Garden books have played a huge role in my life. In fact, one of the first books I ever read cover to cover was my Grandmother’s 1946 edition of the Wise New Garden Encyclopedia. I think I was about 12 when I read her dog-eared 1,348 page volume. I pored over its line drawings and black and white photographs, memorizing the details of topics such as air layering, seed starting, dividing, landscaping, and so much more. My Grandmother, who was a superb gardener, kept it on a shelf near the back door in case she ever had to refer to it while she was in the garden. Fool that I was, I even tried to do a book report on it for school, but I quickly discovered that my friends thought it was an odd choice for reading material. Lucky for me, I had an older brother that most kids were afraid of so I didn’t have to suffer any physical criticisms of my book selection.
Years later when I was 25 years old, I landed a job at Better Homes and Gardens and was immediately assigned to work on the new edition of the Complete Guide to Gardening. Because I was the newbie, I was told I was responsible for the charts in the book. Little did I know that there were 140 pages of charts and, in an era when we were still working on manual typewriters, I had to do every page by hand using a ruler and pencil. I labored over these charts, outlining all the details of every genus and species, for almost 5 months. But in the end, I was proud of the work I did and even prouder that the title remained in print for over 20 years.
Now, my life has come full circle. Better Homes and Gardens has a new book out called Gardening Made Easy. But, instead of me laboring over this volume, it was my wife Karen’s turn. She’s a garden freelancer and was hired by a different division of our company to edit and write this latest book in the Better Homes and Gardens gardening franchise. It’s a beautiful book and only available by mail order. I loved watching her labor over this project, but I was a bit jealous that she never once had to resort to a pencil and ruler.