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by Dan Clost
by Dan Clost


First serious garden earned 25 cents from the Kemptville Horticultural Society when I was 12. Have been poor in horticulture ever since but rich in spirit.

Went to work writing the Good Earth column (over 500 articles published in newspaper, magazine, website and journal.) and learned that what was printed wasn't what I wanted to say and certainly not what Gentle Reader understood me to say. Subsequently have developed a certain clarity and economy of words.

Day job- nursery and production manager for a large nursery/garden centre
Side job- Garden restoration and renovations, design consultations, remedial pruning.
Night job- garden writer and communicator (overnight success in another 20 years)

Dan gardens in Canadian Zone 5b

July 22, 2001

Gardeners are a bookstore's best friend. The actual hands-in-the-soil, grow-from-seed type will buy any technical guide or encyclopedia. Their friends and relatives will purchase the coffee table picture books. I have one friend who has built an addition just to hold his books. We call him an avid gardener; the psychoanalysts label him obsessive-compulsive. There comes a time though when we need to be more selective with our collections. We need to strike a balance but catalogues don't count, they are essential to our well-being.
I thought that sharing some of my favourite resources with you might be fun and, in turn, I would welcome hearing about yours.
There are so many magazines that making a comprehensive list is too difficult. I narrow my choices to Canadian Gardening and Organic Gardening. The latter is replete with good stuff even if you are not organic.
My next favourite source is the gardening column. It is full of concise information about specific topics and if you collect them long enough you can build up quite an encyclopedia. Along with the technical information, these writers often include their own experiences that can be invaluable when you are trying a similar venture. Eventually you will recognise your favourite names when you come across them in a bookstore. A caution: pay attention to the home address of the author. Plants that Martha mentions as May "Maine-stays" might not poke their heads out of Saskatchewan soil until July- if at all.
Books and encyclopedias come next. For current up-to-date books, you just can't beat a good bookstore. Here in Trenton we are very fortunate that the local chap is also a first-rate gardener.
My favourite source, though, is book sales. There are two types that merit mention. The first is the monthly library sale. In your hometown, as in mine, many "decommissioned" books are sold at very low rates. As the libraries introduce new publications they must remove the old. My favourite book, America's Garden, was purchased here for the grand sum of 10¢ (1996 currency). 
My other source is our local chapter of the Alzheimer Society's book sale. There I was able to obtain several sets of encyclopedia: a 16-volume Better Gardening and an 18-volume New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening, both from the 1960's. They are chock-full of stuff that today we find laughable. But this is so important. The trends of the day were not laughable at the time. The truly good designs, the correct plant choices and the sound ideas stay true over the decades. Compare an old publication with a current one and you can pick out quality. Plants live for years, let's take a similar view of them. A garden photo of the late 1960's might include a big-winged Chrysler parked in front of a flat roofed concrete pillbox of a house. It may also show us a matching of shrubs, perennials and annuals in a timeless arrangement that would look good today. 
My third source of books is my friends' collections. Just as we pass seeds and cuttings over the backyard fence, books also exchange hands. My two all-time favourites are John H Tobe's 1956 book "Growing Flowers" and Cheryl Merser's 1994 "A Starter Garden: The Guide for the Horticulturally Hapless" My technical choice is "The Practical Guide to Gardening in Canada" a Reader's Digest compendium. The Canadian portion is edited by Trevor Cole, Curator of the Dominium Arboretum in Ottawa. A caution: although every topic is covered completely, patience is required to extract all the information from seemingly disparate sections. The last selection is "The Ontario Naturalized Garden, The Complete Guide to Using Native Plants" by Lorraine Johnson, 1995. 
The computer age has brought us software that can do everything but plant the seed. It has also given us the website. You might enjoy browsing these few addresses: 
Canadiana At Home Gardening (, Weekend Gardener (, 
and Garden Gate ( 
Of course our favourite spot is the inimitable I Can Garden (
The number one source for gardening information in your area remains the friendly professionals at your favourite nursery or garden centre. Look for the ones that offer courses in the winter, those with how-to seminars, and most important, those with staff who care more about your garden than making a sale.

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