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SHARING SECRETS: Favorite Horticultural Author Or Book

Edited by Cathy Tylka, for Let’s Talk Plants! April 2022.

Karen England's short list of favorite horticultural books.

This Month’s Question:

Do you have a favorite horticultural author or is there a book, either fact or fiction, that you enjoy? What is your current read that has anything horticultural in it? It can be a novel, a reference book, a how to, or anything that includes flowers, plants, growing, history or other facts?

And does this have anything to do with your garden? It doesn’t have to, sometimes it’s just fun to learn, or otherwise enjoy your interests.

Did you know that the SDHS has a Zoom book club? It meets the first Monday of every month at 4:30 p.m. and was started over a year ago. The SDHBC reads horticulturally related books of fiction, history and biography, and it's open to everyone. Check out the SD Hort Book Club column in this newsletter for more info, or, just sign up by sending an email to with "book club' in the subject line.


Ken Blackford of 92117, exploded:

I haven't actually sought out any books about Milkweeds to satisfy my latest interest in the locally native species of this genus (Asclepias) ... but I DO enjoy a couple of Facebook groups specifically targeted at these plants and the Monarch Butterflies that depend upon them. The San Diego CA Monarch Butterfly Group, and the Grow Milkweeds Group are great sources for obtaining and/or sharing related info, including photographs. I especially am attracted to two local natives ... Asclepias eriocarpa (Kotolo/Indian Milkweed) and Asclepias erosa (Desert Milkweed.) There are more ... but here are some shots of these two species that I am now growing on and trying to incorporate into my collectors' garden ... just look at those foliage and flowers!


Bill Tweet informed:

David Fairchild - The World Was My Garden

Recent - Aloes of South Africa

Yes, garden knowledge.


Kathy Puplava’s current read is…

The Plant Hunter by Cassandra Leah Quave. And she invites you to listen to her podcasts.


Ida Rigby commented:

Currently my two favorite books are Jonathan Drori’s Around the World in 80 Plants and Around the World in 80 Trees, partly for the fascinating information on each plant and partly for the beautiful illustrations by Lucille Clere. Two of the trees are below in photos I took in Botswana. One is of a mopane forest, the other of the iconic baobab “tree.”

Plants, also features the Welwitschia, endemic to Namibia, but that’s the subject of a new column in this issue. These trees will also figure in later columns.

For those of us who love old roses or enjoy vicarious just botanical quests, Thomas Christopher’s In Search of Lost Roses is a delightful journey through history and a testament to a sense of place created by survivors. Muriel Barbery’s A Single Rose: A Novel, captures aspects of Japanese culture. The protagonist is a botanist; her visits to gardens and the life of the maple tree at her lodgings are, however, peripheral to the love story, but if you love Japanese gardens, it might be of interest.

On the suggestion of David Hinckley in one of his Explorer’s Garden volumes, I read the intelligent gardener: growing nutrient-dense food by Steve Solomon with Erica Reinheimer. It got me again interested in vegetable gardening, albeit much of the technical detail was beyond my grasp.

The SD Hort Book Club read Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass; the first chapter introduced me to how trees can resonate with history as she followed a trail of tears migration through the pecan trees that mark that passage.

Now, I cannot wait to read your suggestions.


Sue Noll of 92024 sadly said:

Unfortunately, No!


Susi Torre-Bueno informed:

I really like Debra Lee Baldwin's three books on succulents - they're groundbreaking.

Pat Welsh's autobiography, "All my Eden’s," is a fascinating look at an exceptional childhood and growing up around plants and also around unusual adults.


Sue Nelson announced:

I sent you a photo of a book entitled Natural History of Vacant Lots. It was published by the University of California Press in 1987. I have enjoyed this book as a reference for weeds, insects, birds and animals. It has some color Illustrations and is easy reading. I have found it helpful to find out what is happening in my backyard!


Debra Clarkin communicated:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s inspirational, I’m reading this book to a dearly loved friend who can’t get out right now and she is a better gardener than me. One day a week for a few hours we share this book and a have a wonderful visit. The secret is waiting for spring.

And no those are not graves…but potato mounds!


Sara Joseph comments:

I love The Art of Outdoor Living by Scott Shrader.


Ava Torre-Bueno of 92105, replied:

I’m currently reading Braiding Sweetgrass to my mother (who’s vision impaired) and we’re both enjoying it. It’s well written and weaves Western botanical knowledge with Indigenous knowledge.


Sue Wright shared:

Lab Girl - by Hope Jahren

And, The Complete Writings of Kate Sessions in California Garden, New Edition, published by the San Diego Floral Association, 2020. These articles by the indomitable early San Diego horticulturist still make good reading and the book's vintage photos and advertisements are a treat.


And Cathy Tylka of 92026, shared:

Tried and true and used as a reference many times...The New Western Book.


Karen England sighed:

I have so many favorites that have changed my life and my garden, but I will keep the following list to just a treasured few –

- Anything by Emelie Tolley but especially Herbs: Gardens, Decorations, and Recipes ©1985 Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. This book really did change my life.

- The Herbal Grove by Mary Forsell, ©1995 Villard Books. A unique book among the hundreds of thousands of herb and gardening books out there, celebrating the beauty and mystery of herbs that are trees.

- Margaret Roach’s A Way To Garden (both iterations/editions; ©1998 Potter and ©2019 Timber Press.)

- The Self-Sufficient Gardener by John Seymour, Dolphin Books, ©1978.

Watch your email for this query, which is next month’s question:

Now that it's spring, what is your favorite thing to do in your garden? Is it easy or is it something you have to work at but is it worth it?

Cathy Tylka, RN, retired Emergency Nurse, found her love of plants and the SDHS merge many years ago. Cathy acted as Treasurer for the organization and volunteer for many activities. Now, more than happy to assist in gathering questions to ask you in the Sharing Secrets area of the Newsletter.

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