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Growing Green: Good Garden reads

 I am an avid reader, and so it was with great sadness that I read about Sir Terry Pratchett, one of Britain’s most prolific and popular authors, and his battle with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease.   A result of this disease is that Pratchett can no longer read, which is totally unimaginable to me! In this month of giving thanks, I am incredibly thankful for those patient teachers who taught me to read, and instilled the passion for reading that has lasted throughout my life.  In this vein, I’d like to introduce you to several American Horticultural Society (AHS) Book Award winners for 2013.  What do gardeners do in the off season? Feed birds, dream, plan and READ!  If you are looking for a good garden read, maybe one of these tomes will catch your fancy.

A Guide to Bearded Irises by Kelly D. Norris. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.

In this comprehensive and definitive guide, iris expert Kelly Norris provides an accessible yet authoritative overview of these deservedly popular plants. What makes this one truly extraordinary is the author's "unbridled enthusiasm," says Marty Wingate (AHS). "Not only will it create new iris fanatics," says Greg Williams (AHS), "but it compellingly communicates what makes gardening so captivating."

The Organic Seed Grower by John Navazio. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont.

The Organic Seed Grower is a comprehensive manual for the serious vegetable grower who is interested in growing high-quality seeds using organic farming practices. Though this book is aimed at seed producers on a larger scale than the average gardener, all book committee members agreed that the issue at its core—food crop biodiversity—is a crucial topic for a much wider audience. “There’s nothing else like this guide with so much detail about how to protect the diversity of open-pollinated plants,” says Hurst (AHS).

A Rich Spot of Earth by Peter J. Hatch. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, co-published with the Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello.

This engaging, first-person account of the restoration of Thomas Jefferson’s edible garden at Monticello is “unquestionably a superb work of scholarship,” says Rand Lee (AHS). It is an homage to Jefferson’s contributions to our national gardening heritage as well as a treasury of information about the many varieties of plants he experimented with in his Virginia garden.

The Seed Underground by Janisse Ray. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont.

The riveting stories of ordinary but dedicated gardeners working to preserve our seed heritage from the “dustbins of history” hold an irresistibly empowering, hopeful message. “This book immediately drove me to action,” says Kathy LaLiberte (AHS), who was inspired to seek out rare sweet potato varieties to grow. “It has the power to have a profound ripple effect among gardeners as well as in popular culture,” she adds.

Robin Trott is a Horticulture Educator with University of Minnesota Extension.