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Gardening book reviews: weeds and deer

These two books can tell you a lot about some of our garden pests.
These two books can tell you a lot about some of our garden pests.
Laurie Brown 2014

During the last rainy spell, I had time to look through a couple of gardening books. Both of them are about dealing with things you’d rather not have in your garden.

‘Gardening in Deer Country” by Vincent Drzewucki Jr., at barely 100 pages, is almost more of a booklet than a full book. The author begins with a few facts about white tail deer, and the common methods of keeping them away from plants: repellents, fences, soap, hair, etc. He then moves to the heart of the book: plants that deer don’t like to eat. He gives a couple of pages to taking care of plants, and then goes to a list of plants with a deer rating; an ‘A’ means deer rarely eat it while an ‘F’ means they love that plant. Next are the plants themselves described, with two to each page. He gives the basic information on the plant and a line drawing. Of course every reader will see at least one or two plants they’ve grown and laugh heartily at the book because they’ve had that very plant eaten to the ground; a very hungry deer will eat things they will normally pass up, even if it’s poisonous. The recommendations in this book are based on them being the plants *least* likely to be eaten, not that they are guaranteed not to be eaten. A decent basic book if you have no other information on keeping a garden safe from deer, but this information is available in more depth from other sources.

‘How to Eradicate Invasive Plants’ by Teri Dunn Chace is a much weightier tome. This is over 300 pages of information. The front section tells us what an invasive weed is, how they spread, and various ways of dealing with them, from hand pulling to spraying with restricted chemicals. Then follows 241 pages of plant profiles that include color photos, description, why it’s a problem, how it reproduces where it came from, how to control it, noninvasive substitutes for the landscape, and sometimes notes that don’t fit under the other headings. I love that the author includes both less toxic and chemical controls so that this is a book for all types of gardeners.

What may surprise some gardeners is that the book contains a number of plants that most of us consider desirable; for instance, grape hyacinths are sold by nurseries all over the US, but they seed themselves readily (which I find delightful in my garden) and get into lawns, where they are very difficult to remove. Fennel is prized by chefs but escapes by seeding itself; there are canyons in San Diego full of it where it escaped cultivation (it’s kept partly in check by Italian families living in the area; when it reaches the proper stage you’ll see dozens of people harvesting it). The darling lily of the valley is in this book; the stuff is taking over a shady corner of my yard.

With some weeds, location is everything. What takes over down south is held in check by cold winters in the Inland Northwest; what thrives is wet area will never make a stand in the desert. Because of this, there is a list in the back of invasive plants with the states where they are a problem. You can check on a plant before you buy it with this book, and even if the plant is not listed in your state, if the climate where it’s a problem is similar to yours, there’s a pretty good chance it has the capability to take over. I highly recommend this book, especially if you have acreage.