Q: With all this recent hail and weeding, I need a break from my taking care of my garden! Any summer reading suggestions?

A: This is the time of year gardeners get a break in the necessary and time-consuming tasks a garden demands. We can even sit back and relax. It gives us an opportunity to enjoy the wide range of the garden books available to spur our passion. Here’s a few books that might interest you.

durableplants.jpgWith all our rain, this has been a decent garden season, but if your plants are not living up to your expectations you might check out Durable Plants for the Garden a Plant Select™ Guide edited by James E. Henrich published in 2009 by Fulcrum press in Golden, Colorado. This book is the definitive guide for Colorado gardeners. Most of the plants in this book can successfully be grown in our area.

Plant Select™ is a program supported by Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens, and Green Industries of Colorado. The program recommends outstanding perennials and woody plants for our area. The book is divided into well organized sections that make it easy to find what you’re looking for. Or if you’re not looking for anything specific, it will give you a tantalizing vision of the variety of plants that grow well in Colorado.

Each section has a clear explanation of the plant, beginning with its botanical and common names. What’s most helpful is the complete presentation of plant characteristics, culture, form, best features, and landscape use. This is a good read anytime and will be an important addition to your permanent reference collection. And you’re sure to find at least one plant you’ll want to add to your garden.

highaltitudegardening.JPGIf you’re looking for gardening eye candy, the lush photographs in High Altitude Western Gardening by Marilyn Quinn with photographs by Mary Gerty is sure to please and entertain. Published in 2007 by Gibbs Smith, the book covers Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and New Mexico. We often think our climate, with its thin soil and erratic weather, presents us with limitations in gardening. But these photographs prove there’s a vast range of gardening possibilities available to us.

The text is well written and filled with information about private and botanical gardens fairly close to us. Most of the gardens are over 6,000 feet, so Denver Botanic Gardens at 5280 is almost considered low lying in comparison to the botanic garden in Cheyenne, Wyoming at 6800 feet.

completecompostingguide.jpgWe are all aware of the trend towards doing things organically. What could be more organic than composting? The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin is considered the leading composting manual by none other than the editors of ‘Mother Earth News.’ Published by Storey Publishing in 2007, this comprehensive book will be helpful to even seasoned composers.

It’s written in lively easy to read language with many excellent photographs. These writers are out to prove that composting is serious business with many benefits. Though the business may be serious, the writers are anything but. I found myself laughing out loud at their anecdote about driving with a load of goat manure in a closed vehicle. The illustrations are excellent and thorough. Instructions on making compost tea are one example. And, the unique Winged Compost Aerating Tool would be confusing if not for the clear demonstration on how it works. I was surprised at all the information in the section — the ’12 Rules of Raking.’

Even if you have never thought of composting you may enjoy this witty how-to, why-to manual. And, who knows, it could lead to something.

ourlifeingardening.jpgLastly, every gardener should spend some time with other gardeners who know how to write about ‘gardening for the soul.’ Our Life in Gardens is just such a book. Written by Joe Eck and Wayne Witerrowd and published in 2009 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, these well known authorities on gardening have written a beautiful memoir.

This is a book filled with stories of plants and design from two people who share their immense knowledge of gardening. It gives a deeply satisfying perspective on gardening and life.

Contributed by Eileen Tully, Colorado Master Gardener. Photo courtesy of Colorado State University Extension. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 636.8921 or CSUmg2@elpasoco.com. Access fact sheets and seasonal information on the El Paso County Horticulture website http://elpasoco.colostate.edu/horticulture/.