A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Garden Bloggers' Book Club

My middle name should be “Procrastination”. I have a real talent for finding seemingly valid excuses to not do what it is that I am supposed to be doing. Only the threat of a looming deadline spurs me to action. I finished reading the April/May selection, “Passalong Plants” in April. I will spare you the list of pressing chores that “prevented” me from writing my review until now, just a few short days ahead the May 30 deadline.

I was tempted to buy this book years ago when I became interested in heirlooms. The fact that it was about “southern” passalongs discouraged me from doing so. New Jersey is one growing zone north of what is considered “southern”. There are classic southern plants that can be grown here in sheltered locations but all it takes is a colder than normal winter and those delicate immigrants succumb.

Thanks to global warming, my zone 6 garden is now closer to zone 7, the northern-most “southern” growing zone. Colder than normal winter temperatures are rare now. I am more open to the idea of growing plants that are considered borderline in zone 6. I got out a pad and pen, ready to take notes as I dove into a whole new world of plants via “Passalong Plants”.

The authors, Steve Bender and Felder Rushing, have chosen to tell a story about each plant rather than just describing it. Southern gardeners and their gardens come alive through their anecdotes. The reader comes away from the book with much better “pictures” of these old-time favorites than any photograph (which are supplied in abundance throughout the text).

The essays can be read in any order. They are helpfully arranged according to the characteristics of the plants so that, for instance, if you are looking for fragrant plants, there is a section on those alone. There are also groupings of essays on plants that are aggressive spreaders, the most common “passalongs”, plants with strange characteristics (such as “naked ladies” and walking iris), plants with garish colored flowers and bare root shrub passalongs that are commonly sold in nurseries.

By far my favorite section was on yard art. I don’t “get” bottle trees but plastic animals, painted rocks and especially tire planters took me back in time to my childhood in largely rural upstate New York. The book ends with a chapter devoted to organizing plant swaps for your own passalongs.

I finished the book and realized that my pad was empty. I had been too caught up in the stories to stop and take notes. It’s on my bookshelf now, waiting for winter when I am making decisions about what to plant next year. I will page through it again in my constant quest to plant something new.


At 7:56 PM, Blogger Carol said...

OldRoses... I think everyone has a trouble with procrastination this time of year, when it is so busy in the garden. I agree, the stories of the plants themselves are fun to read, and every passalong plant has a story behind it.

Thanks for participating again in the book club, and watch for the "virtual meeting" post on May 31st!

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Kerri said...

I enjoyed your review very much. It made me want to read the book. I'll have to get hold of it. Of course, I seem to have very little time to read during these busy days of spring.
I hope your entry garden gives you some rewards for your labors soon! Those darn critters are giving you a hard time! I think our cats keep the squirrels at bay here. We rarely see them.
I like your money plant. Lovely picture!

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Annie in Austin said...

When I lived in Illinois your zone 6 New Jersey plants would have seemed Southern to me, LostRoses. Now I push for zone 9 instead of 8~

That was a very good point about the way the plants were arranged by characteristics, including the yard art stuff - but the idea of painted rocks and tire planters in NY was a surprise. I guess this kind of yard art is not that dependent on latitude. It seems to belong to a 'country' type of gardening, as opposed to the more staid suburban forms.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

At 12:26 AM, Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Sorry about that - I meant to say OldRoses!


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