Edward Hamilton: Good gardening books, cheap

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One of my favorite places to buy gardening books is Edward Hamilton. They do sell some new books, but most of them are remainders and closeouts. No problem when it comes to gardening books, as they don’t go out of date that fast and the good ones always bear re-reading.

I hate buying books blind, so most of the books I order I’ve actually already checked out of the library and determined they were worth owning, though EH does take returns if you’re not happy with your purchases. Another thing I like about them is their shipping fee is a flat $3.50 no matter how many books you buy. I am often buying birthday presents and homeschooling books as well as gardening books, so I am usually getting a dozen or more books shipped for three and a half bucks.

You can browse their selection from the internet, but unless you want to pay extra for the privilege, you order by snail mail and send a check. Once you’re on their mailing list, you get a newsprint catalog about once a month. I used to go through these with a fine tooth comb, picking out not only books to buy, but interesting books to check out from the library. My time has gotten too limited for such luxury, so now I only go through the gardening section with a fine-tooth comb, and just scan the photos in the new arrivals section. I have missed a few good buys this way, but on the whole it’s an acceptable trade-off.

Atypically, my latest order consisted of only three books: My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love, edited by Jamaica Kincaid (retail $20, my price $4.95). I would never buy this book at full price, because, while I enjoy the writing, it doesn’t have enough reference material to justify the retail price. But at one-fourth the price it is definitely worth having on the shelf to savor on a dull evening. I especially love the essay by Wayne Winterrowd on “Meconopsis,” where he slying proclaims his sadness at other gardeners’ inability to grow these beautiful blue-flowered poppies, while he makes you wish that you, too, could live through sub-zero winters and grow them as well. And that is but one essay out of many wonderful ones.

Notes from Madoo: Making a Garden in the Hamptons, by Robert Dash (retail $24, my price $2.95). Mr. Dash, living on the east end of Long Island, has almost nothing to say to my clay soil and shivery winters. But he writes wonderfully and thought-provokingly about how he approaches gardening and garden design, and his powers of observation and description are first rate:

[Basil] is closest to cloves in its scent, and is the very odor of high summer. Bumblebees roll from it, leaving tracks of its aroma. Invisible nets of its wild scent seem to hang everywhere in my garden, bringing serious thoughts of spaghetti to the month of August, whose air is exactly that of a kitchen in high gear.

The last book I thought I bought blind, but after looking it over I realized I had seen it before: Hardy Trees and Shrubs: A Guide to Disease-Resistant Varieties for the North, by Robert Osborne (retail $19.95, my price $5.95). It seems to be a workmanlike and reliable reference for those of us who garden in zones 5 or colder, but the prose doesn’t sing.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

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