Three good garden books have been published recently, any one or all three of which would make a fine inexpensive gift. One is a guide for growing herbs outside and indoors; one is about gardening under lights indoors, and the third is about year around care of roses.
"Herb Growing -- A Visual Guide,"by the Diagram group (Sampson Low, Berkshire, England; distributed by ISBS, Inc., P.O. Box 555, Forest Grove, Ore. 97116; 144 pages, illustrated, $12.50).
Today more and more people seem to be returning to the use of fresh and dried herbs in cooking, according to theauthors, probably because modern methods of preservation tend to destroy the original taste of the food.
"And in addition, many people are turning to growing their own herbs, for freshness and cheapness," they say. "This book will tell you all about herbs, what they look like and how to cultivatethem. It tells you also how to recognize some of the more useful wild herbs that you may come across in your wanderings.
"Each variety is illustrated with a detailed scale drawing and a line illustration of each leaf shape for easyrecognition. There are also suggestions on how to make use of herbs in fragrant potpourris and also recipes for wines and teas."
Do not despair of growing enough herbs for the kitchen if you have no garden, they say, or if there is no space to spare in the garden for herbs. There are many herbs that are quite suitable for growing in window-boxes, on the patio or the doorstep, in a corner of the balcony if you are a flat dweller, or indeed inside the house itself, in pots or hanging baskets. If you give them a modest corner and a minimum of care, they will reward you many times.
Another way to grow them is to spreadthem around in the flower and vegetable plots, among your other plants. It cannot be over-stressed that many herbs not only useful but also very decorative. Lavender makes a delightful and colorful border in any part of the garden. The various kinds of thyme, pot marjoram, chives and hyssop are also ornamental and look well among flowers. Even common parsley looks surprisingly decorative planted in the spaces among the rose bushes.
"Gardening Under Lights," Frederick McGourty Jr., editor (Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y., 11225, 64 pages, illustrated; paperbound $1.95; can be ordered direct).
"Gardening under lights is one of the great liberators for the home gardener," says McGourty. "The person who is strongly interested in indoor growing usually turns to it, for one can regulate precisely how much light a plant receives.
"There are side benefits, too. Plants are together, facilitating watering and insect control -- sometimes! Most serious collectors now grow plants no other way.
"Indoor gardening has had its ups and downs in recent years. First, there was the house-plant boom, the intensity of which surprised even Botanic Garden staff members. Many people who had never gardened before suddenly possessed botanic gardens of their own, in their own living rooms. This was great, except for one thing. The plants, or at least a good number of them, languished and died because their new owners didn't know how to provide the proper care."
Jack Golding, former president of the Indoor Light Gardening Society of America, is the guest editor and he assembled a fine group of contributors to provide the essential information about how to grow plants under lights.
"Roses -- Planting, Pruning, Year-Round Care," Frederick McGourty Jr., editor; David Stump, president of Jackson & Perkins, guest editor; Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Ave., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11225; 84 pages, illustrated; $1.95 paperbound; can be ordered direct).
There have been a lot of different opinions about the best time to prune roses. George Haight of the Stocking Rose Nursery in San Jose, Calif. (one of the book's contributors), says the best time is toward the end of the dormant season, just before the buds begin to swell. In mild climates, he says, pruning may start in late December or January; but in cold parts of the East and Midwest it is best delayed until March or April. In either area it should be completed before the new leaves emerge or the canes will bleed sap. If necessary, however, it is better to prune late despite bleeding than not at all.
Hybrid teas and grandifloras may be cut back about one-third to one-half, he says, floribundas may be pruned more lightly, about one-fourth, with more branching left at the top. In general, the more severely the plant is pruned, the fewer flowers it will have but they will be of larger size. Growers who exhibit their blooms at rose shows often follow this practice.