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The Garden Primer: Second Edition Paperback – February 28, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This comprehensive compendium of gardening facts, helpful hints and earthy advice is an unusually readable, user-friendly gardening encyclopedia. The book's first section covers the basics of what a gardener needs to get started: principles of landscape design, What Plants Need, gardening gear and how to buy plants. Damrosch, who aims to answer as many questions about gardening as possible, gives more than the standard instructions for making compost and buying pruning tools; she includes details like parts of plants and a comprehensive guide to botanical names that give beginning gardeners an unusually sophisticated and scientific footing. Her intimate, up-to-date, down-to-earth writing is distinctly rooted in the garden, with humor born of experience: A garden hose is like a lover that you can't live with and can't live without. No scientific advance, to my knowledge, has yet tamed its willful nature. With sections on annuals, perennials, vegetables, herbs, fruits, bulbs, lawns, trees and even houseplants, to name a few, and with specifics for individual plants in each section, this book will be a useful addition to the collections of seasoned gardeners as well as novices. (Apr.)
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The book is exactly what is claims to be: a primer on gardening. Yes, there are most definitive and exhaustive books on most of the topics covered, but you simply won't find a better introduction to gardening and such a quick reference to so many gardens issues, plants and ideas. If I had to own just one gardening book, this would be it.
Barbara Damrosch is an excellent writer, her research is accurate and the book is written in a friendly, warm voice that will make you feel like an old friend in a matter of minutes. The pencil illustrations in the book are beautifully done and there are tons of them.
I buy tons of gardening books each summer at used book sales, and I end up giving most of them back the next year. This is the keeper.
I bought this book to teach me what the heck to do with the 400+ plant gardens I inherited when I bought my current home. I had little experience with plants, and even less with gardening out of containers. This book has been very valuable and helpful to me, and I refer to it often. I have several (okay, tons) of similar "all-purpose"/encyclopedic gardening books, but this is the one I refer to the most. It cuts through all the superfluous information and tells me just what I need to know, instead of completely overwhelming me. It also has a very handy section on plants (annuals, perennials, veggies, fruits, shrubs, vines, etc.) that are easier to grow than most, with care instructions, idiosyncrasies, varieties to try, etc.
how to edge your plot properly, and how to amend your soil. Every step of the way, she is with you.
She is a very knowledgeable and succinct writer.
The part I go back to all the time is the brief, perhaps 2 page, description of any plant you can imagine. With a matching, hand drawn illustration of the bush, the vine, the veggie, the fruit tree, it's all included. I especially like her description of the various ways to prune raspberries. There are 2 types of raspberries, did you know that? I did not. One bears once a year and heavy, the other is an everbearer. The pruning takes into account the different life habits of the two. Most clever. Something I am bound to forget. That's why I keep my copy of the Garden Primer on hand, to review and learn what I need do next in the Garden.