New Reads for the Earth-Loving Gardener

August 9th marked the annual observance of National Book Lovers Day, but much more than a single day will be needed to take in the recent crop of fresh reads for the gardener. Among them is an array of new titles that map out how we can turn home landscapes into healthy habitats for wildlife (especially pollinators) and havens of biodiversity.

These include The Southeast Native Plant Primer: 225 Plants for an Earth-Friendly Garden by Larry Mellichamp and Paula Gross (Timber Press). Aimed at gardeners in Virginia and seven other southeastern states, this source book offers advice on how to add ferns, grasses, wildflowers, perennials, vines, shrubs, and trees to our yards and gardens that are ecologically beneficial and naturally suited to the conditions of our region. Mellichamp is also the author of Native Plants of the Southeast, a richly illustrated compendium or 460 native species that gardeners can add to their palette.

Bringing such plants into our landscapes is vital to stopping the steady drain of wildlife species from local ecosystems, according to author Douglas Tallamy. In his latest book, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard (Timber Press), Tallamy offers a bold vision of how we can transform vast expanses of turfgrass lawns into conservation corridors that stitch together fragmented natural habitats. This will require adding native plants to our neighborhoods, corporate grounds, and other private and public lands across the country.

Another urgent call to action comes from The Pollinator Victory Garden by Kim Eierman (Quarto). This book shows how every yard, community garden, rooftop, porch, patio, commercial property, and municipal landscape can be enlisted in the fight to halt the steep decline in pollinators. These spaces can be remade into habitats that contain larval host plants for butterflies and moths, as well as areas for egg laying, nesting, sheltering, overwintering, resting, and warming. Food for pollinators can be provided by planting native perennials, trees, and shrubs that bloom in succession.

Giving a boost to pollinators is also a major theme of  Lawns into Meadows: Growing a Regenerative Landscape by Owen Wormser (Stone Pier Press). The author explains how meadows can provide a wildlife- and pollinator-friendly antidote to manicured lawns, and he profiles 21 starter grasses and flowers for beginning meadow-makers. He also offers advice on how to build support for meadows in neighborhoods where a tidy lawn is the norm.

Guidance and advocacy for establishing native landscapes can also be found in the newly revised Gardening with Native Plants of the South by Sally Wasowski with Andy Wasowski. It introduces more than 200 native wildflowers, trees, shrubs, groundcovers, vines, and grasses found in Virginia and other southern states and offers basic guidance on how to use them effectively.

These books are available in print and e-book formats. For the Earth-loving gardener, they add up to many days of helpful reading.

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