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Shop/Book Reviews

Harvest & Rain Gardens

Posted in From the Library, Shop/Book Reviews on February 6 2017, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Harvest: Unexpected projects using 47 extraordinary garden plants by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis

Harvest: Unexpected projects using 47 extraordinary garden plants is a delightful new book from Ten Speed Press. This is the fourth book from author pair Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis whose other titles include The Beautiful Edible Garden, Branches & Blooms, and The Flower Recipe BookHarvest contains projects related to cooking, craft beverages, beauty care, decorations for the home, and flower arranging. Beautiful photographs by David Fenton accompany the projects. With plants and projects divided into three growing seasons, early (late winter to spring), mid (summer to early fall), and late (late fall to early winter), the book is an eclectic mix of inspiring ideas and ethereal photographs.

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Getting Close to Nature at Greenwood Gardens

Posted in History, Shop/Book Reviews on December 15 2016, by Joyce Newman

Joyce H. Newman is an environmental journalist and teacher. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden.


WoodmanBronzeBenchcreditGreenwoodWebsiteGreenwood Gardens in Short Hills, New Jersey, offers a refreshing escape from city life to a wonderful country estate. Located less than an hour from New York City, the gardens sit on 28 acres and have been open to the public only in the last four years. They continue to be restored and developed by a small but dedicated staff and many volunteers, all led by generations of the Blanchard family who purchased the property as their country home in 1949.

Upon arrival, a striking allée of tall Norway spruce and London plane trees flank either side of the entrance road up the hill to the main house and gardens. These artistically planted trees were selected by Peter P. Blanchard Jr. and his wife Adelaide Frick Blanchard in the early 1950s, and they were very carefully nurtured by their young son Peter P. Blanchard III.

WE.WERE.Island-Book-CoverToday he is the founder of Greenwood as a public garden, and serves as the President of the Board of Trustees. Blanchard is an ardent naturalist and author of  We Were an Island: The Maine Life of Art and Nan Kellam (UPNE, $29.95), available in the NYBG Shop. He recently wrote a book that offers his personal insights from growing up at Greenwood, called Greenwood: A Garden Path to Nature and the Past ($20, available online). On an early November visit to the garden, I was lucky to meet him and to get a guided tour.

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Take a Dry Run at Drought Gardening

Posted in From the Library, Shop/Book Reviews on December 6 2016, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


The Water-Saving Garden by Pam Penick (with Ten Speed Press)

Gardening with less water and drought-resistant plants is currently a relatively hot (but not dry) topic in the world of horticulture. Two new books, The Bold Dry Garden by Johanna Silver (with Timber Press) and The Water-Saving Garden by Pam Penick (with Ten Speed Press) address this topic in very different ways.

The Water-Saving Garden is an all-around excellent book for those who already have existing gardens or who are in the process of designing and/or installing new gardens and are looking for water-saving landscape design ideas. Not so much a how-to guide as it is inspirational, this book offers practical advice and projects for garden designers and home-owners alike. The projects suggested are very modular, and even those who don’t have a lot of space to work with or redesign may find inspiration The truly inspired will find enough projects to redesign an entire yard or property.

In many cases, especially when hardscaping is concerned, supplemental reading would be needed to complete the suggested projects. Ultimately, Water-Saving is a very nice introduction to some possible water-saving projects for the gardener.

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Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe

Posted in From the Library, Shop/Book Reviews on October 24 2016, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe by Sasha DuerrNatural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for Your Home and Wardrobe has the look of a book that is waiting to be touched.  With its slightly-textured cover materials and luscious cover photo it draws the eye while subtlety hinting at the projects it contains. This book by Sasha Duerr, published with Ten Speed Press, builds in part off of her earlier publication The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes which was published in 2010 with Timber Press.

Natural Color opens with a gorgeous image of a passionflower (Passiflora edulis) photographed by Aya Bracket. Bracket’s photos coupled with precise and artistic page layouts make this book about practical handicraft a work of art in and of itself. Even those who have not dyed materials (and perhaps have no real desire to do so) can appreciate the beauty of this work. Duerr’s couching of her dyeing ethics within permaculture is both intriguing and accessible. One of the names associated with “slow fashion,” Duerr champions both self-sufficiency for people as well as respect for and harmony with the natural world. Many of the projects in Natural Color make use of cultivated garden plants, non-native plants that have become “weeds,” and plants that can be sustainably and responsibly harvested.

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Creating Handcrafted Planters: An Interview with Elizabeth Benotti

Posted in Shop/Book Reviews on July 19 2016, by Susie Eldred

Elizabeth Benotti cermic planters

Elizabeth Benotti creates wonderful ceramic goods at her studio in Concord, NH. Her unique planters are some of our favorite products. Carefully crafted from porcelain and then hand painted and glazed, her work is stunning and unique. Hoping to bring back an appreciation for handmade goods and emphasize the importance of creating a strong feeling of home is what motivates Elizabeth. We had the pleasure of speaking with her and finding out more about her creative process and how she got started.

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Helen Dillon’s Dublin Garden

Posted in People, Shop/Book Reviews on July 14 2016, by Joyce Newman

Joyce H. Newman is an environmental journalist and teacher. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden.


Dillon GardenHelen Dillon, Distinguished Counselor to the NYBG Board of Trustees, has created an exquisite garden in the suburbs of Dublin, and she is considered one of Ireland’s greatest gardeners, as well as a world-famous teacher and garden writer.

In her book, Down to Earth with Helen Dillon (Timber Press, $29.95), available at NYBG Shop, Dillon describes the evolution of her garden, first started in 1972 with her husband Val. Surrounded by stone walls on less than an acre, the property, including a house built in the 1830s, already had roses, apple trees, a wobbly greenhouse, hen houses, a large bed of bearded iris, a vegetable patch, and a rockery pile of stones in the middle of the lawn. But all of this was to change.

The main garden is at the back of the house facing south where Dillon has organized plants by their preferred habitat. The biggest change was replacing the lawn in the main garden with a lovely canal set in Irish limestone. Several small gardens are tucked behind the main garden with gravel pathways and a charming sitting area that features lovely bird cages. There’s also a Victorian style greenhouse built in 1976.

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Marta McDowell Talks About ‘All the Presidents’ Gardens’

Posted in Shop/Book Reviews on June 7 2016, by Joyce Newman

Joyce H. Newman is an environmental journalist and teacher. She holds a Certificate in Horticulture from The New York Botanical Garden.


Marta McDowell (photo by Marco Ricca)
Marta McDowell (photo by Marco Ricca)

In this presidential election year, a new book by NYBG instructor and garden historian Marta McDowell, entitled All the Presidents’ Gardens (Timber Press, $29.95), is both timely and refreshing for it avoids partisan politics entirely. As McDowell puts it,“whether gardeners lean right or left, blue or red, we are united by a love of green growing things and the land in which they grow.”

The book, available in the NYBG Shop, concentrates on fascinating stories, quirky presidential personality traits, and humorous observations—all of which vividly document how the White House gardens under different administrations reflect a changing America.

Recently McDowell talked about writing the new book and some of her favorite White House gardens. (The interview below has been edited for length.)

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Review: Marta McDowell’s Latest Book, All the Presidents’ Gardens

Posted in History, Shop/Book Reviews on May 26 2016, by Jenifer Willis

All the Presidents' GardensIf Marta McDowell’s last book, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life, was a stroll down the memory lane of childhood whimsy, her latest book, All the Presidents’ Gardens: Madison’s Cabbages to Kennedy’s Roses—How the White House Grounds Have Grown with America, feels like a journey into the secret, lesser-known world of political plantscapes that shaped foreign policy and inspired American lifestyles.

Although one might think Presidential garden history would be a bit dry, I can assure you it is not—in fact, I read the entire book in one evening. It is Marta’s “voice” that creates a sense of fascination within the reader. Her wit and insight shines through as she describes the White House Gardens, sometimes utilitarian and spare, and other times lush and extravagant. (In fact, Marta, could you go back in time and rewrite all my high-school and college history books?)

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Book Review: Gardener’s Yoga by Veronica D’Orazio

Posted in Around the Garden, From the Library, Shop/Book Reviews on May 5 2016, by Esther Jackson

Esther Jackson is the Public Services Librarian at NYBG’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library where she manages Reference and Circulation services and oversees the Plant Information Office. She spends much of her time assisting researchers, providing instruction related to library resources, and collaborating with NYBG staff on various projects related to Garden initiatives and events.


Gardener’s Yoga by Veronica D’Orazio Frida Celements
Gardener’s Yoga: 40 Yoga Poses to Help Your Garden Flow by Veronica D’Orazio. Illustrated by Frida Clements. Sasquatch Books, 2015. 128 pages, color illustrations. Softcover. $16.95. ISBN: 9781570619892

Gardener’s Yoga: 40 Yoga Poses to Help Your Garden Flow immediately caught my eye when I saw it featured as a new book at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens Elisabeth C. Miller Library. Written by Veronica D’Orazio and illustrated by Frida Clements, this 2015 edition includes new artwork and more poses than the 2005 publication by the same name from D’Orazio.

Gardening is often praised for the health benefits it provides. Those who garden or have gardened regularly can attest to the physical challenges and demands of the hobby or profession, and the full-body workout that gardening can often provide. Gardener’s Yoga positions itself as a resource that will allow readers to ease the aches and pains associated with gardening, and strengthen muscle groups often used in common garden chores. Additionally, the yoga poses that have been selected are intended to be easy on the hands and knees, as these areas of the body often withstand repetitious movement when gardening.

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Books for a Greener World this Earth Day

Posted in From the Library, Learning Experiences, Shop/Book Reviews on April 21 2016, by Samantha D’Acunto

In celebration of Earth Day, the LuEsther T. Mertz Library would like to acknowledge the march toward greener living. Two recent publications, held by the Mertz Library, highlight the collective and collaborative effort towards a greener world.


Greening Libraries by Monika Antonelli and Mark McCullough. Library Juice Press, 2012.
Greening Libraries
by Monika Antonelli and Mark McCullough.
Library Juice Press, 2012.

Greening Libraries edited by
Monika Antonelli & Mark McCullough

Greening Libraries is a compilation of essays and case studies surveying the different ways libraries are environmentally sustainable through design, outreach, and programming. Libraries in many ways have always been sustainable, but now libraries are trying to work alongside the community for a bigger and greener impact and Greening Libraries provides a peek into what libraries around the country are implementing to inspire change around them. Whether libraries are renovating their branches to comply with LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) requirements, providing educational programming, or building partnerships with local organizations that work toward greening their city, these essays highlight importance of the library being at the forefront of the green movement.

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