Category Archives: Bookshelf

Bookshelf: The Collette Sewing Handbook

Having started sewing again after a 40-year break, my skills were a bit rusty. I bought the Collette Sewing Handbook to re-learn basic techniques, but the book offers much more than that. Sarai Mitnick provides a terrific framework for approaching sewing as a craft. She teaches you how to approach your sewing projects in the context of your overall skill development and wardrobe planning. And beyond that – her fashion designs are timeless and elegant. I’m planning on making most of the garments in this book, and I’ve already scoured the Collette patterns site to purchase more. If you are a new sewer, or if you want to expand your foundation, buy this book. You won’t be disappointed – instead, you’ll be inspired and energized!



Book Review: Ann Lovejoy’s Organic Garden Design School

Ann Lovejoy's Organic Garden Design SchoolAnn Lovejoy’s Organic Garden Design School by Ann Lovejoy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ann Lovejoy’s Organic Garden Design School has helped me form a design to restore the woodland gardens that were stripped earlier this year by overzealous tree trimmers. Her ‘Golden Bowl’ analogy enabled me to understand the concept of tree canopy, high understory, low understory and perennials. Previously, I had been focusing just upon low understory shrubs and perennials; now I understand that adding some medium sized trees will help create a more gentle transition from woodland to garden border. Her ‘rule of thirds’ (one third evergreens, one third structural shrubs and one third perennials) also provides a useful guideline for garden design. I will start applying these ideas right away – both to plan out my plant purchases and to site them appropriately.

The only criticism I would have of the book is that some of her recommended plants are considered invasive in this area. Fortunately, I’ve got a good list of native alternatives from my studies at Longwood Gardens. Overall, Ann Lovejoy’s Organic Garden Design is a tremendously useful guidebook. I borrowed it from the local library – and now I’m going to buy my own copy!


Book Review: The Organic Lawn Care Manual by Paul Tukey

Disclaimer!  I’ve just joined the wonderful book site, Goodreads (, and now have a huge backlog of garden books to review.  So I’ll be posting them periodically over the next few weeks.  Look for me on Goodreads if you’re a member too!

The Organic Lawn Care Manual, by Paul Tukey

My husband purchased “The Organic Lawn Care Manual” in 2008. Out of curiousity, I thumbed through it and found it highly compelling. Paul Tukey’s advice just makes good sense – for the earth and for ourselves. And it’s easy to follow. We immediately adopted the all organic routine, tested our soil and amended it based on the results, applied corn gluten for weed control, and even started making compost. Our lawn looks great, not in a 1950’s suburban perfect sort of way, but real and healthy. What’s more though – the book inspired me to start advocating for natural lawn and garden care practices. I  joined the Million Acre Challenge, and even did a speech on organic gardening at my local Toastmasters club. I’m not exaggerating by saying that this book inspired me to make many positive changes in my life and my community. If you care about the environment, it’s a must read!

Book review: Edible Estates by Fritz Haeg

I wish I’d read Fritz Haeg’s ‘Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, 2nd Revised Edition‘ before I planted my first vegetable garden. Then, I might have been brave enough to locate the garden on my front lawn (the only spot that gets full-day sun), instead of the less-ideal side yard. I was worried that a front yard garden might look too weird to the neighbors. Not any more! The essays, case studies and beautiful photographs have inspired me to begin planning a new vegetable garden smack in the center of my front yard. Not only will my new garden be beautiful and tasty, but it will also help build community in my suburban NJ neighborhood.

I highly recommend this book if:

* You’re considering a new vegetable garden or any front yard garden; and
* You’re already an experienced gardener

It’s not a a basic ‘how to garden’ primer, but there are plenty of other books on that topic.

Now, I’m in the ‘design’ phase. But I’m eagerly anticipating spring to break ground and start planting!