Bloom-Again Orchids wins award

Bloom-Again Orchids,judywhite,GWA,Garden Writers Association, awardBloom-Again Orchids, by judywhite, has won the Silver Award of Achievement for book writing from the Garden Writers Association in America. The book now goes on for consideration for the Gold Award, announced in September. What's more, the book has already been re-printed and it only came out at the end of November. As the proud husband leading the cheering crowd: Hooray!

Find out more at the  Bloom-Again Orchids website

Lady Chatterley's Lover

LCL From two friends in England comes this book review from the American magazine Field and Stream, November 1959: 
"Although written many years ago, Lady Chatterley’s Lover has just been re-issued by Grove Press, and this fictional account of the day-to-day life of an English game-keeper is still of considerable interest to outdoor-minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant-raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional game-keeper.

"Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savour these sidelights on the management of a Midland shooting estate, and in this reviewer’s opinion the book cannot take the place of J. R. Miller’s Practical Gamekeeper."

Nothing to add, really.

Black Plants - all the books reviewed

Black Magic and Purple Passion by Karen Platt. Photo ©Karen Platt What is it about black plants? They not only seem to inspire fierce disagreement amongst gardeners – “What’s the point of a plant with black leaves, you can hardly even see it?”/“Simply sumptuous!” – but with another book on the subject just out competition is flaring between the new book and those already published by the acknowledged expert on black plants.

So. Karen Platt has been popularising black plants since her first book came out in 2000 and she now has three different books on the subject. There’s the latest print edition of Karen’s first book, Black Magic and Purple Passion, from 2004. She also has an eBook update to Black Magic and Purple Passion published just a couple of months ago and she has The Best of Black Plants, another eBook published back in the summer. All self-published by Karen Platt. This fall these are joined by a new title from Timber Press, Black Plants by Paul Bonine. (Ordering links at the end.)

Between the latest print edition of Black Magic and Purple Passion and the eBook update Karen covers an amazing 3,500 black plants. Of course, as her title infers, “black” is not always true black, in fact on the jacket of her book Karen refers to them as “dark plants”. There’s also purple and maroon and indigo. Take another look at our slide show, below, for some of the blackest. (Mouse-hover over the images for captions.)

Black Plants Stock Photos - Images by GardenPhotos .com

The large format 2004 edition of Black Magic and Purple Passion is excellent. And at only about 50% more expensive than the recent arrival, Black Plants by Paul Bonine, which includes only 3% of the plants, it’s excellent value.

The eBook update is a good addition, with 650 more plants, but is generally less successful. One big problem with eBooks supplied in pdf format is that monitors and printers vary so the same true color is difficult for everyone to achieve. Only one low-resolution print-out is allowed and the low-res image quality of the print-out is nowhere near as good as the printed edition of Black Magic and Purple Passion. And it annoyed me that every time I opened the pdf to look at the book I had to re-enter my password. It should remember.

Black Plants by Paul Bonine. Photo ©Timber Press Then there’s the new Paul Bonine book, Black Plants. This is a small book – 6.5inx7in – and covers just 75 plants. And I have to say that this smaller-then-usual format makes the book seem less significant than I’m sure the publishers would like. Each plant has a full page picture and a description opposite. Generally the images are good (Declaration of interest: four of our images are used in this book); the descriptions and cultural info are not generous and that’s because of the small format. The plant choice is at times odd: two ipomeas, no bearded iris – and why include a very blue Agapanthus when there are many much closer to black? But this is a well-designed, instantly appealing little book.

Black Plants looks good, and (depending where you buy) more or less matches the price of Karen Platt’s Best of Black Plants (pdf only) - and a printed copy will beat a pdf any day. Karen’s eBooks are only available as pdfs, not in other eBook formats. But Karen has more and better info. Paul also fails to recognize Karen Platt’s pioneering work in popularizing black plants – even when discussing a plant named after her.

So, where does that leave us?

If you want an attractive and inexpensive gift book - choose Black Plants by Paul Bonine
If you want the best print reference book – choose Black Magic and Purple Passion (Third Edition)
If you want the most comprehensive reference to black plants choose the third (print) and fourth (pdf) editions of Black Magic and Purple Passion
If you’re a fanatic and want everything, add to these three The Best of Black Plants (pdf only).

Here’s how to order these books.

Order Black Plants by Paul Bonine in North America
Order Black Plants by Paul Bonine in Britain
Order Black Magic and Purple Passion (Third Edition, print copy) from the author
Order Black Magic and Purple Passion update (Fourth Edition, pdf only) from the author
Order The Best of Black Plants (pdf only) from the author

Just look out of the window

Over on the Whole Life Gardening blog C. L. Fornari was been musing about the discipline of writing for a blog every single day, and finding things to write about.

EucomisOakhurst4bTerraNova People sometimes ask me if I run out of things to write about. The answer is never – I can always just look out of the window. Although, I have to say, everyone can look out of the window but not everyone sees what’s there. When I was commissioning editor of a monthly garden magazine one famous British TV gardener – who had a monthly slot – would call up and ask: “Got any ideas on what I should write about this month?” Which I always thought was a bit pathetic: what I wanted was three or four of her ideas for me to choose from.

So this morning I thought I’d write about the first things that caught my attention as I looked out of the window. In fact, the ideas started to come while I was still in my PJs.

1. Walking through the kitchen to put the coffee on – still pitch black outside – the eucomis stem in a vase on the kitchen table caught my eye. It snapped off when I moved its heavy pot into a sheltered place about three weeks ago but the seed head still looks great with its fat dark green pods. Lots to say about that. Not to mention the purple-leaved ones like ‘Oakhurst’ (above, click to enlarge).

2. My wife’s new orchid book, a box of which arrived yesterday, was on the counter. Gotta write a proper review.

3. As dawn broke through, I put out the new squirrel proof bird feeder I have on test. So far, the squirrels have eyed it cautiously but not yet even tried to get into to it. More on that will be coming after squirrels have made a few serious attempts.

4. Now it’s light – and it strikes me that while the wisteria leaves look ghastly after the 25F/-4C frost of last week – green and shrivelled and still unhelpfully clinging to the stems – while the leaves on the native elder bushes look amazingly fresh and green and are suddenly valuable when for the rest of the year I always think they’re rather dull.

5. Ah, Physocarpus again. The leaves on Summer Wine have all dropped but those on Coppertina are becoming less purple and more red and still look superb.

ChrysWillsWonderful500 6.Still pink and white flowers on the lovely old ‘Country Girl’ hardy chrysanthemum - but ‘Will’s Wonderful’, which is the latest of all, seems to have been completely killed by last winter which was the coldest in ten years.

7. Just heard Douglas Tallamy interviewed on the Timber Press podcast about his book Bringing Nature Home. He mentions that Colorado blue spruce – which comes, of course, from Colorado where it fits well into the natural web of nature. He points out that here in the north east it only grows when planted by us, and none of the wildlife has a clue what to do with it. (Although I have to say the deer have eaten some those we inherited here).

8. What else? Just looking from the chair at my desk – the eupatoriums (Joe Pye weed) need cutting down now, they’re looking pretty ragged. Which perennials are best cut down in the fall, which are best left for their winter presence? Plenty to say about that.

9. Lia Leendertz of Britain’s Guardian newspaper tweets with a link to a folk song on YouTube. It’s Kate Rusby! Reminds me to mention that I’m hosting a folk music show on WJFF at 11am on Saturday. (That’s my other life – music DJ!) All Irish music. Gotta finish planning it today. Here's the Kate Rusby video.

10. I know – I could write a blog post about all the things I could blog about today!

8.37am – ten blog ideas. Now: I just need pictures… links… 45 minuts later - Sorry, got distracted by the coffee machine again...

November poem

by Thomas Hood


No sun--no moon!
No morn--no noon!
No dawn--no dusk--no proper time of day--
No sky--no earthly view--
No distance looking blue--

No road--no street--
No "t'other side the way"--
No end to any Row--
No indications where the Crescents go--

No top to any steeple--
No recognitions of familiar people--
No courtesies for showing 'em--
No knowing 'em!

No mail--no post--
No news from any foreign coast--
No park--no ring--no afternoon gentility--
No company--no nobility--

No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member--
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,