Favorite Hudson Valley Garden Books and Writers

shaolin(z5 NY)May 14, 2004

There are quite a few local garden writers whose books I have enjoyed. I love not only reading about their gardens, but also knowing that I can generally apply what they are saying directly to my own garden. A few favorites include:

-Cassandra Danz (also known as Mrs. Greenthumbs). I was very sad to hear that she died a couple of years ago. She gardened in Hudson. Her books are funny, lighthearted, and full of great advice for upstate NY gardens. Two things that really stuck with me that she writes about are the absolute need for fences and walls to not only frame a garden, but to make it a personal, private space for the gardener. She feels that americans don't understand this very important element because we're all afraid we'll insult out neighbors. Also, she wrote about weeding by just repeatedly cutting the weeds off at their roots instead of pulling them out altogether - eventually the weeds will give up - and it makes weeding a much more pleasant chore. I apply this to my own garden and have to say it's true.

-Lee Reich - he's from New Paltz and most of his books are straight out, kind of dry, how-to books - on pruning, fruit trees, no dig gardens (he's a big booster of the no dig methods - something that all of us with rocky soil can appreciate and which I've used with great success), but he also wrote a book entitled "A Year in My Garden" which I found to be quite lovely and readable and which felt like a neighbor was giving me great advice over the fence.

-Patricia Thorpe - American Weekend Gardens and The American Cottage Garden. I believe she's also from Hudson. I would especially recommend her weekend garden book. Big coffee table books with lovely photos and lots of great ideas about simplifying your garden. She talks a lot about plants that are long lived and take very little care (she's a big booster of peonies and oriental poppies, for instance). She also writes a lot about adjusting our expectations - because most american gardeners have been so influenced by the British ideal of the perennial border and the cottage garden - and our weather (except in the Northwest) is so different from the British Isles - she feels that we need to look at gardening in a different light - adjust it for our climate and time frame. She's very sensible and very knowledgeable and she really comes at gardening from an unusual perspective.

Diane Ackerman - Cultivating Delight. My very, very, very favorite book on gardening. She's not a professional gardener - she's a poet and a naturalist and has written several other wonderful books off the topic of gardening. But this book is about her garden in Ithaca and it is so inspirational and beautifully written. Funny and smart and sexy and quirky. She writes about her hundreds of rose bushes (she's a huge fan of David Austin roses). She writes about catching the squirrels in her garden and tagging them with beaded necklaces for a study she did for National Geographic. She writes about feeding the starving deer in the winter. About picking up plants at the local greenmarket. About the sadness she feels after a nest of wrens mysteriously dissapears overnight and their nest is knocked to the ground. She is a wonderful writer who loves her garden. She has a naturalist's eye and a poet's voice. I re-read this book a couple times a year for inspiration.

So, those are a few of my personal favorites. Anyone know of some others?

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estevinho(z5 Eastern NY)

Of course, there's Page Dickey. Lately she's been puting out a big, expensive coffee table book each year, but her first book "Duck Hill Journal" is a little gem. It's sort of a year in the life of her North Salem garden. Each chapter covers a month, and is headed by a little watercolor of hers. The book is probably out of print but obtainable.

The melon goddess, Amy Goldman is in Rhinebeck. Her book "Melons" is full of wonderful photographic portraits of melons.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2004 at 3:05PM
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smilla(Z6 NY)

Shaolin,

Thanks so much for recommending Cassandra Danz. I'm making the move up to the Hudson Valley from Brooklyn very soon, and have enjoyed reading her books as I daydream about new garden. Does anyone know where she lived in the Hudson Valley?

    Bookmark   September 24, 2005 at 10:54PM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

What a great piece of information, thanks Shaolin!
I wasn't aware of any of them, but will definitely look them up.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 7:44PM
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susanzone5(z5NY)

Dean Riddle lives up near Phoenicia. He is on the garden tours and lectures about unusual annuals. He has a book about gardening in the Catskills, and writes for gardening magazines.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 8:43AM
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orcuttnyc(z5-6 NY)

Isn't that the same Dean Riddle who is causing all the controversy by wanting to develop a lot of natural wood lands into another golf course retreat? I met him a few years ago at a friends party at Big Indian. That is, if it is the same flamboyant guy.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 6:11PM
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susanzone5(z5NY)

I don't think it's the same guy because Dean's rented house is tiny, he has little money, and he is very far from being a developer. His land is very natural and wild.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 6:24AM
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susanzone5(z5NY)

The man you're thinking of is Dean Gitter who is planning a mega resort near Belleayre mountain...I just looked it up.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 6:32AM
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orcuttnyc(z5-6 NY)

My apologies to the author...

    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 7:45AM
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linnea2(z5 NY)

Shaolin, just popping in to let you know I've been having a
very good time with Cassandra Danz, wish she were still around.
Also read two of Lee Reich's books and am still reading Diane Ackerman's
Cultivating delight. Thanks for the tips!

I'm knee deep in other new garden books, the kind you read armed
with post-its when the bulbs are all in the ground (mine aren't)
and give the plant lists for '06 an overhaul.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2005 at 9:31PM
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