BIG ANNIVERSARIES SEEM TO CALL FOR LISTS. After all, it’s not every day that a magazine passes the century mark, and compiling our own “top 100” seemed an appropriate way to celebrate. Just as important, it allows us to showcase some of the best aspects of American gardening. To keep the list manageable, we decided to group our choices into five calegories: classic gardening books; native perennials, shrubs, and trees; and horticultural organizations. (There will eventually be 20 choices in each category.)
Why these five? Books, because they’re both a repository of precious, hard-won knowledge and a mirror of our gardening passions and aspirations. Native perennials, shrubs, and trees because North America is home to some of the most outstanding ornamental plants on earth. And horticultural organizations because they connect gardeners with one another by providing a vital forum for the sharing of information and experience.
Here, and in our next four issues, we’ll present 20 items from the Horticulture 100. We hope that you’ll find things that will stimulate, challenge, and delight you. Above all, we hope it will remind you of how much there is to discover and treasure in our common gardening heritage.
1. Liberty Hyde Bailey, Standard Encyclopedia of Horticulture (Macmillan, 1914-17; 6 vols.; out of print) In this monumental work. Bailey, the preeminent American horticulturist of the early 20th century, aimed to ‘account for the plants horticulturally grown within its territory which are now the subjects of living interest or likely to be introduced, to discuss the best practices in the growing of the staple flower and fruit and vegetable crops, to depict the horticultural capabilities of the states and provinces, to indicate the literature of the field, and incidentally to portray briefly the lives of the former men and women who have attained to a large or a national reputation in horticultural pursuits.” That a gardener today can still glean much useful knowledge from these volumes, more than eight decades after their publication, is a measure of their success.
2. Claude A. Barr, Jewels of the Plains: Wildflowers of the Great Plains, Grasslands and Hills (University of Minnesota Press, 1983; out of print) It’s a delightful reminder of the diversity of American garden literature that one of its classics should have been written by a South Dakota cattle rancher, Barr, who also ran a nursery at his Prairie Gem Ranch, combined a deep love of prairie plants with a botanist’s knowledge and a warm, graceful prose style to produce this masterwork, which appeared just after his death at the age of 94. That the book has been allowed to go out of print is nothing short of a scandal.
3. Geoffrey Charlesworth, The Opinionated Gardener (David R. Godine, 1988; out of print) Take equal measures of dry, acerbic wit, sharp intelligence, consummate plantsmanship, and philosophical speculation, and you get the uniquely satisfying blend contained in The Opinionated Gardener, written by one of America’s most respected rock gardeners. Although there’s much here about alpine plants, there’s also much that is universal: “Being happy is dirt under your fingernails, wearing old clothes, having a good idea get better the longer you work at it, starting a new bed, giving plants away, and listening to rain.”
4. Thomas D. Church, Gardens Are for People: How to Plan for Outdoor Living (Reinhold, 1955; 3rd ed. University of California Press, 1995; in print) Although he was one of the most influential modernist landscape architects of the mid-20th century, Church refused to cloak his profession in a fog of professional mystification. “Landscaping,” he writes in this, his best-known book, “is not a complex and difficult art to be practiced only by high priests. It is logical, down-to-earth, and aimed at making your plot of ground produce exactly what you want and need from it.”
5. American Conifer Society (www.conifersociety.org) The ACS is dedicated to educating gardeners about and promoting the use of conifers, especially those that are dwarf or unusual. Membership includes a subscription to the Conifer Quarterly, admission to national and regional meetings, and participation in seed exchanges.
6. American Daffodil Society (www.daffodilusa.org) Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the American Daffodil Society aims to create broader interest in growing and hybridizing within the genus Narcissus. To that end, it publishes the Daffodil Journal, as well as a number of books, and maintains a daffodil data bank, which is updated annually.
7. American Dahlia Society (www.dahlia.org) Perhaps the greatest service the American Dahlia Society does for the gardening public is its trialing and recognition of new. undisseminated. gardenworthy dahlia cultivars. Its Web site is a clearinghouse of information on growing and judging dahlias, and of links to dahlia pages around the world.
8. American Fern Society (http://amerfernsoc.org) For over 100 years. the American Fern Society has been the center of exchange for fern information in the United States. In recognition of members’ varying levels of familiarity with ferns, the AFS offers two levels of membership, and publishes a journal for each-the Fiddlehead Forum (aimed at amateurs), and the American Fern Journal [for the scientific community]. It also maintains a collection of fresh spores from hundreds of fern species, to which members can gain access for a nominal fee.
9. Columbine · Aquilegia Canada columbine A. canadensis · yellow columbine A chrysantha · Colorado columbine A. coerulea · red columbine A. formosa · limestone columbine A. jonesil · A. longissima · A. saximontana · A. scopulorum
10. Aster blue wood aster A cordifolius · white wood aster A. divaricatus · heath aster A. ericoides · smooth aster A. laevis · New England aster A. novaeangliae · New York aster A. novi-belgil · aromatic aster A. oblongifolius · prairie aster A. turbineflus · flat-topped aster A. umbellatus
11. False indigo · Baptisia white wild indigo B. alba · B. albescens · blue false indigo B. australis · B. bracteata · B cinerea · B. minor · eucaiypt wild indigo B. perfolrata · yellow wild indigo B. sphaerocarpa
12. Lady’s slipper · Cypripedium pink lady’s slipper C. acaule · California lady’s slipper C. californicum · Kentucky lady’s slipper C. kentuckiense · small yellow lady’s slipper C. parviflorum · large yellow lady’s slipper C. pubescens · showy lady’s slipper C. reginae
13. Shadbush/serviceberry · Amelanchier downy serviceberry A. arborea · Saskatoon serviceberry A. alnifolia · Allegheny serviceberry A. laevis
14. Manzanita/bearberry · Arctostaphylos hoary manzanita A. canescens · hairy manzanita A. columbiana · Little Sur manzanita A. edmundsii · Hooker’s manzanita A. hooken · greenleaf manzarita A. patula · bearberry A. uva-ursi
15. Wild lilac · Ceonothus New Jersey tea C. americanus · C. fendleri · Point Reyes ceanothus C. gloriosus · Carmel creeper C. griseus var. horizontalis · C. hearstiorum · Santa Barbara ceanothus C. impressus · C. maritimus · squaw carpet C. prostratus · C. ngidus · blue blossom C. thyrsiflorus
16. Summersweet · Clethra cinnamon bark clethra C. acuminata · summersweet C. alnifolia
17. Fir · Abies silver fir A. amabilis · balsam fir A. batsamea · white fir A. concolor · Fraser fir A. fraseri · Rocky Mountain fir A. lasiocarpa · noble fir A. procera
18. Maple · Acer Oregon vine maple A. circinatum · moosewood maple A. pensylvanicum · red maple A. rubrum · sugar maple A. saccharum
19. Madrone · Arbutus Pacific madrone A. menziesii · Texas madrone A. texana
20. Birch · Betula sweet birch B. lenta · river birch B. nigra · water birch B. occidentalis · paper birch B. papyrifera · gray birch B. populifoliaH