Ask a Local Master Gardener: Picks from a gardener’s bookshelf

  • Try reading one of these books on gardening and nature this winter. SUBMITTED PHOTOS

  • “Planting in a Post-Wild World” by Claudia West and Thomas Ranier. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • “Bringing Nature Home” by Douglas W. Tallamy. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • “The Tree Book” by Michael A. Dirr and Keith S. Warren. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. SUBMITTED PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 12/5/2019 4:16:40 PM
Modified: 12/5/2019 4:16:29 PM

Q: What are some good garden or nature-related books? —T.M., Easthampton

A: Snuggling up in a cozy blanket accompanied by a friendly good book is a joyfully cheery way to help turn winter’s snowy wallop into seasonal bliss. While I am not an official book reviewer, here are a few titles that our Western Massachusetts Master Gardeners (WMMGA) read in their book club this year and you may enjoy as well. Sustainability is the overarching theme. See what you think.

“Planting in a Post-Wild World” by Claudia West and Thomas Ranier — Encourages readers to consider incorporating a bit of untethered nature into their gardenscape. Using a balanced hand between prose and photography, the authors introduce their proposed gardening philosophy and supporting design aesthetic in an appealing and approachable way. Great for those wondering how to encourage habitat in their established gardens as well as those considering how to approach a new garden.

“Bringing Nature Home” by Douglas W. Tallamy — Used in the Master Gardener training class this year as a foundational read, this book shares the importance of our suburban and urban gardens in helping create and support our local wildlife. Birds and butterflies will not visit us if we do not create or keep habitat in which they can thrive. Tallamy educates his readers across a spectrum of knowledge – everything from why biodiversity is important to the how-to’s of creating a welcoming home for our winged neighbors. Helpful lists of native plants and butterfly and showy moth host plants. Very visual, it is both eye and mind-opening.

“The Tree Book” by Michael A. Dirr and Keith S. Warren — While not on the Master Gardener book club list, this book is a favorite of mine as I love trees. If you, too, have a soft spot for these noble creatures, you may already have Dirr’s classic book “Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs” on your bookshelf. His new book, written in conjunction with researcher and fellow tree lover Warren, takes the topic of trees to another level. This visually stunning, A to Z masterpiece shows us examples of how these arborial champions look, how to use them in your landscape, and encourages all to support the Johnny (or Janine) Appleseed in each of us and plant trees. Coming in at a drop weight of 7 pounds, according to my home scale, “The Tree Book” makes an impressive coffee table presence while also serving as a highly useful reference tool. I had the pleasure of going on a tree tour of the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus lead by Dirr earlier this year and the effervescent love and encyclopedic knowledge of trees he eagerly shared on the tour equally infuses his new tome.

“The Overstory” by Richard Powers — Continuing with the tree theme, if fiction is more your speed this winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction and New York Times bestseller is worth considering. While I have not read it (yet), the WMMGA book club enjoyed the activism-laced entwinement of trees and humanity that infuse the pages of this novel.

Hope you find one you like, T.M. Thanks for asking a (local) Master Gardener.

Have a gardening dilemma? Please send questions, along with your name/initials and community, to the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association at One question will be selected and answered per week.

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