Category Archives: Book Reviews

Posts are about Horticulture and Plant book.

What is the “Omnivore’s Dilemma”

A Natural History of Four Meals


Michael Pollan

A Book review by Kenneth Wilson “The Gardening Whisperer”

Michael Pollan has written nine (9) books and 13 essays all having a theme about food. Mr. Pollan’s parents both are accomplished writers. The book is very polished and he tells his story as if he were talking to you over a dining room table.

Ken Wilson

Omnivore’s Delight is a story of four (4) ways our food might reach our dinner table. Within each food chain, he details how food moves from one stage to the next and the complex happenings at each move. He personally went through each of the four (4) food chains telling his story as the food moved along. One (1) the current industrial system, two (2) the big organic operations, three (3) the local self-sufficient farm and four (4) the hunter-gatherer. In each, he discusses the good, bad and the ugly of that system.

He tells how the governments’ involvement has added regulations that have increased the cost of the food but with subsidized different stages in the process to made it cheaper to produce. He shows that certain companies control how our food. He also tells how most people do not know or care about how what eat is processed or how it reaches our tables.

If you are interested in what you eat you might want to read this book. Mr. Pollan also points out that truly local food is better food to consume, while hunter-gatherer might be the very best it is very time consuming and is only seasonal.

In the back of the book is an extensive list of sources that he has gained his information. It is a must-read book to gain knowledge of our food chains and how it broken down to help large corporations within America.


Book Review “The Allergy Fighting Garden” by Thomas Leo Ogren

Book Review “The Allergy-Fighting Garden”

by Thomas Leo Ogren

The Allergy-Fighting Garden Reviewed by Kenneth Wilson “The Gardening Whisperer”.

This review is prepared to be on   This book was written by Thomas Leo Ogren, 2015 and edited by Lisa Regul of Ten Speed Press.

Thomas has a Masters Degree in Agricultural Science with an emphasis on plant flowering systems and their relationships to allergy. He is the creator of (OPALS) or the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale.  He has been a teacher, business owner, landscaper, has been on TV. He has written many books and articles about plants and allergies. His whole career has been given to helping those with allergies.

I have learned a lot in my many years in horticulture and thought I had figured out a lot of answers until I read Tom Ogren’s book about Allergies.  In the beginning, he lays out the dilemma about allergies he noticed that his wife’s asthma attacks happened when her allergies were at their worst and pollen was everywhere.  He then isolated the plants that were producing the major pollen problems and then started to design a yard without the male pollen spores and used female plants that would attract and hold the pollen so it did not blow about causing problems. He has written several books and has been seen on television on several programs. He established the (OPALS) scale or the (Ogren, Pollen, Allergy Scale), which rates from one (1) to ten (10) the severity of a plant to be an irritant that would cause allergies to humans. He uses several variables to determine this number.

He describes how pollen and allergy have been on the increase in the United States and how the practices of horticulturists have increased the number of pollen grains flying around. His explanation is that the drive to produce more male plants so as to reduce female plants so there is less trash to pick up under female trees. The increase of male trees which has added more pollen and fewer female trees to grab hold of the pollen has added immensely the amount of air-born pollen.  His explanation of how a plant is pollinated is excellent and he lists some of the major plants that are wind-pollinated.  He gives advice on establishing a plant screen to help reduce the amount of flying pollen.

At the end of the book, Tom has included in this book are one thousand plus plant and their (OPALS) number.  It contains all types of plants, trees, shrubs, grasses, annuals, and perennials this is very helpful in designing your allergy-free garden.  Unfortunately, there are many plants in the United States and this list is only a start.

It is an excellent book and must be read to think about what other horticulture practices are doing to unbalance the environment. These practices may also affect the pollination balance with native plants thus affecting bee problems.

Get yourself a copy of “T
he Allergy-Fighting Garden” by Thomas Leo Ogren and enlighten yourself.

©Ken Wilson Gardening Whisperer 2016

From Vines to Wines by Jeff Cox

From Vines to Wines

The complete From Vines to Wines by Jeff Cox

guide to Growing Grapes and making your own wine


Jeff Cox


From Vines to Wines by Jeff Cox Reviewed by Kenneth Wilson “The Gardening Whisperer”.

This review is prepared to be on  This book was edited by Julia Rubel and Nancy Ringer. This first book was written in 1989 then rewritten in 1999. Printed by Storey Books.  It is a copy written by Jeff Cox in1999.

“Jeff Cox…….

  • Jeff Cox is the author of 17 books on food, wine, and gardening.
  • He’s hosted two television series–Your Organic Garden on PBS and Grow It! on HGTV.
  • He’s been the restaurant reviewer for the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat since 1993.
  • He was the managing editor of Organic Gardening magazine through the decade of the 1970s.
  • He’s written a column for the San Francisco Chronicle and is contributing editor of Horticulture Magazine and The Wine News.
  • He writes frequently for Decanter, an English wine magazine.
  • He’s a member of the James Beard Foundation and the Association of Food Journalists.
  • He’s won many awards for his many endeavors.
  • Jeff has a degree in journalism from Lehigh University, has raised five kids, and lives with his wife Susanna in Kenwood, California. “

Written about Jeff Cox on his website Jeff Cox Publishing

This book is now in its 5th Edition Starts with the basics and works forward.

Since grapes were taken out of the trees and fermented to make wine man has tried to improve the process. This book starts at the beginning with definitions of growing and winemaking. The actual process has not changed over the years, it has become more of a challenge of the grapes the soil and the clement of a given region. What has changed are the different grapes that are used in many regions of the United States.

Continue reading

Book Review 100 Easy To Grow Native Plants

100 Easy To Grow Native Plants

For American Gardens In Temperate Zones


Lorraine Johnson

 100 Easy To Grow Native PlantsFor American Gardens in Temperate Zones. This book is reviewed by Kenneth Wilson “The Gardening Whisperer”.

This review is prepared to be on  Lorraine is a writer and gardener, she has written over 23 books mostly on gardening in the urban settings and other topics.  On her posts in ‘The City Farmer”;, she writes on gardening and topics that are important for a city garden. The book is published by; ‘A Firefly Books copyright© 2009.’

The title of this book wants to make you think that there are 100 plants for native gardening. Then in the introduction, she states that there are actually 101 plants on her lists.  After reading the book twice I came to the conclusion that if you add in all the related species and companion plants there are many more plants discussed here.  The short snippets are great for someone wanting to grow native plants.

I was naive to think I could pick up a book and have 100 native plants that I could grow in my back yard. Within America and Canada, there are volumes of plant possibilities each with its own growing climate.  In the back of the book, there are listed plants for specific conditions it is a quick reference as to what plants grow best in what areas.  There is also a list of native plant nurseries listed in each region.

I would recommend reading this book as a starter informational book on native plants; it does not go into great depth on any plant or climate. After looking up references on Larraine Johnson she has some great information on urban gardening. I am going to look up some of her other books.

©Ken Wilson Gardening Whisperer 2015

This entry was posted in Book Reviews and tagged Gardening Booksnative plants. on July 19, 2015, by Ken WilsonEdit

Book Review “Brining Nature Home” by Douglas W. Tallamy

Book Review “Bringing Nature Home”

by Douglas W. Tallamy

Bringing Nature Home

…How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens

By Douglas W. Tallamy

 Bringing Nature Home …How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, Douglas W. Tallamy, Timber Press, Portland, Or;  Copyright 2077;  272 pages. Reviewed by Kenneth Wilson “The Gardening Whisperer”.

This review is prepared to be on

“Doug Tallamy is currently professor and chair of the department of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, where he has taught insect taxonomy, behavioral ecology, and other subjects. Chief among his research goals is to better understand the many ways insects interact with plants and how such interactions determine the diversity of animal communities. He has also written a book with Rick Darke, “The Living Landscape”: It is about designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden.”  by Timber Press.

“Doug won the Silver Medal from the Garden Writer’s Association for his book, Bringing Nature Home.”

In the book “Bringing Nature Home” Mr. Tallamy builds the case that insects are the key to all other plant life in an ecosystem and that their mass diversity helps sustain the balance. As part of a food chain, these insects move biomass through the system, therefore, giving others something to eat and survive. He states that it is only native plants that these insects survive on and the removal of native plants and the replacement of alien plant forms disrupt this process. His hope is that more natives will be used in more home plantings which will restore the ecosystem, therefore, bring back more of the native species of animals that feed on these insects.

In the first part of the book, Tallamy gives several examples of plants and insects that are alien to the United States and how they have disrupted the balance in a given ecosystem. Tallamy also tells why and how insects cannot eat alien plants. If an alien plant has no checks by insects it will take over an area forcing out native plants.

Tallamy states that their chemicals in native plants that certain insects need to survive and they pass these chemicals along to other animals up the food chain. Passing these chemicals along with forms a food chain that keeps the ecosystem stable and healthy.

In the back portion of the book, Tallamy provides a list of insects and what plants they survive on. There are insects herbivores that eat plants and their insects that eat insects carnivores these keep those fast-growing insects in check. The back chapter has a list of native plants and how many species live on given known genera of plants consequently giving a good idea which plants will give the best diversity. Along with this Tallamy gives a helpful list of native plants to be grown in specific regions of the United States.

It is a must-read book if you love wildlife in your back yard. I feel that this is only the tip of the problem with diversity as when indigenous lands are stripped of their soils that are built up from ages of broken-down rubbish deposited from year’s plant debris.  When you remove the soil organisms that help native plants to survive it makes it difficult to reestablish some native plants.  Tallamy examples of restoring natives are from ten (10) acre plots in Delaware. It is much more difficult in the area of .25 acre lots where neighbors do not hold the same values for nature. The key to his whole theory is the diversity of insects living on native plants. One or two plants per small urban lots are not enough to change the ecosystem there must be large strips of native areas to keep the diversity alive and help the ecosystem.

©Ken Wilson Gardening Whisperer 2015

This entry was posted in Book Reviews and tagged Alien PlantsDiversityEcosystemsInsectsNativenative plants. on May 18, 2015, by Ken WilsonEdit