Trees to Know book

CORVALLIS, Ore. – If you can’t garden, why not read about it? Books bring us comfort when the gloomy weather of winter is upon us. Even gardeners who love winter enjoy a good read.

Add a fire and a cup of tea and relax with one of these 11 books recommended by Oregon State University Extension Service horticulturists. There is something for every reader – a memoir by Hope Jahren tells the story of two scientists and their love for trees; Extension’s popular “Trees to Know in Oregon and Washington” is heavy with photos of both coniferous and deciduous trees; Olivier Flippi writes about the important subject of gardening in dry climates; and a book on short-season vegetable gardening is perfect for central and eastern Oregon gardeners.

Since we couldn’t seem to stop at 10, we’ve given you a list of 11. They’d make fine holiday gifts. Find them online, or check with your local library or bookstores.

“The Gardeners,” Dr. John Grimshaw

“For gardeners who love to know the origin of all their favorite plants this is a gem of information. It probes into the history and origin of these plants and who discovered them. The author makes the sharing of plant discovery since the 1500s very entertaining and educates the reader on how many of these ornamental plants were also used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. The book is filled with excellent photos and maps of plant origins to support the storytelling.”

-- Steve Reinquist, OSU Extension horticulturist, Douglas County

Trees to Know in Oregon and Washington,” Ed Jensen, Oregon State University Extension Service

“I really like “Trees to Know in Oregon.”  It is a good choice for anyone who has ever wondered “What kind tree is that?” The book contains both native and commonly planted ornamental trees in our area as well as easy-to-use keys for identifying unknown conifers and broadleaf trees.” A new edition will be published in early 2021.

-- Heather Stoven, OSU Extension horticulturist, Yamhill County

'Lab Girl,” Hope Jahren

“I love this book. It is a great science memoir, but also goes into plant ecology and physiology quite a bit. “Lab Girl” is a beautifully written and oftentimes hilarious memoir about the work and friendship of two scientists, and their absolute love affair with, and reverence for, trees.”

-- Gail Langellotto, horticulture professor and statewide coordinator of the OSU Extension Master Gardeners

“Planting Design for Dry Gardens,” Olivier Flippi

“For those obligated (or preferring) to garden with limited water (meaning what falls out of the sky), you can do no better than this book. It features beautiful, resilient groundcovers for terraces, paved areas, gravel and other alternatives to the lawn. The book provides a guide to garden design for Mediterranean regions of the world, focusing on adapting the garden to the prevailing climate of summer drought and winter rain. The book is lavishly illustrated and includes an extensive list of plants. This book is the most comprehensive discussion I’ve found on dry gardening and provides inspiration and solid principles to follow for the western Oregon gardener.”

-- Neil Bell, OSU Extension horticulturist, Marion and Polk County

“Botany in a Day,” Thomas J. Elpel

“Learn the pattern method of plant identification through this great book. Related plants have similar flower, leaf and stem traits. Examine plant traits by family to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the plant kingdom.”

-- Weston Miller, OSU Extension horticulturist, Washington and Clackamas County

“Planting the Natural Garden,” Pete Oudolf and Hank Gerritsen

“A concise compilation of flora, most of it herbaceous that would work well in a contrived meadow construct either somewhat rural or urban. It is a tremendous source of plant options that eliminates the need to strain what is left of our gray matter after this horrendous year.”

-- Al Shay, senior instructor and curator of the Oak Creek Center for Urban Agriculture, Corvallis

“Fresh from the Garden: An Organic Guide to Growing Vegetables, Berries and Herbs in Cold Climates,” John Whitman

“For eastern Oregon vegetable gardeners, this book is indispensable. It includes season extension and cultivar suggestions. This book is comprehensive yet easy to read, contains tons of great charts, tables, and photos, the best book I have encountered so far for short- season vegetable gardeners. Worth every penny.”

-- Nicole Sanchez, OSU Extension horticulturist, Klamath County  

“Braiding Sweetgrass,” Robin Wall Kimmerer.

“The author is versed in botany and traditional ecological knowledge of plants and she finds meaning in both these ways of seeing human relationships with plants. It includes discussion of traditional ecological knowledge alongside research-based information. As both an academic and an indigenous person, Kimmerer is qualified to explore where science and traditional ecological knowledge overlap, and where they don't. Her writing inspires wonder and reverence for plants that readers won't soon forget and is a favorite of many avid gardeners and naturalists. “Braiding Sweetgrass” also exists as an audiobook read by the author, and she has a lovely, soothing voice.” 

-- Elizabeth Records, OSU Extension Master Gardener coordinator, Linn and Benton counties                                

“Home Orchard: Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees,” Ingels, Geisel and Norton 

“A great resource for home orchardists. Very detailed, science-based information with lots of photographs and illustrations to support the text. The chapters on training and pruning, and budding and grafting are worth the price alone. Written for California growers, but can be adapted towards other climates/soils.”

-- Erica Chernoh, OSU Extension horticulturist, Lane County

“The Bees in Your Backyard,” Joseph S. Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carril

“This is a great resource for anyone interested in backyard ecology. The book is very accessible to the amateur and budding entomologist and is literally packed with color photos. For each group of bees, the authors provide the typical size, the geographic range and the time of year the bee is usually found. There is also a whole chapter on how to promote bees in your backyard with tips on providing nesting areas and plants that feed the bees. I also recommend Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses” by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I’m only half way through but am delighted. The author has a way of weaving scientific knowledge with personal stories and indigenous history. Like “Braiding Sweetgrass,” it’s a beautiful read.”

-- Brooke Edmunds, OSU Extension horticulturist, Linn and Benton counties

“Xeriscape Plant Guide: 100 Water-wise Plants for Gardens and Landscapes,” Denver Water

What I love about this book is that it was written for landscape designers and includes photos of the individual plants in each of the four seasons. Each plant profile also includes a beautiful botanical drawing in color and the information for each plant is extensive, including companion plants, water use, cultivars, best features and the disadvantages of each plant. 

-- Amy Jo Detweiler, OSU Extension horticulturist, Deschutes County

Extension Service

About the OSU Extension Service: The Oregon State University Extension Service shares research-based knowledge with people and communities in Oregon’s 36 counties. OSU Extension addresses issues that matter to urban and rural Oregonians. OSU Extension’s partnerships and programs contribute to a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for Oregon.

Story By: 

Kym Pokorny, 541-737-3380, [email protected]


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