Select one of the keywords
Clueless in the Garden: A Guide for the Horticulturally Helpless    by Yvonne Cunnington order for
Clueless in the Garden
by Yvonne Cunnington
Order:  USA  Can
Key Porter, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I wouldn't call myself quite clueless in the garden, I don't have a natural green thumb, and learned my few skills by guess and by golly. So this back-to-basics guide, which advises on how to 'have a garden and a life too', was very welcome. It will be even more useful to those who are total novices outdoors. The author calls gardening 'creative play' and her enthusiasm is catching.

Topics include Tools of the Trade (those you need, those you don't, and the nice-to-have) and Gardening Where You Live (what plants will grow easily in your zone's climate and how to take zone ratings with a grain of salt). Cunnington takes us through assessing soil, prepping and fertilizing beds, mulching, composting, and efficient watering. She explains how to decipher botanical names; where and when to buy plants and what to look at; how to look after a lawn (mow higher, fertilize in the fall and avoid pesticides) or to use ground cover as an alternative.

Next comes how to plan and plant a flower garden, with discussion of annuals, biennials and perennials, bulbs, vines and ornamental grasses. Choose a color scheme, consider height and spacing, mix and match with small trees and shrubs, and 'aim for continuous bloom'. Groom your garden, divide perennials in spring (with detailed instructions, thank goodness!) and keep fine tuning. More specialized topics include: how to handle a shady garden (with two entire pages on hostas); growing trees and shrubs (I needed the 'Pruning 101' course); growing a Veggie Patch; and 'The Joy of Container Gardening' - how to plant in pots and retired objects and to create 'potscapes'.

The 'Yuck Factor' section on coping with weeds, pests and plant diseases, is just as useful as the tips on pruning. I appreciate its slant towards organic gardening, tips on spotting weeds and on how to make a hospitable environment for helpful bugs. Throughout this manual are useful tables on water-efficient plants, bloom times, accent trees, kitchen herbs, etc., and there are gardening to-do lists by season. And if you remain 'horticulturally helpless' after all this, there's even advice on how to hire a landscape pro, and a useful list of resources for further enlightenment.

Indeed, Clueless in the Garden leaves us with no more excuses to remain that way.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more NonFiction books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews