Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

As seen in the paper today

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Frank and Ernest are (is?) not on my must-read comics list, but every so often they nail it.
Frank & Ernest

(And … how cool that you can just embed the strip like that. Yay for technology!)

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Preparing the soil for planting

Friday, March 7th, 2008

“In preparing the soil for planting, you will need several tools. Dynamite would be a beautiful thing to use, but it would have a tendency to get the dirt into the front-hall and track up the stairs.” Robert Benchley (1889-1945).

Like houses, it’s not a good idea to run about willy nilly re-furbishing old gardens. It’s better to at least give the garden a chance to show you what it can do already, so I’ve been trying to resist using Benchley’s dynamite until sometime next year. That said, I already have a new garden, and I’m trying to figure out what to do with it. (I also have several large, dead trees, including one strangled by ivy, that need to come down before they fall down.  Maybe later this spring.)

We’re just about through with building our native rock retaining wall. (What’s that? I haven’t shown you my new rock wall? That’s because it’s so massively amazing that I haven’t figured out how to present it. Like the Grand Canyon, pictures fail.) As the new wall is several feet in from the retaining wall that runs along our property line, I have some new garden space emerging between the two walls. I’m thinking about focusing on native plants. One of the books I got from the library when my car exercised its magnetic attraction for accidents was Bringing Nature Home by Tallamy. I also checked out Armitage’s Native Plants for North American Gardens.

Tallamy’s thesis is that we need to use native plants to keep our native insects from dying off, right now. Too many insects refuse to eat alien plants, and when insects die, birds die … right on up the food chain or net or pyramid or whatever.  Armitage, on the other hand, identifies native plants with something to offer the gardener. Primarily a laundry list of good plants which happen to be natives, he identify their features, and gives a bit of plant etymology with each one. (And regular readers know how I love etymology.)

I’ve done some web surfing, and determined Arkansas is short on native plant sellers, but Missouri has a bunch. I’ve found one who will sell assortments, and found an assortment that I think will work for my new rock wall garden so as soon as the rock wall is done, I’ll order them.  (The rock wall has run into snow and rain issues, so it may take a while for our crew to finish it off.  It’s probably 98% right now.)

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Arts and Crafts Gardens book report

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2008

A while ago, I made a list of Arts and Crafts garden books I’d like to read before planning my new garden. I got two for Christmas thanks to my mom, who faithfully clicks in every day to see if I’ve written anything. I have now read (or at least started): (1) Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement: Reality and Imagination, by Judith B. Tankard and (2) Gertrude Jekyll’s Lost Garden, by Rosamund Wallinger.

What I learned?

  • Jekyll rhymes with treacle.
  • Jekyll is known for her borders and drifts.
  • Jekyll kept an abbreviated set of her garden plans so that she could consult if need be.
    • Many of these abbreviated plans are in California.*
    • Translating her shorthand (often an illegible set of three letters) into a Latin species name is hard.
  • Other Arts and Crafts gardens were not planned by gardeners, but by architects, and were often impractical.
  • Most surprising to me, many of these gardens used lots of topiaries.
    • Because that’s what the 16th century gardeners did.
    • I was expecting a more “natural” approach, but instead I found a sculptured approach. At least so far. I’m only a third of the way through Tankard’s book.

As for the books themselves, Tankard’s book is densely written — which means trouble for a skimmer like myself. Ros’s book is charming, although she expects me to know more about her than I do. (I gather she has become famous for recreating Jekyll’s garden from almost nothing and lecturing about it.) Her pictures are lovely, too.

Thanks, Mother, I am enjoying them.  And my conclusion, for now, is that Arts and Crafts gardens can be whatever I want them to be.  I’ll probably wind up with borders and drifts instead of topiaries.  I have enough trouble keeping my hair cut.  (I may wind up with some box borders, though.)

*The plans wound up in California because of something to do with WWII, the Red Cross, and New England — maybe Vermont. Perhaps like the Von Trapp family?  We watched the Sound of Music Sunday night.  The Little One was appalled that Rolf joined the Nazis and was chasing the Von Trapps.  “But he was in love with Liesel!”  She also appreciated Greta being 5, “just like me.”

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Workshop Book List

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Don asked me to design his workshop. We have never done the workshop first, and it seems a brilliant idea.  Especially since we haven’t stayed long enough in a house to do the workshop last.  

Our workshop will occupy essentially the whole basement.  This includes a one-car garage made of cinder block, a walk-out one-bedroom apartment, and an actual basement with various bits of house infrastructure in it and native rock walls.  After we do demolition and garbage dumping, we will have a better idea of the space, but I can start daydreaming planning now. 

I have to start new projects with information gathering. Once I start getting the same information over and over, then I probably have enough information.  (For instance, after two kitchen remodels in under five years, I have an impressive collection of kitchen information that needs only small refinements to be helpful in the next kitchen.)

These are the books I’ve found via the internet that might be helpful.  About half are available at my local library (FPL), so maybe I’ll stop in later this week, get a library card and a handful of books.

1. Setting Up Shop: The Practical Guide to Designing and Building Your Dream Shop, Sandor Nagyszalanczy (The Taunton Press Inc.). (FPL has 1st ed. So do I. In storage. It was revised in 2006.)

2. The Workshop Book, Scott Landis (The Taunton Press Inc.) (FPL).

3. How to Design and Build Your Ideal Woodshop, Bill Stankus (Popular Woodworking Books).

4. Setting Up Your Own Woodworking Shop, Bill Stankus (Sterling Publishing Co. Inc.) (FPL).

5. The Small Wood Shop (The Best of Fine Woodworking), Helen Albert (Editor) (The Taunton Press Inc.).

6. Fine Woodworking, especially annual Tools and Shops issue (The Taunton Press Inc.).  (Already subscribe.  Have devoured most recent T&S issue.  Once it is digested, then I can probably start planning.)

7. Smart Workshop Solutions: Building Workstations, Jigs, and Accessories to Improve Your Shop, Paul Anthony (The Taunton Press Inc.).

8. Building Woodshop Workstations, Danny Proulx (Popular Woodworking).

9.  The Workbench Book, Scott Landis (The Taunton Press Inc.) (FPL).

Anyone have any favorites?  Did I miss any?

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My Arts and Crafts Garden Book List

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007

While I have a good feel for what a Victorian garden could look like, I have not paid as much attention to Arts & Crafts gardens.  Now that I think we might have one next week, I want have to start my information gathering.  (Information gathering is a compulsion of mine.  However, once I have gathered enough information, I can make decisions fairly quickly.)  I’m especially looking to educate my eye as to what the good garden designers really did so that I can maybe avoid big missteps, while getting my garden started early this time.  (My motto: Buy small, grow big.)  Winter* is a good time for dreaming about gardens, so I’ve started my list:

  1. Gardens of the Arts and Crafts Movement: Reality and Imagination, by Judith B. Tankard.  (Go here for an interesting review of Tankard’s book.)
  2. The Gardens of William Morris, by Jill Douglas-Hamilton
  3. Arts and Crafts Gardens, by Gertrude Jekyll
  4. The Gardens of Gertrude Jekyll, by Richard Bisgrove
  5. Gertrude Jekyll’s Lost Garden, by Rosamund Wallinger
  6. The Unknown Gertrude Jekyll, by Martin Wood
  7. The Gardens of Ellen Biddle Shipman, by Judith B. Tankard

Apparently I really want to know more about Gertrude Jekyll’s gardens and I hope that Tankard is a good writer — that takes care of six of the seven books on the list.  And who wouldn’t want to know what Morris’ gardens might have been like?  Any others that you particularly like?  Why?

*Of course, it isn’t really winter here.  It’s not even fall, with temperatures expected to reach the mid-70s today.  But, the days are shorter, and it’s cloudy today, so I exercised a little poetic license. 

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