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Digging Deeper: Selected Gardening Resources for Carolina Gardeners

Gardening books with information for Carolina gardeners.

Plants, Mostly Trees, Bushes, Bulbs

Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Use by Michael Dirr
The title really says it all, but doesn’t convey the humor and up-front opinionated views of the author, a professor at the University of Georgia. Line drawings with some color pictures. Dirr also has written a companion volume, a Photographic Manual of Woody Landscape Plants–Form and Function in the Landscape (635.9 Dirr).

The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists: The Best Plants for All Your Needs, Wants, and Whims by Lois Trigg Chaplin
It is hard to believe, but Chaplin makes page after page of lists interesting reading. The lists cover every aspect of southern gardening; an excellent reference tool.

Landscaping with Antique Roses by Liz Druitt and G. Michael Shoup
Best book on old roses around. If you love roses, but hate the “chemical dependency” involved in growing modern roses, this is the book for you. Gives a list of the 80 best with full culture requirements. Shows the flower and gives a picture of the form and size of the bush. Also gives instructions on propagating roses. These are the roses that really smell like roses.

Daffodils For American Gardens by Brent and Becky Heath
This is a new book written by the folks who operate the Daffodil Mart in Gloucester, Virginia. Includes an incredibly complete encyclopedic listing of the best cultivars with recommendations for specific regions.

Gardening with Native Plants of the South by Sally Wasowski with Andy Wasowski
Tells how to create various habitats. Gives excellent plant profiles with lots of useful information. The listings start with evergreen trees over 50 feet tall and end with deciduous shady, ground covers. Also has good information about ferns and wildflowers.

Landscape Plants for Eastern North America: Exclusive of Florida and the Immediate Gulf Coast by Harrison L. Flint
Gives detailed culture information and a fairly complete (if a bit dated c1983) list of cultivars and related species. But what makes this book unique is that it shows the size of the plant both when young and at maturity by comparing it to an object like a garden trowel and a person!

Mostly Perennials, with some roses and annuals thrown in...

A Southern Gardener’s Notebook by William C. Welch, Don Hastings, and Stan Defreitas
“Our summers don’t just fry vegetation, they steam and broil it overnight.” How true! A good list of perennials for the south, spotlights a plant each month and gives specific tasks for each month, too. A good book for home purchase with blank pages to make your own notes.

Herbaceous Perennial Plants: A Treatise On Their Identification, Culture, and Garden Attributes by Allan Armitage
What a terrible title to use for this most practical and wonderful book. Invaluable for southern perennial gardeners, Armitage gives the effect of our summer heat and humidity on each plant. He makes recommendations, and he also tells how long you can expect to enjoy the borderline perennials before they “melt” out! Well written with a very accessible style, this book is a gardening classic. There is a short version, 184 pages verses 646 pages, called Allan Armitage on Perennials. Less information, less humor, less useful…

Perennial Garden Color: For Texas and the South by William C. Welch
This is the book for those who wish to make a perennial border in our hot, humid, unpredictable climate. Wonderful color plates, some featuring Raleigh gardens, and a chapter on Old Roses and self-seeding annuals make this book an invaluable tool for local gardeners.

Mostly Edibles

Commonsense Vegetable Gardening For the South by William D. Adams and Thomas LeRoy
Information on hundreds of varieties of vegetables and 27 herbs. Each listing includes basic planting instructions and tips for growing each.

Growing Fruits and Nuts In the South: The Definitive Guide by William D. Adams and Thomas R. LeRoy
Written for home gardeners, this book includes detailed information on culture, pruning, and varieties.

Growing Fruits, Berries and Nuts, Southwest-Southeast by George Ray McEachern
An excellent “how to” book with careful attention to the Southern climate and the varieties that do well here.

Gardening In the South with Don Hastings-Vegetables and Fruits and Trees, Shrubs, and Lawns; Gardening in the South with Don Hasting: Flowers, Vines, and Houseplants by Don Hastings
The "Gardening In the South" series by a third generation Atlanta nurseryman.

Southern Herb Growing by Madalene Hill
If you are planning a herb garden, this book is essential for your success. Our heat and humidity will cause many herbs to “melt out” if grown the traditional way. This book also has recipes and designs for herb gardens.

Mostly Southern Gardeners, Southern Gardens

The Gardener’s Eye and Other Essays by Allen Lacy
OK, he’s not southern, but this book has thoughts on J. C. Ralston, the North Carolina State Arboretum, and Nancy Goodwin and Montrose Nursery. All Lacy’s collections of gardening essays are good reads.

African-American Gardens and Yards in the Rural South by Richard Noble Westmacott
Few gardening histories look at home gardens, and this one focuses on African-American ones. It tells the story of how specific gardens came to be by looking at the evolutionary way gardens grow. Some traditions stretch back to Africa! An interesting view of the history of cottage gardening.

Passalong Plants by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing
One of my favorite gardening books of all time. Absolutely delightful book of gardening with plants that you get from others gardeners, and will soon be sharing with your gardening friends. These are the flowers of Southern Cottage Gardens of the past and present: beautybush, bee balm, black-eyed Susans, bouncing bet, blackberry lily, and butterfly bush to name a few. Written with a love of people and plants, this is a book to treasure.

The Garden in Autumn by Allen Lacy
This book may change the way you garden and think about gardening. In Lacy’s (and our) Zone 7 garden, spring and fall are the times of spectacular blooms and humane climate. Many of our plants (and some gardeners) go almost dormant in the heat and humidity of our cruel summers. Lacy discusses particularly good fall performers, rebloomers, and gives some wonderful plant combinations to try.

The Well-Placed Weed: The Bountiful Garden of Ryan Gainey by Ryan Gainey
In flowery prose and poetry, and gorgeous pictures, this Atlanta garden designer describes his various garden rooms and their development. Creating the Romantic Garden (Video 635.9 R) is a walking tour of his garden. This is a visual treat. You see flower combinations, bed designs, and particularly lovely plants. With a very similar climate, we should be able to grow all the plants mentioned, although the creation of such a magical garden is a work of art.

Horticulture In a Southern Garden: Twelve Months of Plants and Observations by Carol Bishop Hipps
“Gardening is three-fourth’s imagination, after all…” Organized by the calendar year, with guidelines for musing and dreaming, then moving to particular plants and ending with specific tasks and activities, this is very personal journey through the year.

Taylor’s Guide to Gardening in the South
The famous Taylor series offers a general guide for southern gardeners. Contributors include Steve Bender, Sandra Landendorf, Felder Rushing and others.

North Carolina, Mostly

Gardener’s Latin: A Lexicon by Bill Neal
The late Bill Neal’s useful book on gardeners’ second language.

Growing and Propagating Showy Native Woody Plants by R.E. Bir. Associated with NCSU
Bir has written a most useful book promoting the concept of “conservation through propagation.” This book gives you all the information you need to grow many of the lovely native plants. Includes color pictures of the fruit and flowers of these often overlooked native plants.

Landscape Plants for the Southeast by R. Gordon Halfacre and Anne R. Shawcroft
A classic book for all Carolina gardeners. A concise statement of culture and landscaping use is given for over 300 plants from ground covers to large trees. Each entry is given a page with a color photograph of the plant.

Southern Gardens, Southern Gardening by William L Hunt
Written by our local newspaper columnist–the grand, gardening gentleman of the Triangle–this book gives a view of gardening both local and international.

A Southern Garden by Elizabeth Lawrence
The 50th anniversary edition, is introduced by Edith Eddleman and has wonderful watercolors of Lawrence’s gardens and favorite plants. One of the most accomplished and respected garden writers of the English speaking world, all of Lawrence’s books are must reads. Especially recommended are The Little Bulbs: A Tale of Two Gardens and Through the Garden Gate. Edited by Bill Neal–A compilation of Lawrence’s gardening columns for the Charlotte Observer–365 L) and one of my favorites, Gardens in Winter.

Perennials: Towards Continuous Bloom Edited by Ann Lovejoy
Part of the “New Voices in American Garden Writing” series, this wonderfully inclusive book has chapters by the Triangle’s own Edith Eddleman, Stephanie Spencer, and Nancy Goodwin.

Successful Southern Gardening: A Practical Guide for Year-Round Beauty by Sandra F. Ladendorf
One of the best new guides for gardening in NC, this book includes how to make a rock garden as well as other useful tidbits. If you are new to the area, this is the one to read before you dig.

Growing and Propagating Wild Flowers by Harry R. Phillips
From the folks at the North Carolina Botanical Gardens, this book is the essential guide for growing your own wildflowers.

The Year in Trees: Superb Woody Plants for Four-Season Gardens by Kim Tripp and J.C. Raulston
This is the book for plant lovers in the Triangle. Each of the wonderful essays describe a plant that you can see growing at the NC State Arboretum and gives some idea how it will look in your garden. Tripp writes with great knowledge and love about “superb” but often little known plants.

Carolina Edens by Cindy Spicer and Al Spicer
This new book is an armchair tour of public and private gardens in the Carolinas. Includes descriptions, special features, and admission times and costs if any.