Archive for Book Reviews

Cholorphyll In His Veins: J.C. Raulston, Horticultural Ambassador

Bobby Ward’s new book Chlorophyll in His Veins, J.C. Raulston, Horticultural Ambassador has been released.

Here’s is what is being said about Bobby’s latest book.


John Grimshaw Garden Diary book review

Finally, the inspirational story of this century’s most important horticulturist can be told.  Bobby Ward’s well-researched chronological biography weaves J. C.’s life-long diary entries with outside perspectives in detailing J. C.’s lifelong passion for learning about plants, his desire to share with others, and the against-all-odds stories that shaped his life.  Even those who knew J. C. for decades will be surprised to learn the “rest of the story” of the man who shaped so many gardening lives . . . a truly fascinating read.

–Tony Avent, Raleigh, North Carolina, Plant Delights Nursery, author of So You Want to Start a Nursery

Countless gardeners and nursery owners benefited from J. C. Raulston’s extensive travels in his search for new and worthy plants.  Two rare mahonias in my own garden, Mahonia chochoca and M. lanceolata, testify to his generosity.  This book is a celebration of the life and accomplishments of one of the most-loved personalities the gardening world has known.

–Pamela Harper, Seaford, Virginia, author of Time-Tested Plants

Still to this day, after so many years passed, hardly a day passes without being reminded of J. C.  There will be a plant encountered in the garden that he gave me, or mention of a book or film or something in the kitchen that brings him back briefly, fondly remembered.

Though, like many others, I felt I knew J. C. as a friend and mentor while accepting the complex texture of his personality, Bobby Ward’s biography on this giant of American horticulture makes me realize, in truth, how little I knew of his life.  He has written a highly readable and intimate biography that ensures the legacy of this man will continue unchecked into the future.  As we owe J. C. Raulston an enormous debt of gratitude for what he proffered the horticultural community of North America, a certain ration of thanks should also be reserved for Bobby Ward for guiding this project through to a befitting conclusion.

–Daniel J. Hinkley, Indianola, Washington, plantsman and author of The Explorer’s Garden: Shrubs and Vines

J. C. Raulston, a professor of horticulture at North Carolina State University and founder of the arboretum now named in his memory, was arguably the most important and influential figure on the American gardening scene during the last half of the twentieth century. The number of uncommon but highly desirable plants for both the residential and the commercial landscape is unmatched. It is everyone’s good fortune that in Bobby Ward’s biographical assessment of his life and works Raulston’s significance is assayed with both wit and accuracy. Readers who are familiar with the academic scene and its often petty politics will be fascinated by this book’s treatment of the history of Raulston’s arboretum.

–Allen Lacy, Linwood, New Jersery, author of The Gardener’s Eye

In all pursuits, there are those individuals who excel beyond reason, who set the standard so high we ultimately deify them: in North American horticulture, names like Meehan, Sargent, Bailey, Wilson, Wyman, Creech, Dirr, and Raulston. For those of us who knew J. C. Raulston–the countless students, his colleagues or dear friends–this book begins to connect the dots, making the person we know as J. C. more real, more human, and even more inspiring.

–Richard T. Olsen, Washington, D.C.,  United States National Arboretum

The late great J. C. Raulston was a man for all seasons in and out of the garden. His prodigious energy for work, travel, books, students, and friends was legendary, and with this biography those who knew him—and those who didn’t—will be awed by the way an Oklahoma farm boy overcame many obstacles, including his own self-doubts, to become what The New York Times called ‘a generous-spirited giant among horticulturists’. He was troubled, like all people of great talent, living in a troubled world.  But his motto, ‘Plan and plant for a better world’, was a serious, lifelong effort to leave the world better than he found it.  He was a North Carolina treasure, whose legacy is the NCSU Arboretum in Raleigh.  And his legacy is also legions of friends, among them, new readers like myself.

–Emily Herring Wilson, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, author of

No One Gardens Alone: A Life of Elizabeth Lawrence

Contact Bobby today to purchase your copy Chlorophyl in His Veins, J.C Raulston, Horticultural Ambassador

When you have finished reading Bobby’s book, please e-mail me your comments to and I will add your comments with the others.

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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Chlorophyll in His Veins: J.C. Raulston – Horticultural Ambassador

Chlorophyll in His Veins

Bobby J. Ward

Author Bobby J. Ward

The timing for the release of Bobby Ward’s new book Chlorophyll  in His Veins, J.C. Raulston, Horticultural Ambassador, could not be better.  With a recent visit of more than 500 garden writers visiting the JC Raulston Arboretum at NC State University in Raleigh, North Carolina, there was no doubt many who did not know this man, yet most left wanting to know more.

Likewise, each year, thousands of visitors come the to JC Raulston Arboretum with many others wanting to know more.  Now we have a resource available to learn about the man who changed the face of our landscapes.

My copy is waiting for to me.  I cannot wait to begin to see how this one man, albeit smart, generous, kind and engaging, could have changed the way homeowners garden.  Bobby will tell us all about it.

From Bobby Ward’s, book jacket – J. C. Raulston was the most important and influential figure in American horticulture in the latter part of the twentieth century. His passion for promoting new plants for landscapes was unmatched. As a teacher at Texas A&M and at North Carolina State University, he gave generously of his time to students, profoundly influencing their lives, altering career paths and personal directions. He saw potential in both plants and students. Against many obstacles, he succeeded in establishing the North Carolina State University Arboretum that now bears his name. Chlorophyll in His Veins is an intimate biography, celebrating the life and accomplishments of one of the most-loved gardening personalities.

I have the honor of sitting of the Board of Advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum.  Equally as important in my life is serving as the volunteer Leader (formally known as curator) of the Winter Garden along with other members of the Raleigh Garden Club and the Butterfly Garden along with horticultural youths; a group of young girls who already know in their early teens, they want to persue a degree in horticulture.

Full disclosure:  Bobby Ward is a dear friend and I’m a big fan of his writing.  I have looked forward to the release of J.C.’s book since I learned he was writing it.

Helen Yoest is a garden writer and coach through her business Gardening with Confidence™

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenYoest and her facebook friend’s page, Helen Yoest or Gardening With Confidence™ Face Book Fan Page.

Helen also serves on the board of advisors for the JC Raulston Arboretum

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Triangle Gardener launched!


New Gardening Publication Launches in the Triangle

Raleigh, NC Starting in April, Triangle gardeners will have something new to read.

Triangle Gardener™, a local guide to enjoyable gardening, is a free bi-monthly newspaper that will be available in the Triangle region starting with the April/May issue.

The inaugural issue features gardening stories specific to the Triangle growing season and climate. Among the topics in the April/May issue are stories on rain gardens, vegetable gardening, invasive plants, roses, fire ants, and a top 10 list of plants for this year’s garden. Each issue also features news from the gardening community, a two-month calendar of garden events and tours, and a garden maintenance calendar.

The stories are written by gardening professionals, county extension agents, horticulturists, and others who are experts on gardening in the Triangle.

The publication will be available free of charge at local garden centers, garden specialty stores, arboretum/botanical gardens, bookstores, coffee shops, and more throughout the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area and surrounding communities. A complete list of distribution spots will be available on

The publisher and editor of Triangle Gardener is Beverly Hurley, a Triangle resident who has a background in garden scouting and writing, marketing and public relations. She started Triangle Gardener as a way to bring the variety of gardening information available at multiple sources into one resource publication that gardeners can keep and refer to throughout the gardening season.

She is also a member of the Garden Writers Association, which will hold its 2009 convention in Raleigh this September.

To kick off the first issue, Triangle Gardener is a sponsor of the upcoming Southern Ideal Home Show, April 3-5, at the State Fairgrounds. Show attendees can stop by the Triangle Gardener booth in Dorton Arena, pick up a copy of the free newspaper and ask gardening questions of volunteers from various Triangle area plant societies, along with experts from the JC Raulston Arboretum, North Carolina Botanical Garden, and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

For more information on this new publication, contact 919-926-7501.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Beverly Hurley at 919-926-7501 (office) or 913-461-3066 (cell) for questions or images.

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Book Review – Planthropology by Ken Druse


If you like to read about myths, mysteries, and miracles in the gardening world, this book is for you.  It was enchanting to read Ken Druse’s latest book, Planthropology.

As a Christmas gift, the timing was perfect offering an excuse to escape for a good read.  This was just the read I needed.

The book’s contents were in four organized parts:  Discovery, Attractions, Elegant Design, and Growing Forward.  The amazing photos were organized to enrich each part and each chapter within it’s respective part.  Ken gives gracious nods to those who have influenced his learning process and discovery which made the read even more enchanting.

As I’m reading and gushing over the photos, it strikes me that there are alien looking plant such as a Banksia that capitivated his heart, as well as, old fashioned ones, like  the thornless, climbing, double-butter-yellow-flowered Land Banks rose.  And speaking of Banks, who knew?  The story of Joseph Banks with Captain James Cook in 1768 was fascinating.  Ken offers wondrous, adventurous looks in the life of plants and those who love them.

I’ve already found myself reaching for the book again to recall a date, an adventure, or just rereading a paragraph presenting a description well worth repeating.  A wonderful book for any garden lover.

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Rhapsody in Green, Edited by Roy Dicks to be released in March, 2009


Roy C. DicksRoy C. Dicks.

Rhapsody in Green  – The Garden Wit and Wisdom of Beverley Nichols, edited by North Carolina’s native son, Roy C. Dicks, published by Timber Press, will be released in March, 2009.  I’m very excited about getting my hands on a copy.  I anticipate this release because I’m a fan of both Beverley Nichols and of Roy Dicks.  Roy is charming and organized!  The charm plays in when Roy reads from Nichols’ work; the organization plays in when pulling together the best of a man (Nichols) who wrote with an abundance of wit and wisdom.

Roy’s passion for Beverley Nichols began simply enough with a recommendation from J.C. Raulston.  After reading the first of Nichols books, Roy was hooked and has since collected all 60.

Recently at a JC Raulston Arboretum Friends Lecture, Roy read from his Rhapsody in Green manuscript.   Couple Roy’s passion for the subject with his experience on stage, and you can imagine the delivery was enchanting and engaging.   

To learn more, please visit Rhapsody in Green

Helen Yoest

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Friday October 31, 2008 Passalong Plants Book Review

Helen with Allan Armitage with Felder peeking over Allan's shoulder

Helen Yoest with Allan Armitage and Felder peeking over Allan's Shoulder

I’ve had Passalong Plants by Steve Bender and Felder Rushing in my garden library for a long time.  The book was first published in 1993. I recommend it often.  I’ve spent some time with Steve and I’ve met Felder.  Actually, Felder bought me a drink while in Portland to help me celebrate another successful Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour.

Both Steve and Felder have a fun and funky sense of humor…Felder’s humor is deeply rooted in the south; Steve’s got here just in time. 

When in a funk, I’m likely to pick up the book and just thumb through for a laugh.  Or, I’ll think of a personal favorite and see if it’s listed as one of their favs as well.  Reading their personal history with the plant always makes me smile.

Their writing style is similar.  They may not agree with this summation, but I often have to check the margin to remind myself who’s doing the writing.  The margin simply has either an SB or a FR to indicate the credit. 

I also found it interesting when talking with Steve about the collaboration of this book.  If I’m not mistaken, they only met once to discuss the book.  The rest was over the phone – Internet wasn’t prevalent at the time.  When speaking with Steve and Felder, it hit me how they can write similar thoughts, but verbally they couldn’t be more different.  Steve is short and sweet – no word is wasted.  Felder likes to spin a tale even when it’s just discussing the time of day. 

If you ask Steve for the time, he will tell you, “2:00,” leaving the asker to decide if it’s AM or PM.  For Felder, it would go something like this, “If you look to the western sky, you will see that it’s past noon and if you take into account day light savings time, the fact that I just ate mah dinner, and I’m feelin nappish, I would put it somewhere between 1:50 and 2:10.  This reminds me of the time when….. ”

It belongs in every southern gardener’s garden library, if not for the reference, than for the personalities the book offers.  Keep passing them along!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008 Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways Book Review

Prior to going to Portland, Oregon and meeting writer and stylist Debra Prinzing and photographer William Wright, I read their book, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways.


It was a gift from my friend James Baggett, Editor of Country Gardens Magazine.  He knew I liked garden books in general, but James also knew I like places to go in the garden – destinations such as seating areas, potting benches, gazebos, porches, sheds, hideaways. 


With the tempting title waiting, I poured a fresh cup of coffee, with just the right amount of cream, and began to read.  Inspiration sprung, fantasy flourished.  It was a great way to spend a morning.


For a very long time now, I’ve wanted to add a greenhouse, but not just any greenhouse.  I always fancied it would have a certain look; a place where I could put not only plants, but a single chair and small table so I could go there to take my afternoon tea.


The location of the greenhouse, I thought, would have to be relegated to the “service” area of my garden – next to the shed.  My shed is strictly utilitarian.  We don’t have a garage to store bikes, garden tools, the mower, and other objects necessary to function as an all American family.  I always assumed the greenhouse would go right next to the shed.  Currently, there is a table there and I refer to this area as the holding area. Calling it a nursery, would be too important of a word for the purpose.  This place holds plants until I have a place to put them. 


I’ve wanted a greenhouse to hold over tender plants – but I really wanted it as place for an escape. The idea of having a place of my own in the garden, protected from elements was the dream. Using it to hold over tender plants was the justification.


I just couldn’t get excited about the space though.  It wasn’t enough to have a place to go.  I needed it to be in a place I wanted to go.  I was looking for a destination, one that wasn’t closed off.   I also couldn’t see the garden from the service area.  And that is exactly what that space would have done. 


After reading Debra’s book, I had an epiphany.  If the building is beautiful and well sited, then I could move it out of the service area and make it a part of the garden.  Once I realized this, I began to take the steps to make this dream a reality.


I found my perfect greenhouse.  It’s offered by Smith and Hawkin.  I give monthly seminars there, so I’m familiar with their products.  I love the look and after looking around for a long time, I knew I would know it when I saw it.  The Smith and Hawkin’s greenhouse meets not only my need for aesthetics, but for function as well.


Debra and William’s book touches nicely on the spaces featured including bits of information about the owners and how they made their space personal.  Each featured space has a chart to show the process the owners went through to create their space including the mission, must-haves, inspiration, design challenges, creative solutions.


For kicks and grins, I thought I would write my design statement.  Put it on paper, so I could visualize it, make it real, make it my own.





To have a place of my own for afternoon tea.  To be surrounded by plants and my garden. And if it took an extra 10 minutes for someone to find me, that would be an added bonus!


Rustic, casual, garden-y, relaxed, enchanted, welcoming.


To help soften the play set, I have plantings surrounding this massive wood structure.  I’ll move some of these plants to other areas  of the garden to make room for the greenhouse.



Benches to hold plants, a chandelier, chair, table, stone floor, and stacks of my favorite garden magazines.


The area where I want to put the greenhouse holds my children’s play set.  They still have a couple of years until they will outgrow this space.  And then I promised we would convert the play set into a chicken coop.


Ask for this as a Christmas present, plus the help from my husband to install it – without compliant…might have to tack on a birthday as well – maybe two.



The styling and photography are phenomenal.  As a stylist, I can see all the attention to detail that happened to make these photographs what they are.  And William caught the light just right. Well done!



All photo credits William Wright

Please find Debra Prinzing at and/or “Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways” at

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Sunday October 19, 2008 Tropicalismo! Book Review

Just out is Pam Baggett’s first book Tropicalismo!  Reading it while only 15 degrees from our first frost made it all the more poignant.  Already, I’m planning to add more tropicals to my beds.  I do that – but usually in January.  No doubt I will revisit Pam’s book again in January when I need to figure out where to get some of these plants.  And then I need to figure out where to actually put them.  Is that the way it works or is it the other way around?  I keep forgetting what comes first, get the plant for the place or find a place for the plant!  In either case, Pam’s book convinced me I need more.

It reads like a chunky catalog of tropical plants, but unfortunately there is no number to call to place the order.  Still, it convinced me to make the effort to find them.

Here’s a few of the nifty bits about the book I liked.

  • The obvious, which is Pam’s gift for description.  This should not be overlooked.  This would be hard to do since she leads each entry with a well thoughtout, artful description.
  • Each spread is the same.  The even numbered page has the description.  The odd numbered page has a drop dead gorgeous photo.
  • I like the listing of the way each plant is pronounced.  I’m challenged in this area enough.  Seeing a pronunciation guide is the next best thing to pushing a button and hearing how it sounds.
  • The care needs are easy to read, follow and understand.  You got to love graphics to tell the story.
  • I also like the size of the book…17″ wide by 15″ high.  Weird way to measure success, but somehow it works for me.  The book has to be comfortable to hold and it is!
  • But best of all for my design conscious sensibilities is that it is color coded!  If you are looking for just the right chocolate color to add to your garden, just flip through until you find a chocolate margin on the even pages (left side).

If I could change one thing, it would be to group all similar colors together.  But then that would throw off the alphabetical-ness of the book.  I can only imagine the discussions at Timber Press deciding what would be more important to the reader, color order or  alphabet order.  The alphabet won.  Having this book in my garden book library makes me a winner too.

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August 17, 2008 The $64.00 Tomato

The $64 Dollar Tomato


On my summer read list was The $64 Dollar Tomato by William Alexander.  It was a pretty funny book; it would have been hilarious if it weren’t so true. Still a good read, even if it did give reason to pause. 


There were a lot of parallels in his gardening journey to mine.  We are about the same age, educational level, technical level, and determination.  My horticulture path was different, he went for food and I went for flowers.  But the pain and joy levels were very similar.   I could write the sequel, the $55 Phlox or even The Free Nightly Nosh Bar.  So far my back is holding out, but it is only a matter of time before, like William Alexander, I will have to evaluate what I can continue to do.  But right now, nothing less than all is on my radar screen.


I have finally given up on growing Rudbeckia spp. (Black-eyed Susan’s), in the ground at least.  They seem to be a particular favorite to the ever increasing bunny population I’ve got going on.  I now have a couple containers with BES in them.  We’ll see how that works.  They should be good container flowers, although I have never grown them this way.  Hope it works, because I think it will be the only way to enjoy them. The bunnies also like Echinacea spp. particularly purple coneflowers and those sweet double pink ones.  They don’t seem as enthralled with the new fangled colors, orange, sunset, yellow, etc.  Planting a purple coneflower in my garden is just more money down the snake hole…hmmm, I wonder do snakes eat bunnies?  I guess it will need to be a pretty big snake (or small bunny.)  No doubt my bunnies are too big ‘cept for maybe a boa constrictor.  However, if my neighbors would balk at us getting chickens, I can only imagine the reaction of having a jumbo snake in the hood.


We have been blessed with fall-like weather for the last week to 10 days.  When the humidity lowers, like it does in the fall, I’m it at my happiest.  Gardening is never better.  Perhaps risky, but this is why I choose to have the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days tour, also benefiting the JCRA in the fall because I wanted to show our gardening community that the gardening season does not end after summer – or worse – after spring.  Fall gardening in the Carolinas is one of the best seasons for gardening. 


Steve Bender with Southern Living magazine will be in Raleigh this fall to see what we have going on in our neck of the woods.  It will be my pleasure to take him around to see gardens, garden centers, the farmers market, the JCRA, and more.  My goal is for him to leave with an understanding that we as a gardening community that gardens year-round…especially in the fall.


Helen Yoest (Philbrook)

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