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Book Review: Coffee For Roses by C. L. Fornari

Coffee For Roses by C. L. FornariGardeners often pay more attention to what they hear over the garden fence than to science. Of course, friends and neighbors often provide good advice but sometimes they’re way off the mark. In this “let’s get it straight” book, Cape Cod garden guru C. L. Fornari not only debunks many of the myths of gardening but details why they’re myths and then explains how we should be looking after our plants once we’ve thrown out the old wives’ tales. Let’s look at a few examples.

For sweeter tomatoes, water with sugarwater? No. C. L. explains that watered-on sugar is not even taken up into the fruits, but that for flavor choice of variety is crucial.

Daffodils poison tulips in a vase? No. C. L. points out that tulips are more sensitive to bacteria in the water than daffodils so the tulips collapse first. Just because the tulips were the first to wilt, it doesn’t mean the daffs made them do it.

Mothballs repel garden pests? No. Even assuming you can still buy mothballs, C. L. points out that there’s no evidence that mothballs repel squirrels, mice or any other creatures.

Goldenrod causes hay fever? No. It’s the inconspicuous flowers of ragweed, which often grows with goldenrod, that causes hay fever.

I need to do something before it spreads? Not usually. As C. L. points out, the mildew that attacks your phlox will not attack your roses.

Seal wounds on trees? No. Again, as C. L. points out, covering tree pruning wounds locks in moisture and encourages rot as well inhibits the natural healing process.”

Always put drainage material (crocks) in the bottom of containers? No. Actually, I was taught that before the invention of plastic pots it was a good idea to at least partially cover what was often a large drainage hole in clay pots because the soil really would wash out. Not any more.

You get the idea, really valuable science-based advice instead of hearsay. In all over seventy different issues are covered and I find I only disagree with C. L. on one. You should always stake a newly planted tree. C. L. says that’s almost always wrong but I disgaree, I'd say it’s almost always true. But instead of using a traditional 3-4ft high stake, use a very short stake to keep the roots secure and allow the stem to flex.

This is a really useful book, engagingly written, that will help us all become better gardeners and, as well as righting a few wrongs, Coffee For Roses also encourages us to think about, and perhaps re-assess, all our gardening techniques – and that may be its most valuable lesson.

By the way: Although most of the issues discussed relate to gardening in North America, British gardeners will certainly find Coffee For Roses by C. L. Fornari interesting.

PS Don’t put the coffee grounds on the roses, put them on the compost heap.

Coffee For Roses by C. L. Fornari by published by St. Lynn’s Press

Listen to C. L. Fornari being interviewed about her book on NPR's Weekend Edition.




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Great advice, graham!. Thanks!

Margaret Young

Agree with you about the tree staking for sure.
Do hope you are now getting back to full health?

Would you permit the copying of your review to the Scottish Rock Garden Club Forum, rather than a simple link? http://www.srgc.net/forum/index.php
It would be much appreciated.
Kind regards,

M. Y.

Graham Rice

Happy to allow the review to appear on the Scottish Rock Garden Club Forum. Please just credit my name and the Transatlantic Gardener blog.

Margaret Young

Graham, you are most kind - will email you with the link when it's online.


Maggi Young

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