For The Answer
Week of December 8, 2003
By Calvin Finch, Conservation Director, SAWS, and Horticulturist
Books for the Gardener
It is time to start thinking about Holiday presents for the gardeners on your gift list. Books are always a good choice.
The best basic gardening book for Texas, including those of us in South Texas, is Neil Sperry’s Texas Gardening. At $39.95 it is available at every bookstore in the area and at most area nurseries. Neil is a media gardener from Dallas and one of the most knowledgeable horticulturists around. You may read his columns in the Express-News SA Life section every Saturday. The book has excellent photos and descriptions of most of the plants we would use. It also does a good job on lawn care and cultural practices.
Neil Sperry is very traditional in his outlook on gardening. If you want a resource on native plants and more natural landscapes, consider Sally and Andy Wasowski’s Native Texas Plants. The photos are excellent and the descriptions are very useful. The landscape plants and plans in this book are in tune the water conservation and wildlife habitat efforts in the San Antonio area. The Wasowski book is $29.95.
Dr. Bill Welch is a nationally known horticulture professor at Texas A&M University. One of my favorite gardening books, and one that would make an excellent gift for the gardener that believes in efficient watering but also likes lots of color, is Dr. Welch’s Perennial Garden Color ($29.95). Many of the photos are from San Antonio gardens and the text is informative and interesting. I especially like the accounts on iris, naturalizing daffodils, and old-fashioned roses—all good xeriscape plants. Mike Schoup, the owner of Antique Rose Emporium, also has a book available on selecting and growing old-fashioned roses. It is titled Roses in the Southern Garden and retails for $35.
The best resource book for creating a landscape that will attract birds is Attracting Birds to Southern Landscapes ($24.95) by Pope, Odenwald and Fryling. The authors include hummingbird plants including firebush, firespike, and other recent introductions to the nursery market.
For a less expensive but good book for a holiday gift, consider Texas Trees: A Friendly Guide by Paul Cox and Patty Leslie. The descriptions of the trees are great fun. The authors have made a study of trees of the state and their role in history. Paul Cox is the superintendent at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. He will probably sign it for you. Find the book at the Garden Gate Bookstore at the Garden and most other bookstores and nurseries in San Antonio. Another interesting place to find books and other gifts for the gardener is the Schultze House Cottage Garden & Gift Shop in HemisFair Park (514 HemisFair Park). The gift shop is full of items and the gardens are a great treat. Call the Schultze House at 229-9161 or the Texas Cooperative Extension Service at 467-6575 for hours of operation and directions.
For a great stocking stuffer find the booklet Xeriscape: A How-to Guide to Converting a Traditional Landscape Using a Xeriscape Approach. At $5 the 38-page booklet is a bargain. The plant list is one of the best that exists for San Antonio. Both native plants and other well-adapted plants are included along with light requirements and wildlife value. The guide provides step-by-step instructions on how to convert a traditional St. Augustine-dominated yard into a xeriscape landscape. Many nurseries, the Garden Gate Gift Shop, and the Schultze House offer the publication for sale.
If you have a gardener that requires a present and your budget is shot, sign them up for the Plant Answers newsletter. It is a free newsletter that includes my articles and Dr. Jerry Parsons’ articles. It is free because, so far, Milbergers Nursery has been willing to pay the charges. To sign up for the newsletter call Milbergers at 497-3760 or visit the website plantanswer.com.
Other books to consider for gifts this Holiday season are Garden Bulbs for the South by Scott Ogden, The Southern Living Garden Book, Butterflies of North America by Jim Brock and Kenn Kaufman, and The Vegetable Book by Dr. Sam Cotner.