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Garden Gate’s Summer Reading List

By: James A. Baggett James A. Baggett
Now is the perfect time to hop in a hammock and curl up with one of these new botanical books that should be on your summer reading list.


Nothing beats the joy of connecting with a garden writer who speaks your language. Lucky for us, there’s a crop of exciting new garden books that hit the shelves just in time for summer vacation…or summer staycation. There’s something here for every garden niche and sensibility, including woodies and edibles, houseplants and hydrangeas, cut flowers and butterflies. So stop weeding and kick back with one of these gems that’s destined to become dog-eared in the potting shed.

Shrubs & Hedges

With Shrubs & Hedges (Cool Springs Press), horticulture educator Eva Monheim inspires a new generation to plant a diversity of shrubs “to help temper climate change, to make new memories of picking berries with your children and grandchildren, to cut flowering shrub stems foe someone’s birthday, or to attract a rare bird that needs our loving attention.” She includes advice on how to pick the best shrubs for your growing conditions, profiles of both dependable classics and new rising stars, and tips to maximize shrub performance and health. It’s time for shrubs to take center stage.

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Houseplants for All

Whether you’re an experienced plant parent or have never owned anything other than a fake ficus, Houseplants for All (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) by Danae Horst is a handy guide to filling your home stylishly with happy, healthy, beautiful plants. From the founder of the Los Angeles-based plant boutique and styling studio Folia Collective, this slender volume walks you through the process of how to assess your own home for essentials like light and humidity and then introduces you to the right plants for your indoor environment.

Grow Your Soil

In Grow Your Soil! (Storey), certified permaculture designer and lifelong gardener Diane Miessler offers her tried-and-true practices for building healthy, living soil. Meissler makes the science of soil health accessible to the home gardener, starting from the ground up. She shares the techniques she has used – including cover crops, constant mulching, and simple-but-supercharged recipe for compost tea – to transform her own landscape from a roadside dump for broken asphalt into a garden that stops traffic. Say goodbye to your grandmother garden mythology.

Raising Butterflies in the Garden

Author Brenda Dziedzic noticed that there were far fewer butterflies than what she saw in her childhood. Starting in her own garden, she set out to learn why and what she could do to help remedy this. In Raising Butterflies in the Garden (Firefly Books), Dziedzic shares what she has learned about these fascinating insects and the native plants they depend on. The book features more than 500 color photographs showing the life cycles of more than 40 North American butterflies and moths – from egg to adult — as well as the host and nectar plants you can plant to help them.

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A Year at Brandywine Cottage

David Culp has spent more than 30 years creating an exquisite year-round garden at Brandywine Cottage in Downington, Pennsylvania, that provides an abundance of joy, both indoors and out. With A Year at Brandywine Cottage (Timber Press), Culp urges home gardeners to do the same in their own space. Packed with sensational photography by Rob Cardillo and practical tips, Culp’s fresh ideas and trusted advice fill this engaging guide to living your best gardening life, whether it’s choosing plants for 12 months of interest or bringing the bounty indoors with simple arrangements and homegrown recipes.

Garden Mosiacs

Right on time for home-bound garden makers and crafters, Garden Mosaics: 19 Beautiful Projects to Make for Your Garden (Fox Chapel Publishing) by Emma Biggs and Tessa Hunkin will inspire you to transform all those broken pieces of pottery and plates into a garden-worthy work of art. Learn the tools and tricks of the trade – whether you are a beginner or a more advanced crafter – you need to know to get started. Helpful pictures of each step are included to ensure professional-looking results for weather-proof mosaic masterpieces, including house numbers, flower pots, and a birdbath. Plus, it includes patterns for the projects.

Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Design

Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Design (Princeton Architectural Press) by Christin Geall is a rare delight. Here’s a fresh take on floral design for the 21st century that celebrates garden-grown, imperfectly shaped flowers in all their natural glory. Geall’s breathtaking photography is accompanied by her equally engaging prose (“If a garden concentrates our experience of nature, an arrangement of flowers and plants does so even more”). She boils down intimidating design concepts and explains them in a way that both inspires and informs. This is a book to be cherished.

Kitchen Garden Revival

Nicole Johnsey Burke is on a mission. She wants to elevate the kitchen garden to front-yard status. With Kitchen Garden Revival (Cool Springs Press), the garden coach and the brains behind the popular Gardenary website serves as a friendly guide on everything you need to know to turn a backyard vegetable plot into a stylish work of art. She explains how to design and install gorgeous raised beds, which crops are best for your kitchen garden, and how to create your own seasonal growing plan. She has taken an intimidating subject and broken it down into step-by-step instructions with easy-to-follow advice.

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The New Gardener’s Handbook

Who better to get novice gardeners off on the right foot than Daryl Beyers, an instructor at The New York Botanical Garden? The New Gardener’s Handbook (Timber Press) is a compilation of his knowledge and advice harvested from his years of learning, doing, and teaching gardening. In this easy-to-follow, visually instructive handbook, you’ll find not only the hows but the whys -- the proven science -- of what goes into a thriving garden. Here’s the perfect gift for that friend who is new to gardening and wants to get her hands dirty.


The popularity of hydrangeas continues to skyrocket as hardier, showier varieties are developed every year. Indulge your love of this chameleon bloomer with Hydrangeas (Gibbs Smith) by Naomi Slade with up-close-and-personal photography by Georgianna Lane. Here’s a contemporary guide that features more than 50 of the most beautiful hydrangeas suited to North American gardens, including an assortment of mophead, lacecap, and starburst varieties of the beloved French hydrangea. It’s time to celebrate the renaissance of this astonishing flower in all its exuberance.

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Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work in the garden. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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