big bad book of botanyDavid Attenborough meets Lemony Snicket in The Big Bad Book of Botany, Michael Largo’s entertaining and enlightening one-of-a-kind compendium of the world’s most amazing and bizarre plants, their history, and their lore.

The BigBad Book of Botany introduces a world of wild, wonderful, and weird plants. Some are so rare, they were once more valuable than gold. Some found in ancient mythology hold magical abilities, including the power to turn a person to stone. Others have been used by assassins to kill kings, and sorcerers to revive the dead. Here, too, is vegetation with astonishing properties to cure and heal, many of which have long since been lost with the advent of modern medicine.

Organized alphabetically, The BigBad Book of Botany combines the latest in biological information with bizarre facts about the plant kingdom’s oddest members, including a species that is more poisonous than a cobra and a prehistoric plant that actually ‘walked.’ Largo takes you through the history of vegetables and fruits and their astonishing agricultural evolution. Throughout, he reveals astonishing facts, from where the world’s first tree grew to whether plants are telepathic. Featuring more than 150 photographs and illustrations, The BigBad Book of Botany is a fascinating, fun A-to-Z encyclopedia for all ages that will transform the way we look at the natural world. (description from publisher)

plant recipe bookInspiring and charming, The Plant Recipe Book by Baylor Chapman  shows you how to create living arrangements using a wide variety of small plants. From single specimens to fanciful combinations, there’s a plant recipe for every situation.

Arranged by plant type, Chapman shows a number of variations for each. She sparks creativity with unique combinations and non-traditional containers. Each recipe is broken down showing the individual plants that are used, how the container is prepped and tips on arranging and planting.

From special occasion to everyday, these beautiful containers are interesting and unique. They’re also easy-care and long-lived, making them the perfect compliment to your indoor decor!

In Natural Companions, acclaimed garden writer Ken Druse presents recipes for perfect plant pairings using diverse species that look great together and bloom at the same time.

Organized by theme within seasons, topics include color, fragrance, foliage, grasses, edible flowers and much more, all presented in photographs of gardens that show planted combinations from a wide variety of climates and conditions. Natural Companions also features more than one hundred special botanical images of amazing depth and color created in collaboration with artist Ellen Hoverkamp using modern digital technology.

Filled with an incredible amount of horticultural guidance, useful plant recommendations, and gardening lore–all written in Druse’s charming, witty style–this book is a must-have for gardeners and lovers of plants and flowers. (description from publisher)

Did you know about air plants?! Sounds kinda sci-fi, doesn’t it! Also known as an epiphyte, air plants get their nutrients from the surrounding air and thus do not need roots. Cool! They kind of remind me of a miniature, land-dwelling octopus or Thing from the Addams Family. Now here did I learn about these awesome plants? From Terrarium Craft: Create 50 Magical, Miniature Worlds by Amy Bryant Aiello, Kate Bryant, & Kate Baldwin!

I always thought that Terrariums were very difficult to upkeep and required intense calculations to maintain their delicate ecosystems, but Terrarium Craft has since convinced me that Terrariums are my new super laid-back, always stylish best friends. In fact, according to Amy, Kate & Kate, I don’t even have to put living plants in my terrariums if I don’t want to–I could use pretty sands, rocks, crystals, and dried flowers to make super lovely displays. However, they make even the plant terrariums seem easy by using moss balls, air plants, succulents and other easy care plants and arranging them with sweet figurines, geodes, books and costume jewelry to create little whimsical, fairytale-like scenes. I want to live in their terrariums, but, until I find a shrinking raygun, I will just check out Terrarium Craft from the library and make one of my own. It will totally have a geode and an air plant and will be based on that classic Ringo Starr hit, Octopus’s Garden.

wicked plantsWicked Plants: the Weed that Killed Abraham Lincoln’s Mother by Amy Stewart is a delightfully gruesome catalog of a great variety of harmful plants and just exactly what they can inflict on you. This alphabetical list of plants that can poison, strangle, paralyze, induce hallucinations or heart attack or merely cause pain and suffering is illustrated with appropriately gothic drawings. Many of the plants are surprisingly common – castor bean plants and angel’s trumpet for instance. Others are bizarre and nearly fantastical.  Stewart’s writing style is witty and entertaining and her love and knowledge of all things botanical shines throughout the book.

Amy Stewart’s website has lots more info, including interviews with Amy and news about her upcoming events. Amy is the author of several thoughtful gardening-related books including the excellent Flower Confidential about the floral industry.

Don’t miss the chance to see some of those dastardly plants up-close when Vander Veer Botanical Park Conservatory features ten of them in their special exhibit, running concurrently with their annual Chrysanthemum Festival, mid October through mid November. Excerpts from the book will be featured in story boards displayed throughout the exhibit.

Conservatory hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10am – 4pm. Admission is $1 for adults; children under 16 are free but must be accompanied by an adult. For more information about the display, contact Paula Witt at 563-323-3298.

new-terrariumFight off some of that spring fever by cultivating a bit of green on a tabletop. From elegant, antique Wardian cases (named for Englishman Nathaniel Ward who created and popularized glass boxes for plants in the 1840s) to simple vases, Tovah Martin brings us the charming world of terrariums in The New Terrarium. You won’t find even a hint of crunchy-granola-1970s terrariums here (when these enclosed plant worlds were last popular) but you will find modern, playful interpretations of all kinds.

Martin firmly belives that any container, so long as it’s clear glass and has an opening large enough to accomodate plants, is just fine for a terrarium. As a result, there are fish bowls and aquariums, large flower vases, candy jars, Mason jars, even a covered cake stand on display here. There are also many beautiful examples of glass cloches (also called bell jars) that were once used to protect tender young vegetable plants in the garden, now in service to protect and highlight a beloved indoor plant.

Plant choices range from the exotic – such as orchids – to the more ordinary – African violets which are at their height this time of year and easy to find, or ferns. In fact, almost any plant – so long as it’s small enough – will thrive in the humid, controlled environment of a terrarium. The exceptions are plants that prefer dry conditions (cactus, succulents, herbs) You can even fill your terrarium with non-plant material – a favorite seashell or a miniature garden gnome. Martin lists favorite plants and how to grow them and gives on instructions on how to plant and care for your mini-garden. Populated with beautiful pictures, you’ll soon be on your way to bringing some of the outdoors in.