Too Cold to Garden? Snuggle Up (and Win) a Good Book!

It's 27 degrees in South Carolina. I'm not complaining. Many northern gardening friends are posting chill-inducing negative numbers and fabulous photos of snow-covered paths. (Those posts provide excellent reminders of why I moved south. The days of lake effect snow and sub-zero wind chill are not days I care to relive.) Still, 27 degrees is brutal for us southern belles. Although there's a box in the garage filled with my infamous end-of-season clearance bulbs awaiting their home in the garden, I'm not venturing out into the bitter tundra until it warms a bit.

Like maybe March.

When the temperatures plummet, what's a gardener to do? Why, we embrace the next best thing, of course.

We read about gardening.

With the holidays upon us, I asked a few of my lovely garden writer friends to share their favorite gardening books. My request is a bit selfish, truthfully. While my hoard of books overflows from the bookshelves onto the floor, I'm always on the lookout for the next great gardening book—or one that I missed. Christmas is coming, after all, and I'm hoping Santa might put a few of these titles under the tree.

I've been a good girl. Really. (Well, except for that massive bulb purchase.)

More importantly, though, I'm giving you a gift!

Not only will you have a terrific list to help stock your own gardening library or to hand to Santa when you sit on his lap, but you also have the chance to win YOUR CHOICE of TWO of our experts' favorite books! Hooray for free books!

Plus, you have multiple chances to win. For each action below, you'll receive one entry:

  1. Leave a comment on this post, telling me your favorite book—gardening or otherwise. (Please include an e-mail so I can contact you if you win.)

  2. Follow Growing Days.

  3. Like my Facebook page, Garden Delights.

  4. Follow me on Twitter.

  5. Follow me on Pinterest.

Five chances! TWO books—one for a gift, one to keep! Or, keep them both if you'd prefer. The choice is yours.

Please enter by midnight EST on Friday night, December 20, 2013. My little elf, Mikey, will pull the winning name from our Magic Santa Hat. We're old school like that, but it will be fair, I promise. I'll announce the winner on Monday.

And now, for your reading pleasure...

Favorite Gardening Books

“My very favorite garden book of all time is The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach. That will be the one that I take with me to the 'deserted island.' It has just the right amount of challenge and camaraderie. If I read it five times, I'd get something new from it every time.

“Another favorite is The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. It was just pure entertainment, and I didn't want it to end.

"Interesting, isn't it, that they both have a Martha Stewart connection?

“My third favorite has to be a recent read, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. It satisfied the plant nerd in me, and the style of writing was just 'period' enough that it held my interest without frustrating me. I thought it was a beautifully crafted historic novel. I read it in record time.”

~ Kylee Baumle, co-author of Indoor Plant Decor: The Design Stylebook for Houseplants

Author of the blog, Our Little Acre

"This is a perennial favorite of mine: Yard Full of Sun: The Story of a Gardener's Obsession that Got a Little Out of Control by Scott Calhoun.

"Talented plantsman, designer, and writer Scott Calhoun tells with humor and charm the story of how he created an Arizona desert garden for his family in Tucson, Arizona. Great ideas for those of us in more arid climates than are usually featured in garden books."

~ Pam Penick, author of Lawn Gone! Low-Maintenance, Attractive, Sustainable Alternatives for Your Yard

Author of the blog Digging, Austin garden designer.

“I loved Elizabeth Lawrence's books [A Garden of One's Own, Two Gardeners, A Southern Garden, and more.] I'm presently reading Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places that Inspired the Classic Children's Talesby Marta McDowell. I'm loving it, too.

“I also love Sunflower Houses, Sharon Lovejoy's wonderful book on gardening with children. Her other books are also wonderful, but that one holds a special place in my heart.

“I loved Garden Anywhere by Alys Fowler. I also loved The Beautiful Edible Garden by Stefani Bittner and Leslie Bennett.

“Plus, I don't know these people, but I liked their book, Gardening for Geeks by Christy Wilhelmi, founder of As for greenhouses, I like Paradise Under Glass by Ruth Kassinger.”

~ Dee Nash, author of The 20/30 Something Garden Guide: A No-Fuss, Down and Dirty, Gardening 101 for Anyone Who Wants to Grow Stuff(Available February 2014)

Author of the blog Red Dirt Ramblings

“Lois Trigg Chaplin's Southern Gardener's Book of Lists. I have two copies, one for home and one for work! My other favorite, of course, is Container Gardening for All Seasons by Barbara Wise.”

~ Barbara Wise, author of Container Gardening for All Seasons: Enjoy Year-Round Color with 101 Designs

Author of the blog bwisegardening

American Horticulture Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. My first BIG reference book to learn about plants.

Remarkable Trees of Virginia by Nancy R. Hugo and Robert Llewellyn. Love my trees!!!!

“Pam Harper, garden author, lived down a couple miles from me in Seaford. Time Tested Plants: Thirty Years in a Four-Season Garden. She had the best to drool over.

“Margot Rochester's Down to Earth: Practical Thoughts for Passionate Gardeners. A Greenville gardener whose down to earth gardening habits are a good read for a gardener in our area.

“And for my wormies, a book I didn't think I would read through. I thought it would be a reference, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, plan on reading it again: Amy Stewart's The Earth Moved. I will be doing a talk on vermicomposting to a garden club.”

~Janet Ledebuhr, Master Gardener

Author of the blog, The Queen of Seaford

“I keep a dog-eared copy of The Vegetable Gardener's Bible by Edward C. Smith in my storage box out by my garden. It really helps me to plan my garden layout every season.

“I also love the story, French Dirt: The Story of a Garden in the South of France by Richard Goodman. It just speaks to me about the discovery of gardening and community. Love it!"

~ Carolyn Binder, freelance writer and author of the blog Cowlick Cottage Farm

“Hardly a day goes by that I don’t find another must-have book, classic or brand new, on every topic under the sun (or shade). But one that grounded me as a new gardener and that I revisit often is Scott Ogden’s Gardening Success with Difficult Soils.

“In poetic and conversational prose, Scott expertly connects us to the garden’s backbone: soil. It’s not a scary dissertation; rather, it’s a revelation about the essential relationship between soil, plants, and wildlife.

“Also, I recommend his many others books, including those in collaboration with wife Lauren Odgen Springer, like the remarkable Plant-Driven Design. And Lauren Springer’s beautifully written The Undaunted Garden boosts my knowledge, energy, and creativity.

“When I want an escape from it all, I curl up in bed with popcorn and mystery garden novels by my dear friend Susan Wittig Albert and newcomer Rosemary Harris. Rosemary strikes a close chord, since in real life and in her novels, she was a TV producer who cancelled her ratings to go dig in gardens!”

~ Linda Lehmusvirta, Producer, Central Texas Gardener


“One of my fave garden books—dog-eared, well-worn after handling with garden-gloved hands and stained with coffee cup circles, is Fallscaping by Stephanie Cohen and Nancy Ondra, with photos by Rob Cardillo. I believe in gardening for four-seasons and often find that many of my clients and readers give up after a hot summer. This book is good inspiration to keep you gardening through the first frost.

“Anything by Tovah Martin. Both the New Terrarium and Unexpected Houseplant are perused often. Tovah has a unique eye for style, one that agrees with my sensibilities.

“And just because it is so ADORABLE, I love Radical Prunings by Bonnie Thomas Abbott. Read closely for her innuendoes...she is the master of them.”

~ Helen Yoest, author of Gardening with Confidence—50 Ways to Add Style for Personal Creativityand Plants with Benefits—An Uninhibited Guide to the Aphrodisiac Herbs, Fruits, Flowers & Veggies in Your Garden. (Available January 2014)

Author of the blog, Gardening with Confidence

“Gardening did not come naturally to me. I could kill a plant at one glance. I decided to start a garden after the birth of my third child. We needed access to better vegetables, and a home vegetable garden was our first choice. Reading the backs of seed packages would make my head spin when I was first learning how to garden.

“One of the books that helped build my gardening foundation was Square Foot Gardeningby Mel Bartholomew. His step-by-step descriptions of laying out and spacing the garden made complete sense for my overwhelmed brain. It was a great reference guide for starting out, complete with grid layouts, garden organization, and vegetable growing tips.

“Now that I’ve been gardening for a few years, I still use the square foot gardening method (but with adjustments to our gardening style and needs). This method works well for my wanna-be orderly, keep-everything-in-its-place brain.”
~ Mia Nichols, author of the blog Modern Mia Gardening

"My favorite gardening book is Amanda Thomsen's Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You. Because for all the talk in the industry about reaching out and cultivating new audiences and gardeners, hers is precisely the kind of thing that would have struck my fancy as a young new homeowner. (As it happened, I had a green-thumb mom and eventually a next door neighbor who was both a graphics designer and wonderful gardener.)"

~ Pamela Price, author, journalist, and blogger Red White & Grew

"My favorite book is Bringing Nature Home by Doug Tallamy. I am going to hear him speak in the mid-winter, our Master Gardeners and the local Wildflower Association is sponsoring him to come...can't wait. I have become enamored with native plants in the past few years, and his book really helped me see more reasons why they're so good. I was 'going native' prior to reading his book, but it solidified it for me. Plus, I became an Audubon at Home Ambassador with our MG group, and we read his book there, as well."

~ Jan Doble, author of the blog, Thanks for Today

Thank you to Kylee, Pam, Barbara, Janet, Carolyn, Linda, Helen, Mia, Pamela, and Jan for your fabulous recommendations!

UPDATE: Enormous apologies to Pamela and Jan for my carelessness in leaving out their reviews in the original post. I'm SO sorry!

Now remember--you can't win if you don't play! Good luck!