January 2018

Settle in with a good book or two this winter


Happy New Year! Now that we’re headed into 2017, it’s time to spend a few quiet weeks, stowing energy for the winter season and perhaps entertaining ourselves by learning something new. Here are a few books to consider:

Rantings of a Mad Botanist: A Comprehensive Guide to Gardening and Land Use Practices Emphasizing Central Indiana (Mad Botanist Publications, hardcover, 456 pages, $45) by Bill N. McKnight sounds a lot more scholarly than it is. Ok, McKnight, editor of special publications at the Indiana Academy of Science, a former biology teacher and museum curator, is scholarly, but his book is not.

Rantings perfectly conveys McKnight’s philosophy and methods of tending his 3-acres on Indianapolis’ north east side, spiced with his typical dry and thought provoking humor.

This 3.2 pounder does not contain beautiful plant photograph, but rather is illustration with charts, graphs and a few drawings. The front part of the book gives all the basics a gardener needs. The latter part provides lists of plants in groups, such as trees, succulents, shade, tall and thin, night gardens and more. The book is self-published and can be found at

jonnes-book-cover-copyJill Jonnes’ Urban Forests: A Natural History of Trees and People in the American Cityscape (Viking, hardcover, 396 pages, $32) takes us through the good, bad and ugly of trees in our culture. She takes us from Thomas Jefferson’s pastoral setting to today’s heat island effect and invasion of devastating Asian beetles.

She reminds us of environmentalist John Muir and introduces us to John Davey, known as the Tree Doctor, who founded Davey Tree Expert Company in 1880, and tells us how Arbor Day became a national event.

downsized-garden-coverThe Downsized Veggie Garden: How to Garden Small – Wherever You Live, Whatever Your Space by former Hoosier Kate Copsey (St. Lynn’s Press, hardcover, 192 pages, $19.95) is an encouraging how-to manage your food gardening. Copsey, who now lives in New Jersey, takes us through the seasons with what to plant when, tips for success, plant selection and more, all with a non-chemical approach.

late-bloomer-cover-smallAlso from St. Lynn’s Press is Late Bloomer: How to Garden with Comfort, Ease and Simplicity in the Second Half of Life (hardcover, 144 pages, $18.95) by Jan Coppola Bills, who owns a Michigan garden design and installation company.

“If you’re curious to know what so different about gardening to this half, I’d say it’s all about a shift in perspective. Instead of a drive to completion and outcome and control, it’s now about a more deeply soul-pleasing way of gardening,” writes Bills.

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