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A Passion for Gardening
by Daryl Pulis

This third year of drought, followed by an early frost, put a damper on many gardening activities. Even those courageous gardeners whose rallying cry is always "Wait until next year" were a bit put off by the endless nature of it. Fortunately, there are some inspiring books out there to cheer them up.

Two volumes by the late Henry Mitchell belong in every veteran gardener's library. Mitchell's columns, adapted from 20 years at the Washington Post, speak hilariously about the reality of gardening. In "One Man's Garden", he speaks of the obsessive "A gardening friend of mine has quite lost her mind - not that it distresses her much - and no longer makes an effort to conceal her madness...She was very bad about garden centers; we all noticed that from the beginning. She would go on some stated mission of acquiring a sack of peat moss, but would surreptitiously (entering stealthily at night, I suspect) bring home several flats of snapdragons and Lord only knows what else."

And he speaks of the obsession, too. " When the rose fit is on, do not act immediately. Do not go out that very day and pitch out the hollies. Remember, the rose fit will pass, and you will soon want those hollies back."

Mitchell's "The Essential Earthman" is more of a how-to, but will delight the experienced gardener as well as the novice. His humor shines through in his discussion of garden plants and becomes almost wicked as he describes landscape design trends.

Patricia Thorpe's "Growing Pains" is aptly subtitled "Time and Change in the Garden." She begins with "Discovering the Midlife Crisis in Your Garden," commiserates with those who planted for instant gratification, and continues by giving us permission to yank out the offending plants that are devouring the landscape.

She speaks of the mistakes made by gardeners, and those foisted on us by big business like Meadow-in-a-Can, explaining that it's not all our fault. She talks about perennials that aren't and reminds us that perennial borders are not permanent, that they need to be reworked every few years.

Thorpe also discusses the reality of weather changes, the likelihood of water shortages, and how to deal with the change. Without preaching, she encourages natural pest control and tells of the delightful results in her own garden.

The blurb on the jacket reads, " Patricia Thorpe addresses those passionate gardeners who are just beginning to realize how much they still have to learn." It's also for those who are beginning to garden. Her ideas on design and her humorous descriptions of her own gardening mistakes may help the beginner avoid doing the same.

These are books that are sure to delight the true gardener - great companions for a cold winter day. If you're new to gardening, or new to Georgia, you might also want to check out the ideas from my column last year.

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