There are dozens of new gardening books on the horizon, and two of them will hold special meaning for Long Islanders.
One was penned by Vincent A. Simeone, a graduate of Farmingdale State College's ornamental horticulture program and the director of Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park in Oyster Bay, where he oversees sustainable practices in a public setting. His latest book, "Grow More with Less: Sustainable Garden Methods"($21.99/Cool Springs Press), aims to simplify sustainable gardening for the masses.
"Grow More with Less" focuses on the correct way to garden (as opposed to the quick and easy way), and shows why that's beneficial in the long run. Taking time to improve soil before planting and then selecting the right place for the right plant, for instance, might not provide instant gratification, but it will help ensure that plants thrive and produce (flowers, fruit or vegetables) abundantly -- which, after all, is the desired result.
Despite his authority on the topic, Simeone doesn't preach. He explains things like fertilizer use, soil pH and the pros and cons of chemical use clearly and unpretentiously. After reading chapters such as "Eco-Friendly Strategic Planning for Your Garden," "Water Conservation," "Integrative Pest Management" and "Sustainable Lawn Care," it becomes apparent that employing Simeone's sustainable methods will benefit the environment as well as the reader.
Another notable book with local roots comes to us from Dom Laudato, retired science teacher, one-time president of the Long Island Mycological Club and mushroom consultant to the recently closed Long Island Regional Poison Control Center at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola. In "Mushrooming on Long Island: Selected Memoirs of an Obsessed Mycophile"($15.99/Flint Mine Press), Laudato, who lives in Fort Salonga, recounts personal observations and lessons learned from a half-century of hobby mushroom hunting in Brooklyn, Queens and on Long Island.
Although it delves into edible-mushroom profiles with photos, and suggests varieties for beginners to hunt (along with details on where to find them and a few recipes), this book isn't a complete field guide. It's a personal account filled with entertaining anecdotes that allow the reader to learn from an expert's experience -- and enjoy a very pleasant read along the way.
More new good reads
"Practical Botany for Gardeners: Over 3,000 Botanical Terms Explained and Explored"($25/University of Chicago Press, 2013), by British horticultural writer Geoff Hodge, speaks to novice gardeners in a language they'll understand, explaining botanical language and plant facts in layman's terms. After reading it, advice that includes words like "stratification" and "endogenous dormancy" will make perfect sense. In addition to the beautiful layout and color illustrations, you'll enjoy profiles of history's big-name botanical heroes, which just might give you material to liven up your holiday cocktail party small-talk.
And speaking of cocktail parties, Amy Stewart's latest ditty, "The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks" ($19.95/Algonquin, would make a nice gift to yourself, paired with your favorite spirit. And forget about how necessity is the mother of invention. You'll enjoy Stewart's engaging accounts about how sheer desperation was the mother of your favorite adult beverages. Arranged alphabetically from agave to wheat, plants that gave birth to your bottle of cheer are profiled, and then we're shown how other botanical ingredients, like herbs and spices, combine with alcohol to make your favorite cocktails. Stewart tops off your glass by providing tips for growing common mixers and garnishes. As a bonus, the author of "Wicked Plants" and "Wicked Bugs," and contributor to the very entertaining blog "Garden Rant," provides dozens of drink recipes in which to use your harvest. Bottoms up!
Of course you've seen flowers, but you've never seen them like this. Robert Llewellyn's stunning photography fills the pages of "Seeing Flowers: Discover the Hidden Life of Flowers," by Teri Dunn Chace ($29.95/Timber Press. His images were created using a unique photo process that includes "stitching together large macro photographs." The result is a collection of deeply intricate images that show detail that would not otherwise be apparent. The photos are partnered with Chace's descriptions, which serve as a guide to exploring each picture's details.