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Books sure to get you growing in the Rockies

Cristina Gair
Special to the Post Independent

To anyone living in the Rocky Mountains, seeing snow balanced on a tulip is not a complete surprise. Mother Nature calls the shots, from droughts to buckets of snow to raging wildfires.

This unpredictability makes gardening in the pale, sometimes rocky soil of the region a worthy challenge, and the presence of exquisite gardens in the Rocky Mountains more alluring. For those of you who want to glean the fundamentals of gardening to those who want to discover the intricacies involved, one of these three books offers perfect springtime reading.

Rocky Mountain Garden Survival Guide



By Susan J. Tweit

Publisher: Fulcrum Publishing



Price: $12.95

Order: (800) 992-2908, http://www.fulcrum-books.com

The Rocky Mountain Garden Survival Guide, a charming, pocket-sized book, will fit in your jacket, ready to be pulled out for planting inspiration. The author, Tweit, is an ecologist, so her book is about “understanding the ecology of your garden ” the physical environment where it is located and the myriad relationships among the organisms that live around it and in it ” the key to cultivating a healthy and thriving garden, especially in the difficult conditions of the Rocky Mountain region.”

This book offers a scientific approach with three main topic areas including: Geography (the big picture, physical environment of gardens including place, soil and microclimate); Wild Weather and Changing Climates (extreme temperature ranges from cold to hot, droughts to wildfires; and Invaders (dealing with garden guests from invasive weeds, diseases, pests and grazers of all sizes and types).

This book also contains a handy gardening resource section, and best of all, it features factoids and tips designed to help you understand the particulars of gardening in the Rockies.

PRO: Information served up in concise, short nuggets of wisdom.

CON: Lacks photos or other illustrations of plants.

Rocky Mountain Gardener’s Guide

By John Cretti

Publisher: Cool Springs Press, a division of Thomas Nelson

Price: $24.99

Order: http://www.thomasnelson.com

The Rocky Mountain Gardener’s Guide is a comprehensive map to the rigors of gardening in the Rocky Mountains and High Plains region in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. Cretti’s motto: “To grow plants successfully, you have to think like a plant,” is the guiding principle of this horticulturist’s tome. He explains that gardeners will be taught how to anticipate, plan for, and if necessary, react to the varied challenges of Rocky Mountain gardening.

For picture lovers, the book includes 186 individual plant selections from annuals to vines. Each plant is shown in full color and revealed by sections such as When, Where and How to Plant, Growing Tips, Care, Companion Planting and Design, and Cretti’s favorite plant variation.

This guide is ideal for the person who desires to compare plants and learn about their differences. It is easy to read with a down-to-earth accessibility, even for those without extensive gardening know-how.

PRO: Comprehensive look at a bunch of plants.

CON: Amount of information might pose overload for novice.

Xeriscape Colorado

By Connie Lockhart Ellefson and David Winger

Publisher: Westcliffe Publishers

Price: $27.95

Order: (800) 523-3692, http://www.westcliffepublishers.com

Xeriscape Colorado is a book that is arriving right on time, as Colorado is facing drought conditions in 2004 that in many ways mirror the extreme conditions of 2002. According to Ellefson, “xeriscape is a fancy trademarked word for purposefully creating a beautiful, restful outdoor environment without consuming thousands of gallons of expensively purified water in the process.”

In layman’s terms it means landscaping designed to use less water.

This book delves into the seven principles of xeriscape: planning and design, soil analysis and improvement, practical turf areas, informed plant choice, efficient irrigation, mulching and maintenance.

Each principle is presented, thoroughly explained, and illustrated with instructions.

The true strength of this book is in the photos, especially the before-and-after photos that demonstrate that xeriscape doesn’t mean boring and drab; instead it means lush, colorful and full of vision.

Seeing a house with a brown, blah lawn turn into a house blending nicely with an artistic, fluid landscape, which ironically requires less maintenance, makes you a believer.

PRO: Not just for water conservation, also for fabulous landscaping.

CON: Complex xeriscape blueprints might scare average Joe or Jane.


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