Some people may wonder what could a garden writer possible come up with that is new and interesting and hasn't already been done.
The plethora of gardening books on the bookstore shelves is an indication that America's most popular hobby is not only continuing to grow, but the more that is written, the more that needs to be said. A well-known horticultural educator once said, ''I think I know a lot until I go for a walk in the garden, and I realize how much I don't know at all.''
There are certainly books about how to garden; what plants to buy; whether to plant herbs; vegetables, flowers or all of them; how to decide what goes where; and who is doing all the work. There are even books on how to avoid all the work as evident by more than one book titled, ''The Lazy Gardener.'' And there are books on every aspect of gardening, perennials, herbs, vegetables, trees and shrubs. There are field guides for identifying wildflowers, fungi and edible plants. There are journals for keeping track of what you've planted, when you planted, what the weather was like and what you would do differently.
But sometimes after the gardening is put away for the season and we are left with cold winter nights when we can't get in our hands dirty no matter how intense the need, there are other books out there; books that inspire and teach in a different way. Here are a few of my favorites:
''The Herbal Pantry" by Chris Mead and Emelie Tolley got me through a few winter days when the ground was frozen but not my spirit. It is a small book but one that I kept turning to for ideas and inspiration. This book is filled with herbal recipes that were not only easy for the home cook, but a good way to share an experience with a child. I remember when I first bought this book years ago, I was surprised to find a recipe for pickled eggs that didn't involve beets, but instead many flavorful herbs such as garlic and rosemary. I also own the sequel to this book, ''Gifts from the Herb Garden,'' which is a good read and offers ideas for using herbs in crafts and arrangements, but I found I didn't get as much pleasure browsing through this one as the first. They are both good choices for the gardener on your Christmas list.
''A Gardener's Eye, and Other Essays,'' by Allen Lacy is a book I highly recommend. Lacy, a former garden columnist for the New York Times, is the author of several inspirational books on gardening. I have two of them, this one and ''The American Gardener: A Sampler.'' Neither of these books will tell you how to plant a tomato or how to rid your roses of Japanese beetles, but they will introduce you to famous gardeners of another era as well as taking a deeper look into a gardener's soul to discover why it is we do what we do. According to Lacy, ''the gardener's eye is a gift that comes from outside, that is apart from one's own intentions." Long before ''Chicken Soup for the Gardener's Soul,'' taught us that gardening is more than just plopping seeds into the earth, Allen Lacy gave us the philosophy of gardening.
A favorite that I often read over and over is ''The 3,000 Mile Garden: An Exchange of Letters Between Two Eccentric Gourmet Gardeners'' by Leslie Land and Roger Phillips. I first encountered these two authors through a 1995 PBS television series of the same name and at the time I was enthralled with the program, I was delighted later to find out the program was based on this book. The book is the real-life correspondence between two professional gardeners, Land, a food writer and gardener from Maine and Phillips, a plant photographer and gardener from London. The two met while hunting mushrooms in New Hampshire and began writing letters that described their gardening lives that included shared recipes, garden folklore and the trials they suffered in their own gardens that included weather, insect pests and how their jobs affected their gardening lives.
Another book that utilizes Land's expertise and is also on my shelf is ''The New York Times 1000 Gardening Questions and Answers.'' This book is based on the popular question-and-answer gardening column in the New York Times and is edited by Land, Dora Galitzki, and Linda Yang. Unlike a typical how-to book on gardening, this 700-page book is filled with answers that were asked by everyday gardeners like you and me.
These are some of the books that inspire me and each one will cost you less than $20, but there are others that not only sharpen the desire to garden, but are essential reference materials. Some you may be familiar with and others may be new to you, but next week, we'll take a look at some of the books I am continually referring to not only for information for my own gardens, but as a Master Gardener and in writing this column for you.
Evanoff is a Master Gardener with The Ohio State University of Trumbull County. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.