A great gift for newbie gardeners

Garden RetreatsBarbara Blossom Ashmun’s Garden Retreats is, without a doubt, my favorite book about designing gardens in the Pacific Northwest. It’s not a giant compendium, it’s not really a how-to, it doesn’t show you how to map your yard on paper, but it’s always been the one book I recommend to clients. Why does it beat out other books on NW gardening? Because of its simplicity. I’ve read a gazillion gardening books and most have a wealth of information, which is great, but at the same time that wealth can be overwhelming. Especially if you’re a new gardener.

Instead, Ashmun helps readers discover their own style and then takes them on a tour of several gorgeous sanctuaries, many of which she’s helped design. (The photos by Allan Mandell help portray the sumptuousness.) Meanwhile, readers get a greatest hits list of the most interesting, easier care plants for the Pacific Northwest maritime climate. It’s not about flowers in this book, it’s about foliage, form, bark, fragrance, privacy — and letting your personality shine through in your garden. Now all we readers need is an updated edition.

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