuses that I planted in a pot in the late fall have also hatched.

Sweet Grass Hierochloe odorata Zone 1

Crocuses on deck!

Oh, the possibilities this presents! Clearly a trip to the hardy perennial section of a few local nurseries is in order.

Earning Our Seasons

The Peace Country has shifted into spring. You can feel it just as if you were in a sports car and slipped into third gear. There’s an extra thrum in the air and the earth is starting to vibrate and shimmy with life.

On my walks I have seen a patch of purple crocuses, some yellow daffodils and everywhere people are raking a winter’s worth of gravel off their lawns and back onto to the streets. I wonder if the street sweepers recycle the gravel for next winter’s traction. I don’t have a clue if that is even feasible. Likely not.

All winter we slip our way up and down the streets and say, “Why don’t they put down more gravel?” Then here comes spring and I bet more than a few front lawn rakers mutter to themselves, “Why did they put down so much gravel?”

On my way down to Dawson on Saturday I noted the trees in Taylor were already turning into clouds of catkins. Always a couple weeks ahead of the rest of us, I am hoping to see some green leaves when I pass through next week. A week after that? Green leaves for us all I hope!

I was watching a movie the other night called Tumbledown where the lead character looks out over a frozen lake and says, “I love living in a place where you earn your seasons, you know? Tough it out, see the ice return itself to mud, slimy reeds… become hopeful again.”

I loved that line so much, I grabbed my notebook and wrote it down. I’m thinking those words will resonate with anyone who calls the Peace Country (or anywhere else with long winters) home by choice, so I’m sharing it here this morning!

Like most northerners we sometimes talk about moving south, but at the end of the winter, I too love living in a place where you have to earn your seasons. After half a century of earned springs, it has become who I am.

Enjoy the weeks to come. After all, you’ve earned them!

Yes, Mable, there is still ice on the lake but you know what just occurred to me? These poor people live here all year round. They have no wings to fly south. Think about THAT Mable. Suck it up Princess.