Sunday, January 28, 2007

Forcing, Etc-A Book Review

When I first came across Forcing, Etc.: the indoor gardener's guide to bringing bulbs, branches & houseplants into bloom. earlier this winter on the book shelf of my local Borders I was drawn to it because of the cover and I quickly thumbed through the pages and dismissed the book. I was looking for a book on forcing bulbs to give me something to do during the winter and most importantly teach me something and aside from some wonderful photos I didn't think this book had much to offer.

A couple of days ago I came across the book again but this time on the shelf of my local library and decided to pick this book up and do more than just thumb through the pages of it. Now that I had the book at home and was able to go through it more carefully and actually read and absorb it. Katherine Whiteside does a fantastic job of introducing the readers of this book to indoor forcing without wrapping it up in a lot of mystique in the way that a lot of other sources on the subject do. What I particularly like is that she goes beyond the Paper Whites and Hyacinths offered on big box store shelves. She discusses forcing tender bulbs, branches, how house plants compliment a forced bulb garden, and a little bit of propagation is thrown in for good measure. The bulbs/plants pictured are identified and she gives recommendations for other named varieties of bulbs to try, clear and concise preparation and planting information. I especially like the little bits of plant history that she adds through the book and discovering a bulb or two I'd never heard of.

If you follow the link above you can see images from inside the book (on Amazon) along with other reviews of this book. I'm a little disappointed in the reviews especially because the reviewers seem to dismiss the information inside the book as things everyone knows or should know as a gardener. Maybe they're right but I can't help but think that they're taking for granted the knowledge they've acquired along the way. The information in this book isn't known by "all", I certainly had never heard of a Veltheimia or known that they were once wildly popular but fell out of popularity in the 1950s. Similarly I'm a little perplexed by what seems to be complaints about the book because it covers; hardy and tender bulbs, along with twigs and house plants. I don't think I would have enjoyed this book as much if it had been solely about hardy bulbs, just like I wouldn't be particularly fond of a garden filled with only Tulips.

Maybe the book should have been targeted to "indoor gardeners" because the bulbs/plants in the book come in and out of flowering just like a garden does and is enough to keep the indoor gardener occupied year round with a variety of bulbs/plants.

The photographs in the book by Richard Felber are top notch and present the bulbs/plants in the book in a manner that inspires. I can't help but want to know and be invited to the home where the photos were taken. The photos were probably staged and some are probably taken in a studio but you don't get that impression from their presentation, I can't help but want to wander around the "home" and talk to the plant lover who tends to these plants. I like how there are everyday items you could find in your own home that are mixed in with the plants and pots. A good example of what I mean is on page 77 where a Buddha figurine, a lamp and vase accent the trellis of twigs that's built around the window frame in the same manner that good garden art make a garden stand out.

You may not like this book if you think you; are a garden snob, already know everything about forcing bulbs, are looking for voluminous information on one specific type of bulb.

You may enjoy this book if you; appreciate whimsy, are looking to expand your gardening repertoire, don't have space for a garden outdoors, do container gardening, love houseplants or have physical limitations that don't allow you to participate in gardening.

I have to give this book ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5 stars because it is well written with information that's presented in manner that even a total gardening newbie can understand.

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