The WOK Library: Good Garden Reads to Share

The WOK Library gives chapter members a chance to lend and borrow some of their favorite books relating to native gardening. If you are a member and you’d like to borrow one of the books below, contact your fellow WOK member/reviewer and arrange for a time to pick it up.

Native Plants of the Midwest: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 500 Species for the Garden
Author: Alan Branhagen
Available from Julie Carson

About this Book

  • Recommended by Marcia
  • Includes shrubs, trees, and vines, in addition to perennials
  • Book is divided into chapters (“Shade Trees,” “Prairie Perennials,” “Woodland Perennials,” etc.) which is very helpful when you’re looking for a plant for a particular spot
  • Gives information on native range but doesn’t include hardiness zones for plants
  • Includes how to grow and also includes best landscape use for the plant (i.e. hedge, specimen plant, etc.)
  • Doesn’t include too much personal opinion on desirability of plants

Armitage’s Native Plants for North American Gardens
Author: Allan Armitage
Available from Julie Carson

About this Book

  • I love this author.  He frankly includes his personal experience with plants and whether he likes it or hates it.  He has worked in Quebec, received his Ph.D. from Michigan State, and now teaches at the University of Georgia so although the book isn’t specific to our area, he frequently indicates that a plant won’t work in the south or vice versa
  • Only includes perennials
  • Plants are listed in alphabetic order
  • His comments may hurt your feelings.  I like pussytoes, Antennaria plantaginifoli,  but he says “The foliage is the best part of this plant, especially if you like growing plants that look like the weeds you just dug out of the lawn.” (He does recommend a different variety.)—WOK member Julie Carson

Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden
Author: Eleanor Perenyi
Available from Julie Carson

About this Book

  • This is a series of short essays on a variety of gardening topics; not particularly about native plants.  This is my favorite gardening book and I have read A LOT of “essay style” gardening books.
  • The book was written in the 1980s and it is somewhat dated, but the author is a history buff, very cosmopolitan,  and a bit of a curmudgeon.  She’s a hoot!
  • Here’s what she says about “Seed Tapes”.  “Many catalogues, notably Burpee’s, offer these ridiculous devices designed for the gardener too stupid to sow seed by himself…Seed tapes are clumsy affairs that have to be unwound and maneuvered into position, then covered with soil exactly as naked seed is….”

The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife
Author: Nancy Lawson
Available from Marcia Goodrich

About this book

  • The leading argument in favor of native gardening is that it can support ecosystems and populations on the brink of collapse. Nancy Lawson infuses that argument with compassion. When you garden with natives, you aren’t just saving the planet, you’re saving individual chipmunks, turtles, and toads.
  • Begins with the story of how she whacked a common milkweed that “looked ominously ready to overtake our property if I didn’t act fast.” The rest of the book is dedicated to her journey to become a humane gardener, including a chapter on the casual cruelties inflicted by the pest control industry.
  • Includes several profiles of real-life humane gardeners and their gardens, plus a variety of resources for readers.

Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard
Author: Douglas W. Tallamy
Available from Marcia Goodrich

About this book

  • An epistle from the St. Paul of native gardening. Tallamy may not have been the first disciple, but he is arguably its leading apostle. He’s got impeccable academic chops (professor at the University of Delaware, lots of academic publications), he’s a really good writer, and he’s passionate about the mission: convincing everyone to return at least a portion of their yard to nature. If you haven’t read Tallamy yet, you might be a true native gardener, but how will anyone know?
  • Elaborates on his earlier book Bringing Nature Home, which helped galvanize the native plant movement when it made the New York Times bestseller list in 2009. In Nature’s Best Hope, he points out that America has lost nearly all its wild spaces. To bring back the wild, he says, we need private landholders to add nature to their yards, an endeavor he calls Homegrown National Park, “the most ambitious restoration initiative ever taken.”
  • Introduces the idea of keystone species, those plants and animals that play an outsize role in their ecosystems. In particular, he encourages us to plant oaks. Over 400 species of caterpillars eat oaks, and those caterpillars are essential food for baby birds, so if you like birds, plant oaks. And don’t worry about a the caterpillars; your oaks, willows, cherries, and birches will be just fine.