So it’s January, and you’re ready to make new commitments to a lifestyle that supports your physical and mental health. To get you started in these dark and dreary winter days, here are some great garden books, with their Amazon links, to inspire you. You don’t have to be a gardener to spend time dreaming with these books. But they will provoke you to think about your own unmatched reactions to the outdoors and about the value of revamping your yard for exercise, emotional well-being and healing.
A Gentle Plea for Chaos by Mirabel Osler
I love this book! The author is a passionate gardener and write. She reveals a hidden challenge of gardening. You may have carefully-laid plans for your garden beds, but plants behave the way nature guides them. Letting serendipity happen and softly guiding the result is usually the better approach. This is a perfect principle for Elderyarding®, making life less stressful and more fun for the gardener. With this book, ask yourself, “How comfortable am I with chaos and untamed plantings in my yard? Would I be accepting of this in someone else’s yard even if not in my own?”
Iona Dreaming: The Healing Power of Place by Clare Cooper Marcus
While this book is a personal story, it speaks to a deep human hunger for connection with nature in an individual way. The components of the natural world on the island of Iona may not connect with you, but ask yourself, “What characteristics of the landscape have profound meaning for you? What would you want to include in your home landscape for healing if needed?”
Heaven is a Garden: Designing Serene Spaces for Inspiration and Reflection by Jan Johnsen
Do you need greater calm and serenity in your life? One approach is the mid-century modern design trend, creating interiors filled with taupe and beige and grey shades and exteriors of geometric gravel beds and plenty of paving. Johnsen’s book, on the other hand, is another alternative. She has very clear opinions about what works and does not in achieving serenity from her viewpoint. Johnsen works on the East coast. Drought and healthy plants that lean toward the yellow-green rather than the blue-green side of “green” are not in her toolbook, but many of her ideas are adaptable to other parts of the country such as Texas. Ask yourself, “What looks and feels serene to me? Do I agree or disagree with the ideas in Johnsen’s book?”
Fine Foliage: Elegant Plant Combinations for Garden and Container by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz
This is a beautiful book for dreaming – and for discovering a lot about plant color combinations you like or don’t. As you drift through the illustrations here, ask yourself, “What makes this combination exciting to me? Would I want to look at it constantly or just occasionally? Would this combination be appealing in a small jot of color, such as a container, or would I love to see it in a mass of shrubs or edging a long border?” This book can be a great exploration opportunity. Just because some experienced gardeners have suggested these combinations doesn't mean you have to like any of them, by the way! Your yard should reflect your heart and visual preferences, not those of anyone else.
The Right-Size Flower Garden: Simplify Your Outdoor Space with Smart Design Solutions and Plant Choices by Kerry Ann Mendez
Mendez has lots of practical advice here for moving your yard to an Elderyarding® approach. This can be done gradually or all at once. As usual, though, the author is writing from experience in gentler climates, with more rainfall, less harsh soils, and temperate winter-to-summer heat ranges. Copying her plant choices directly is a challenge for Texas. Instead, look for the underlying concept to figure out how to apply her solutions in other environments. And, if you choose not to do it yourself, the book provides a great reference for conversations with your landscape architect about changes that will work – or not work – for you and your lifestyle.