Binetti: Two books to help you enjoy your garden

July 17, 2013 

So why not enjoy your garden this week? Sometimes the eye of a gardener becomes continuously focused on what needs to be done — instead of the beauty that is blooming in midsummer glory.

Your plants will not be scandalized if a few weeds share their bed or stop flowering immediately if you relax and ignore some faded blooms. You can even mow the lawn a bit less often as summer arrives. If you just can’t see the flowers for the weeds, learn to love foliage over flowers or to blur your eyes while you gaze at your garden and enjoy splashes of color and texture — even if there are some blooming weeds adding to the color show.

Give yourself permission to celebrate summer by just sitting in the garden — perhaps with a good book. Here are two suggestions:


By Helen Dillon, Timber Press, $23.12 hardcover (Amazon)

I just finished reading this classic entertaining book by Irish author Helen Dillon retitled from “Down to Earth Gardening” for an American audience.

I loved not only the new nuggets of gardening information but also the humor and personality the author infuses into her writing. We’ll be leading a garden tour to Ireland this fall and visiting the garden of Helen Dillon as part of our tour — so with the idea of research for the trip, I thought I would need to order the Dillon garden books from a British publisher. It was a nice surprise to find out that Portland publisher Timber Press has renamed and reissued this Helen Dillon book that has become a best-seller in the United Kingdom. You can find it at local book stores, your library and for sure at

Here’s some gardening advice from the very opinionated Helen Dillon. Her wisdom is broken down into short chapters some devoted to beginning gardeners and other chapters for more advanced gardeners. The beautiful photographs of her own garden, near Dublin prove the point that Dillon knows how to dig in, design and delight in the gardening lifestyle.

Change is good: Helen Dillon shares many past mistakes and explains how she got rid of the multi-tiered, Victorian fountain that was once the focal point of her garden. She now prefers a more modern garden design with more subtle focal points and she freely shares her past gardening mistakes.

Use real things: Fake flagstone always look like fake flagstone — get the real thing.

Your lawn takes up too much time: Helen replaced her lawn with a long, narrow, water feature down the length of the back garden. She has one of the most photographed gardens in the United Kingdom, so this drastic design change along with getting rid of many demanding perennial plants sent shock waves through the gardening world.

Skip the roses: Most roses are not worth the bother — but roses you love are worthy of constant care and pampering.

Create a space: Every gardener needs a potting shed or greenhouse in which to hide out. Then you can relax and do nothing at all — that is until you hear footsteps heading your way. Then just start throwing soil and pots about and you can fool all visitors and family members into thinking what a dedicated and hardworking gardener you have become.

Dogs are great in a garden: Unless visiting royalty steps in a doggy deposit and tracks it into your home at tea time, dogs are a great addition to every garden. Helen Dillon will tell you how to handle that.


By Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, St. Lynn’s Press, $16.95

Ready for more summer reading in the garden? Closer to home is this book by local garden designers Karen Chapman (Duvall) and Christina Salwitz (Renton). These two have grafted their ideas on foliage, container gardens and landscape design into a new hybrid of a garden book that is a work of stunning beauty.

Seattle photographer Ashely DeLatour has captured the essence of living leaves as works of art. If you like lots of photos with your garden books and step-by-step ideas on how to duplicate the landscapes and container gardens that use foliage over flowers than this is required summer reading.

The design of this small book is user-friendly with more than 60 plant partnerships. Each page highlights a finished project and the facing page displays a brief explanation of “Why this works” and then a photo, name and description of the plants that were used in the design.

You don’t have to be a gardener to lust after these luscious leaves. Leaf through these pages and even the most committed flower-lovers are going to be tempted to start an exciting affair with Fine Foliage.

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at

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