Gardens, Gardens, Everywhere

For most gardeners, there is no better season than spring. After a long winter, we forget about previous garden disasters (like those darn deer that ate their way through last summer’s flower beds…) and look forward to what will surely be our most fabulous garden ever!  As I do every year, I spent part of last winter looking through gardening books and catalogs and planning improvements to my home landscape.  One of the many wonderful aspects of working at a library is easy access to all of the best books on any subject, including lots of garden and landscape books.  Here are some of my favorites from the last couple of years.

Jacket.aspxCoffee for roses : …and 70 other misleading myths about backyard gardening  Garden “myth-busting” done with wit and style.  Save yourself time and money–one of the tips I picked up from this book will save me both.

Jacket.aspxThe Know Maintenance Perennial Garden  This simplified approach to perennial gardening uses hardy, attractive plants grown on a 10×14 foot grid. Each of the 62 garden plans combines complementary plants that thrive together and grow as a community and are designed for easy maintenance, the goal of most home gardeners. Even if you don’t switch to this system, you will find some good ideas.

Jacket.aspxLandscaping Ideas That Work.  Your yard should be an extension of your home and this terrific book covers front, back, and side yards and provides strategies for combining elements and creating spaces that work with any home. Some great before and after photos.

Jacket.aspxLawn gone! : low-maintenance, sustainable, attractive alternatives for your yard.  My husband and I have ongoing “discussions” about our too-large lawn.  Every year I drag books like this home in hopes that he will give up the turf war.  No luck yet, but I keep hoping!

Jacket.aspxThe Shady Lady’s Guide to Northeast Shade Gardening.   This is a great book for those of us whose yards are graced with large shade trees.  The Shady Lady identifies best practices, best plants, and best information, specifically designed for the zones of the greater Northeast – and leaves out all the rest. Includes a large yet highly selective illustrated plant gallery that includes all the indispensable perennials, ferns, and bulbs.

Don’t forget magazines!  We get many home and garden magazines in paper and downloadable formats, including Better Homes and Gardens, Fine Gardening, Organic Gardening and more.

This year, in addition to my own gardens and a period herb garden I help maintain at the Thankful Arnold House Museum in Haddam, I am assisting with a garden project here at the Cheshire Public Library.  Cheshire Garden club member Anupa Simpatico has designed a low-maintenance garden with four-season appeal for the front of the library.  This project supports and promotes a healthy environment for birds and pollinating insects and carries out the Cheshire Garden Club’s mission of garden education, civic beautification and the preservation of wildlife.  Click here to see the plan and plant list. This project wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Friends of the Library, who are helping fund it with money donated in memory of Margaret Andersen, a long-time member of the Friends and an avid gardener. The Cheshire Town Beautification Committee and several anonymous donors have made  generous contributions towards the cost of the plants and shrubs.
The garden will be enjoyed by library visitors as well as countless people who pass by the front of the library  in vehicles and on foot. We are looking for volunteers to help plant and maintain the garden.  Please contact me at if you are interested in helping.



Mining Books to Map Emotions


So what were the happiest years in the last century?  I was driving home on April Fool’s Day  listening, as always, to NPR when this fascinating segment aired on analyzing the use of emotional words in books over the last century. A bunch of researchers in England decided that it would be interesting to use a computer program to track the use of hundreds of “emotion” words  from millions of books published over the last 100 years and digitized by Google.  All kinds of books were included from novels to technical manuals.  (Who knew that technical manuals had emotional content!) The original idea was to see if certain words became more popular at certain times, but the researchers didn’t really expect much.  However, what they discovered surprised them.

Check it out for yourself!  Read (or listen to) the the rest of the article on the NPR Health Blog.

Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series

Last summer I was on a hiking trip in Scotland with 3 friends, all avid readers,  all fans of Kate Atkinson’s private investigator Jackson Brodie and all totally shocked that I had never read any of her books.  Well, you can bet I rectified that situation as soon as I got home.  After the first few pages of Case Histories I was hooked.  Nominally these books (there are four) are crime novels set in England and Scotland featuring the “tender curmudgeon and solver of mysteries” Jackson Brody.  These are not traditional mysteries–they are stories that feature fully realized and interesting characters,  vivid settings and complicated, somewhat meandering (though always compelling) plots.  In Atkinson’s skilled hands multiple story lines coalesce into a seamless narrative.  She is a wonderful writer and her books offer both marvelous entertainment and insight into the human condition.  If you prefer fast-moving mysteries with a linear plot, these are probably not for you.  But if you enjoy well-written character-driven fiction, these may be just the ticket.   And lest you think I am the only one pushing these books, Oprah recommended the 4th in the series, Started Early Took My Dog in her blog Mysteries Every Thinking Woman Should Read.

I would strongly recommend reading this series in order.

  1. Case Histories
  2. One Good Turn
  3. When Will There Be Good News
  4. Started Early Took My Dog

As a bonus, the first two books in the series have been made into BBC series.  The library will be ordering Case Histories, currently the only one available in DVD. Some titles are available in downloadable versions and all are available in audiobooks in our collection or through interlibrary loan.

Please let me know if you enjoyed them!

Deborah Rutter

BOOK REVIEW – The Third Bullet

The Third Bullet by Stephen Hunter

Who really did kill JFK?  Fifty years and multiple official reports later, there are still those who doubt that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. In The Third Bullet,  retired Vietnam sniper Bob Lee Swagger tackles the granddaddy of all conspiracy theories.  Using facts from the Warren Commission and his own extensive knowledge of ballistics, Swagger constructs a complicated but plausible theory of what might have happened if a shadowy rogue agent who wanted Kennedy dead used Oswald as the fall guy.  The unforgettable Swagger, older and more cerebral than he was in his first appearance in Point of Impact (1992), still has what it takes in his eighth outing as an action hero.  Have yet to make Swagger’s acquaintance? He is a younger (though not by much) more polite version of Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. Want more  thrillers focusing on the Kennedy assassination?  Try Don DeLillo’s Libra, Stephen King’s 11/22/63 or James Ellroy’s American Tabloid.