Two very good books related to gardening have been published recently. One is full-color field guide to seed pods of wildflowers and weeds and their use in making arrangements. The other is about apples, which kinds are best, how to grow them and protect the fruit from insect pests without using poisonous chemicals. t
"Pods -- Wildflowers and Weeds in Their Final Beauty -- A Visual Guide From Flower . . . to Pod . . . to Dried Arrangement," by Jane Embertson (Scribner's, 186 printed pages, beautifully illustrated in full color, $14.95.)
Emberston has a background in arts and design. She attended Pratt Institute in New York and worked as an art director in an advertising agency.
When she moved to the Wisconsin countryside, she was fascinated by the beautiful shapes of seed pods she saw on field trips into marshes, along streams, tramping through woods, open fields and prairies. After several years of collecting wildflowers and pods, she wrote this book.
With 450 color photographs by Jay M. Conrader, who taught biology for 21 years before retiring to become a free-lance nature photographer, the book tells how to identify more than 150 species of wildflowers and weeds, how to find them, when to pick them and how to use them creatively.
"To me, the empty seed container -- the pod -- is another of nature's works of art, as beautiful as the flower and as unique in its own form," she says. "My increasing interest in wild plants led to further study of their love.
"I found that many kinds of weeds were sources of healing potions, salves, drugs and medicines, as well as ingredients for scents, sachets, dyes, wines, tests, seasonings, cosmetics and cooking."
"Apples & Man," by Fred Lape (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 160 printed pages, illustrated, $9.95).
A lifelong connoisseur of apples, Lape is directior of the George Landis Arboretum. He had taught at Cornell University, Stanford University and Rensselaeer Polytechnic Institute, and has made his living also as a free-lance writer and farmer.
John Endicott, an early governor of Massachusetts, is said to have brought the first apple to America, Lapee writes, and apple trees soon became a feature of early settlements. No apples were wasted. Those that were not eaten raw or cooked or stored in cellars for winter eating or preserved over winter by drying, were crushed and sequeezed for cider.
In general, the spread of better varieties followed the establishment of nurseries.
There are indications now, according to the book, that the great peak of good flavor of the period 1790-1900 may soon be a thing of the past. The trouble is that the breeding programs have been geared almost completely to commercial interests.
The criteria for selection of new varieties has been an apple that will keep well under refrigeration, ship well without brusing and have a luscious color which will attract the consumer to buy it from a supermarket, and whose tree will produce a heavy crop annually.
"As a standard of excellence by which to judge," he writes, "I would set the Northern Spy as the best apple ever grown in the United States. To bite into the tender flesh of a well-ripened Spy and have its juice ooze around the teeth and its rich tart flavor fill the mouth and its aroma rise up into the nostrills is one of the outstanding experiences of all fruit eating. More than this, the Spy is just as good cooked as when eaten raw. In pies and applesauce it holds its firmness and its flavor."
In the book he tells how to plant trees, where to buy them, how to protect trees and fruit from insect pests using organic methods, and how to propagate apple trees by bud and scion grafting.