Library Book Club – Join Us Monthly

Meetings are held on Mondays (generally the first Monday unless there’s a holiday) at 4:00 pm.

Come join us in the Patio Room at the Garden Center (10120 Lomas in Albuquerque between Wyoming and Eubank) to sample some great books.  No need to belong to a plant club or society although it is a great way to meet members of them.

We sell copies of all the books in the Garden Shop at 10% off list up until the night the book is read.  And, remember, as a non-profit, our books are sold tax-free.

Don’t have time to read the book?  No worries, just come join us for conversation and light snacks.  We begin each session with about 10 or 15 minutes of video related to the book so you can learn a bit from that as well as from the discussion.

Want to be on our mailing list?  Contact Margaret at gardencenterlibrary@gmail.com

What we’re reading next:



September 9:  What a Plant Knows, updated and expanded version, Daniel Chamovitz. 

This book is firmly grounded in biology – and you can become even more firmly grounded by taking the free Coursera course (coursera.org) taught by Professor Chamovitz.  The material is interestingly presented and a relatively easy read.  Did you know that all plants release ethylene (that is smelled by other parts of the plants and neighboring plants) to signal that it’s time for fruit to ripen and for leaves to die back?  Did you also know that kerosene releases ethylene and in Victorian England, with its kerosene lamps, it was almost impossible to keep a houseplant alive!  The book is filled with such nuggets as Chamovitz introduces us to what a plant sees, smells, tastes, feels, and hears.

October 7:  A Garlic Testament, Stanley Crawford. 

In Albuquerque, we plant garlic at Halloween so what better way to get in the spirit than by reading this book.  Crawford lives in Dixon, NM where he has been growing garlic for many years.  A novelist as well, this is a gentle exploration of life in a small New Mexican farming town.  And, if you happen to be in Taos or Santa Fe, I believe he and his wife sell at the Farmers’ Markets in both towns.  And, if you like to travel to unusual places in New Mexico like Dixon, they have a tower that they rent as a sort of B&B.

November 4:  The Triumph of Seeds, Thor Hanson.

I had the good fortune to hear Thor Hanson at the Native Plant Society Annual Conference in 2017.  He is a natural story teller and his book reads as easily as the words flow comfortably from his lips.  He begins with a story of trying to open a seed a bit larger than a walnut during his graduate school days that involved the unsuccessful dropping of one of those old, very heavy metal desks on the seed with the subsequent “stern rebuke” from a professor trying to teach in the room next door.  And who among us has not heard of the difficulty of opening a black walnut?  Come talk with us about baby plants in a box with their lunch and how they came to be.

December 2:  Potluck Party – not a book!  Just a fun get-together to talk about all things garden and book and maybe (no guarantees) watch a movie.  Details to come.

What we have read in the past:

August:  Gardening for a Lifetime

We met Monday afternoon to watch some short videos of Sydney Eddison’s garden and to discuss her book, Gardening for a Lifetime.  We were also joined by our Extension agent, Sara Moran-Duran, who will be presenting at an upcoming conference on aging.  She was interested in hearing our thoughts about why we garden, why we become Master Gardeners (for those who are since not all coming to the book club are), and how aging is affecting our own gardening.

Not everyone found the book compelling… perhaps we’re not old enough yet?  On the other hand, some people have intuitively found Sydney’s solution of shifting from perennials and annuals to shrubs and containers.  

As was the case with the previous book (Paradise Lot), there was some concern that the recommended plants are not necessarily well-suited to our climate.  Although, like many people in Albuquerque, Sydney is a great fan of day lilies and even has one named after her!  It is, of course, true that our climate is different from the east coast in general and Connecticut in particular BUT we do have many plants that we can use to create rich, profuse flower beds and when we’re ready to turn to simpler styles, we have many wonderful shrubs that are quite happy here.  In our Council Library, we have an entire section on gardening in the southwest, should you want some ideas.  The Council Garden Shop also carries a good selection of books for our area.

Sydney first turned to container gardening as a quick way to demonstrate garden color theory in classes.  Not only can you easily experiment with different color schemes, but she likes to repaint her patio table and chairs to match the containers.  Small changes can make big differences in the feel of your patio area.  And, yes, we do have books in the Library on color in the garden.  These, and all our books, can be checked out by members of one of the clubs or societies that make up the Garden Council.

July:  Paradise Lot

In July, we talked about Paradise Lot.  This is a true story of how two young men built a permaculture “food forest” with the hope of attracting the women of their dreams. They did.  The ten people who came to the discussion felt that the book was engagingly written and a more or less easy introduction to permaculture.  The biggest concern, as is often the case, is that ‘back East’ (specifically Holyoke, Massachusetts) is not ‘out West’ where we live.  

One participant succinctly summarized the book as “much” – much information on many interrelated topics.  He added that even though there is always the problem of the moist, acid soil back East versus our dry, alkaline soil out here in the West, the concepts and strategies are valuable for us.  Not the least of which is thinking and planning before buying and planting.  Did you know that in permaculture, the advice is to learn the patterns of light and shade, of moisture, of weeds and other existing greenery for a year?  I could never do that and, actually, the authors didn’t quite manage it either but it really is good advice.  Rather along the lines of ‘measure twice, cut once.’

So, is permaculture in our arid climate possible?  Of course. Here are some of the links that I either showed or that we talked about in class plus a few more, just because.

The Permaculture Institute is based in Santa Fe and grew out of the program developed by Bill Mollison (who wrote THE book on Permaculture).  We do have the book in the reference section in the Library if you’re interested in seeing this classic treatment of permaculture.  In fact, there is a class this fall, if you’re really serious about delving into this topic:  https://permaculture.org/courses/northern-new-mexico-pdc-2/.  And, of course, there’s lots more information if you decide to look around on their website.

The Permaculture Design Magazine (https://www.permaculturedesignmagazine.com/new-mexico) is a great resource also.  The home page on 16 July 2019 included a list of 11 permaculture and sustainability sites throughout New Mexico.  

One other resource is Ampersand up in Madrid:  https://ampersandproject.org.  

Finally, I showed a youtube video clip of author Eric Toensmeier – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=12&v=2-Ydyax42bw which I found initially by poking around on his website:  http://www.perennialsolutions.org.

In addition to a copy of Paradise Lot, the Council Library also has a book on Practical Permaculture.  Both these can be checked out, if you are a member of one of the clubs or societies that make up the Garden Council.

June:  The Hidden Life of Trees

We had the inaugural meeting of Reading @ the Garden Center:  the next best thing to gardening on the first Monday in June.  Thank you to everyone who came.  If you didn’t make it, no worries — just come to the next meeting.

We began with about 10 minutes of a youtube-posted interview with author Peter Wohlleben.  We went around the table for a brief statement of likes, dislikes and this and that so that all of our seventeen participants could have a chance to talk, if they wanted.  One woman shared a tip on planting trees:  toss in a handful of (pinto) beans – as they germinate, they fill any air pockets between the tree roots and the soil.  I’d guess that they might also provide some extra nitrogen and the beginnings of a mycorrhizal community.  Another woman had a photograph of an absolutely amazing tree – perhaps a linden? – “from back East”.  The little specks underneath the tree turned out to be people on closer inspection!

As you can tell from these anecdotes, the conversation was wide-ranging and quite interesting.  Several people openly confessed they hadn’t had time to read the book.  I’ve been insisting that you don’t have to read the book to come to the discussion and I’m glad people took me up and felt comfortable enough to say they hadn’t read the book but were enjoying the conversation.  

I’d mentioned in the publicity before the group met that the book has caused some consternation in the scientific world.  The same issues bothered people here.  Wohlleben engages in anthropomorphism to an uncomfortable degree… at least for some.  He defends his position on talk shows and in the book.  People in our group also fell on both sides of the issue with some thinking that trees are sentient beings and should be treated as such and others saying…  maybe not.