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Good gardening reads for a winter day

A stack of gardening books recommended by professional gardener, Jennifer Glenn, for gardeners of any experience level, including books to read with children. Photo by Jennifer Glenn.

With spring quickly approaching, many of us will feel the urge to start growing and getting our hands dirty. There are some seeds, mainly flowers, tomatoes, and peppers, that can be started this early, however most will need to wait for another couple of weeks at least. In that time, you have a good opportunity to consider broadening your gardening knowledge with a few of my favourite books. I have provided a list of my favourite titles for each gardening topic. This is brief list, as there are a wide variety of gardening books. 

Broad garden and plant knowledge

Better Homes and Gardens New Garden book

This book can be helpful for any new gardener looking to expand their knowledge of both techniques and plant varieties. It provides information on a full range of plants that are available for our Canadian gardens. It also gives the reader a brief introduction to garden varieties and gardening techniques that you may want to employ, and the different garden habitats. I often use this book during design meetings, as it provides a reference for the majority species used in North America. This is a heavy read so I suggest that you read it by section depending on where your interests lie. 

The Northern Gardener by Barbara Rayment

Often when looking at garden material, we get to peer at pretty pictures of gardens in warmer climates. Our Canadian winters are harsh and not easily enjoyed by all, plant or human. The Northern Gardener provides the best advice for our ever changing climate. This would be an excellent guide to use for a native species garden or beautiful cottage oasis. 

Organic garden practices

The Organic Backyard

This garden instruction manual from the Canadian Organic Growers is the best starter book for anyone looking to start growing their own food. It provides a good overview of all organic garden practices from planning to planting to harvest. With a cost of only $15, it is easy on the wallet and supports an amazing Canadian group. This book will help you to produce a better yield in your vegetable gardens and will help you develop techniques to save you time. This is the book I gift all new gardening friends, as organic is best for any garden. 

Something for the kids

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary Mckenna Siddals

Making compost is an easy and cheap activity to do with your children. It will teach them how to reduce their garbage waste, as well as what goes into making the soil in your garden. They will love the beautiful pictures and the fun story that go with them. Go on a dirty, mucky adventure with your kids to learn about what goes into compost. 

Gooseneck loosestrife. Photo by Jennifer Glenn.

All about Flowers

A Year in Flowers by Erin Benzakein

Cut flower bouquets are something that seem impossible for the everyday gardener, but they are actually very easy to accomplish. Dedicating an area of your gardens for beautiful flowers that can be brought inside or gifted to friends will improve your population of pollinators and intensify the colours in your space. Erin from Floret Flowers provides in this book a look at many different cut flower arrangements. Her beautiful designs and amazing selection of flowers are sure to inspire anyone. 

Garden science

Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon 

If you adore plants and gardening and would like to take a deep dive into the internal structure of how it all happens then this book is for you. It is written in a simple and clean way that invites even the beginner botanist to enjoy. The knowledge that you can gain from understanding where the fertilizers go to or what roots structure your plant has is immeasurable. This is also a great book to look through with your kids, as some of the pictures show amazing details. 

Radical ideas

Lawn Gone by Pam Penick

Convert your lawn to beauty. This idea is at the top of my favourite outdoor renovation concepts. The dramatic change in how your property looks and performs by just removing the grass and adding perennials or vegetables is incomparable. Although the investment can seem steep at the beginning, the results always out shine the costs in the long term. Drive into alternative gardening with this compact and complete manual. 

Siberian iris. Photo by Jennifer Glenn.

Book I’m currently reading

Overgrown by Julian Raxworthy

This booked explores the connections between gardening and landscape design. I picked it because my business focuses mostly on garden maintenance. This changes how I approach the design of new gardens for my customers. These differences become very apparent to me as I work with other company’s whose focus is mainly on garden design and new garden installation. Remember when planning any garden space to consider what it will be like to maintain over the years.

Whatever your choice for your reading pleasures, you will be gifted with pictures of gorgeous flowers in bloom, and garden knowledge to boot. So enjoy the last couple weeks of wintery weather with a good book and dreams of plants to come.


Jennifer Glenn was born and raised in Kingston. Her passion for all things green and leafy lead her to starting her own business in Embrun, where she lives with her husband and two children. She opened Pick, Plant and Prune in 2014 and provides gardening services of all varieties to those in the Ottawa region — when she isn’t spending time at her cottage in South Frontenac. Follow Jenn Facebook at Pick, Plant and Prune and on Instagram @pickplantandprune.

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