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Gardeners also like to collect books on collecting plants

Many gardeners, including myself, freely admit to being plantaholics, with a constant thirst for new and exciting plants. This compulsion takes different forms in different gardens -- here's three books that explore that passion.

The Collector's Garden: Designing with Extraordinary Plants (Clarkson Potter, 1996), by Ken Druse may well be thought of as a primer on the subject. Druse examines what drives gardeners to collect and helpfully categorizes them as either hunters, missionaries, specialists or aesthetes.

He visits two dozen extraordinary gardens from collectors across the country. Among the gardeners are some of the most influential in the United States including Marco Polo Stuffano, Nancy Goodwin, Dan Hinkley and gardeners new on the scene. He not only examines their gardens but also the unique impulse that compels them to collect and create.

Druse is an excellent photographer and "The Collectors Garden" is beautiful to look at, and his clear prose makes it a pleasure and inspiration to read.

Dan Hinkley founded Heronswood Nursery in the early 1990s and it quickly became one of the most influential nurseries in the U.S. In "The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials" (Timber Press, 1999) he shares some of his favorite plants grown at Heronswood. "The Explorer's Garden" is broken up into plant family-based chapters with headings like "Berberidaceaous Botany," "Rheums with a View" and "Comely Composites."

Each chapter profiles several plants, providing a clear description, usually with accompanied by a few photos. Also included is solid information on where to plant and how to care for each selection. Occasionally the plants are so new to cultivation it's not fully known the full range of their adaptability, but that just makes the plants more exciting. Along the way, Hinkley tells stories of plant hunting around the globe, especially in China, Japan and Korea. Though many of the plants discussed here are unfamiliar to many gardeners, Hinkley isn't interested in fussy plants that only can be grown dedicated specialists.

Rather he values plants that are long lived and easy to please in average garden situations. This book gave me a whole new list of plants to track down for my own garden, and I often return to it for information on care and just to enjoy Hinkley's knowledge and passion.

"Buried Treasure: Finding and Growing the World's Choicest Bulbs" (Timber Press, 2007), by Janis Ruksans is the story of a truly passionate plant hunter and collector. Ruksans lives and gardens in Latvia, a reassuringly cold climate for those of us in the Upper Midwest.

"Buried Treasures" is a unique blend of adventure travel, historical documentary and practical gardening advice. Ruksans runs a bulb nursery in Latvia and spends much of his time traveling through eastern Europe and central Asia, from Crimea, through Turkey and Ukraine into Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and up into central Siberia.

Along the way we learn much about the local climate and culture and get glimpses into the changing political winds as the Soviet Union falters and dissolves. Ruksans collects and grows a bewildering array of bulbous plants, many we may never have access to for our own gardens. Despite that, "Buried Treasures" is indeed a treasure of a gardening book.

To do in the garden

  • Cut back any perennials that had disease or insect problems over the summer.
  • Water any plants new this year.
  • Spread mulch once the soil freezes.

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