Our mission is to share the wonders of the natural world by publishing books from experts in the fields of gardening, horticulture, and natural history. Grow with us.

Burdock, Japanese knotweed, and garlic mustard. Three plants that are invasive and edible.

Burdock, Japanese knotweed, and garlic mustard. Three plants that are invasive and edible.

Some plants are takeover artists. Often these are introduced, so-called alien species that spread so prolifically they can crowd out native plants. Some of them, such as mugwort, are allelopathic, meaning that they exude substances that can suppress the growth of other plants.

Non-native species get introduced into a region both intentionally and unintentionally. Some of the most aggressively invasive species, such as Japanese knotweed, were originally touted by the horticultural trade as attractive ornamental landscaping plants. They jumped the garden fence and took off on their own. Other species probably arrived here as seeds clinging to the clothes of colonists and immigrants.

When you harvest invasive species, you are not threatening that particular plant population (trust me, the mugwort will be just fine). More than that, you are giving slower-growing, non-invasive native plants a fighting chance.

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A camouflaged looper hides from its enemies by fastening petals of the blazing star (Liatris spicata) to its back with silk. This strategy has earned this caterpillar its common name and ensures that it will always perfectly resemble its background, no matter what flower it feeds on.

A camouflaged looper hides from its enemies by fastening petals of the blazing star (Liatris spicata) to its back with silk. This strategy has earned this caterpillar its common name and ensures that it will always perfectly resemble its background, no matter what flower it feeds on.

Chances are your garden is full of life that you have never seen. Don’t feel bad; there is an excellent reason these animals are difficult to see. Any animal that is easy to find quickly becomes a predator’s next meal.

A mother bird that must find thousands of caterpillars in just a few days to feed her young becomes very good at finding caterpillars. Over the eons, this has made caterpillars equally good at looking like their background, a condition known as crypsis. Insects that come to resemble a decayed section of leaf, a conifer needle, the bark they are resting on, and so forth are more difficult to locate than insects that contrast with their background. Often that’s all it takes to discourage a bird from searching for cryptic insects.

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This following series of images illustrates the transformation of a relatively sterile space off a north-facing bathroom window of our Pennsylvania home. Though a bathroom view may seem mundane, like the view from a kitchen window it is a small but significant element in our daily experiences—our “necessary journeys” to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Bringing life into these little landscapes can add immeasurably to the joy, the intrigue, and the functionality of the garden as inclusive habitat.

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Providing fragrance is a function of plants and gardens that is important to human sensibilities, and good design will make the most of this potential.

Providing fragrance is a function of plants and gardens that is important to human sensibilities, and good design will make the most of this potential. The sweet fragrance of strategically placed summer phlox (Phlox paniculata), a native of eastern United States, is readily accessible in this July image.

Though native plants are sometimes considered appropriate only for informal design styles, there’s no reason for this. Style, and formality or informality, have more to do with management than with plant selection.

Ferns are among the most adaptable and durable possibilities for the herbaceous layer. Though many are deciduous, a few including marginal shield fern (Dryopteris marginalis) and Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides) are fully evergreen. Two running species, hayscented fern (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) and New York fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis), can be used to create highly durable herbaceous layers at a large or a relatively small scale. Ferns come about as close to being immune to deer damage as any group of native plants in eastern North America.

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The richly layered Riska-Dunson garden in Delaware is brimming with life yet is highly functional and profoundly livable.

The richly layered Riska-Dunson garden in Delaware is brimming with life yet is highly functional and profoundly livable.

What brings life to a landscape? Gardening is unique among the arts because its primary materials are literally alive, but are gardens merely beautiful arrangements of living objects?

A growing awareness of a broad range of environmental relationships suggests the traditional object-oriented approach to garden-making is unable to guide us in the design and care of landscapes that are genuinely sustainable. Informed by ecological science and cultural studies, we have an opportunity to adopt new ethics outlining a modern recipe for inclusive habitat: ethics that embrace the changing dynamics of our world while recognizing the need to protect and conserve what is vital and irreplaceable.

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Lederer_Burr_3DCover 300Latin for Bird Lovers uncovers the secrets behind more than 3,00 scientific names, delves into bird behavior, and reveals the fascinating discoveries of ornithologists. Here we take a look inside with author Dr. Roger Lederer.

More after the jump. Click images to enlarge.

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The power of a good teacher: Roger Lederer began as a student most interested in fish but, he says, “I had a great ornithology instructor and learned that birds were fascinating to me.” That instructor inspired what became a life-long passion and career.

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Author of The Plant Lover’s Guide to Dahlias, Andy Vernon shows us the dahlias in bloom at his home in England and shares his love for these spectacular flowers.

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In the spirit of experiential learning, a few of us from the Timber Press office headed out to Trillium Lake for an afternoon of foraging and bird-watching. Beside proper rain gear, we brought along several copies of Must-See Birds of the Pacific Northwest and Pacific Northwest Foraging. Do you sense a theme? That’s right, fun!

More after the jump.

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Black huckleberries are among the most popular berries in the Northwest, traditionally picked by Native Americans in firemanaged settings in the high mountains and now quite popular with harvesters from all backgrounds.

Black huckleberries are among the most popular berries in the Northwest, traditionally picked by Native Americans in firemanaged settings in the high mountains. Image: Nancy and Robert Turner

Pacific Northwest Foraging author Douglas Deur outlines a year of foraging

Each year, the natural landscape and the plants within it go through cycles of awakening and dormancy that inevitably guide the food harvest. The exact timing of these cycles varies between elevations and latitudes, with most seasonal changes occurring later, and in more compressed timeframes, as one moves upslope or northward within the region. The timing of these cycles also changes along with our climate, so that winters are generally becoming shorter and spring arrives earlier than was the case a generation or two ago. Still, it is possible to outline general seasonal patterns that characterize the entire Northwestern region.

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Martha Stewart was in Portland recently and caught up with her former head gardener and Living gardening editor, Andrew Beckman. For those of you who don’t know Andrew, he is now associate publisher and editorial director at Timber Press, and while he’s more comfortable in his garden than in the spotlight, we can’t help but share a bit about her visit with him. Martha was kind enough to allow us to post some of her pictures here and you can read her post on The Martha Blog.

More after the jump.

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