Roots and Shoots: Master Gardeners Recommend Gifts for Holidays

By Pamela Doan

Since tilling the soil at this time of year is out of the question, it’s a good time to plan for spring. Give your favorite gardener a gift that will help them create the landscape or vegetable garden of their dreams. Once the holidays are over, a helpful reference book or beautiful design book can be the inspiration and guidance they need. I asked the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners, a group with diverse experience and backgrounds, for recommendations to create this gift guide.

Master Gardener Robert Madigan recommended Botany for Gardeners Revised Edition by Brian Capon. He said, “It’s an easy read, has clear concepts and is not overly technical or complicated. I think it would be a good choice for gardeners who might not have ever had any formal gardening or horticulture education. This book plugged a lot of small holes in my knowledge about the topic and also gave me a broader insight about how plants work.”

I’m a fan of this book, as well. It’s been a long time since I took biology in high school and this book took me back into the magical world of how life works.

Weeds of the Northeast was the pick by Elizabeth Apgar Triano. With it, you can begin to identify everything growing in your yard and learn how to tell friend from foe. It’s especially useful in the spring when plants are just coming up and you can’t tell a weed from a desirable plant. It can also help you make friends with weeds. Just because you didn’t plant it there, doesn’t mean it’s a nuisance. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder when it comes to weeds and though a certain plant may not have value for you, it might be important for something else in the eco-system.

garden gift booksZshawn Sullivan Smith recommended the New York Gardener’s Guide, by Ralph Snodsmith, who hosted the “The Garden Hotline” radio show for 35 years and died in 2010. This book has something for both the beginner and more experienced gardener alike. Filled with tips and good advice, Snodsmith understands the unique features of gardening in our region and can help anyone overcome the challenges.

Dianne Olsen, the Cornell Cooperative Extension Senior Educator in Putnam County, chose a book about landscape design as her top pick. What Perennial Where by Roy Lancaster has, “categories of plants for specific sites, plus plants for specific purposes, like “architectural leaves, and groundcovers.” The book is filled with photos and all the information a gardener needs to create a perennial landscape, including the height, color, light and water requirements, and hardiness of each plant. Your favorite gardener can design a gorgeous flowerbed with this reference book.

Since garden books can also be lovely to look at, I’d add a couple of coffee table books to the list. After visiting Innis free Garden in Millbrook for the first time last summer, I’ve got the photography book Innisfree: An American Garden by Lester Collins, the landscape architect who largely created it, on my wish list. Graceful, peaceful, natural landscaping shaped the nearly 200 acres around a lake into a series of rolling vistas. This is the book to use as a muse for inspiration.

The recently published Private Gardens of the Hudson Valley by Jane Garmey with photographs by John Hall, would make an excellent gift, too. The book documents 26 private gardens in our area, certainly enough to stoke ideas and give any gardener something to aspire to. Since it only covers private gardens, most people won’t have a chance to experience these gardens firsthand and the photos will have to suffice. It’s a rare peek into an off-limits world with the setting our own area with its waterways and mountains. Maybe you’ll want one copy to keep for yourself.