Ecology for Gardeners
Our success as gardeners is directly related to our understanding of plant interactions within local ecosystems. In the book Ecology for Gardeners, (Steven B. Carroll and Steven D. Salt; Timber Press; 2004; $29.95) the authors point out that plants have specific roles in the health of our environment, and plants depend upon other plants and animals for their own well-being. We can learn a lot by observing how plants grow in nature; the communities they form are mutually beneficial, providing protection from the elements, attracting pollinators, and sharing moisture and nutrients.
Home gardens are plant communities, too. Of course, structure and change in our gardens are orchestrated by the gardener, not the forces of nature, as it is in natural plant communities. However, the closer we as gardeners work with nature, the more successful our gardens will be.
As an educator and an avid gardener, I found Ecology for Gardeners quite appealing. It's written in textbook style, with each topic thoroughly presented. Every chapter serves as a prelude to the next, providing a rewarding journey to the end of the book. It builds more than just a basic understanding of plant physiology and the interconnection of plant communities; it helps define our roles of stewards of the Earth, encouraging us to make sure that the ecological role of our gardens is a positive one.
Favorite or New Plant
Primroses (Primula spp.) can provide a rainbow of colors in your spring garden. Sometimes overlooked because they seem so ordinary, primroses will do well from now until mid-summer in bright shade or a partially sunny bed. Or try some in a planter on your front porch. Their cheery faces will welcome visitors for weeks. When the weather warms, move the planter to a cooler, shady spot. Be sure to keep them deadheaded to insure constant bloom. And give them a little 20-20-20 fertilizer when you water.