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Insects and Gardens: In Pursuit of a Garden Ecology

By Eric Grissell

Photographs by Carll Goodpasture

I give this book two antennae up!

American Gardener

Professional entomologist and amateur gardener Eric Grissell suggests that it might be time to declare a truce with the insects in our lives. With a sound basis in science and a practical grounding in gardening experience, Grissell introduces the reader to the role of insects in garden ecology. His insightful account of insect biology is supported by gorgeous photographs, which reveal a captivating beauty and illustrate the vital interdependence between insects and plants. Now available in paperback, this book will be loved by anyone seeking a greater appreciation and understanding of these often-maligned garden visitors.

Awards for this book: American Horticultural Society Book Award, Garden Writers Association Garden Globe Award, New York Times Editor's Choice - Best Books for Gardening
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Media reviews

"This is not a handbook on how to recognize and eliminate insect pests, but a thoughtful exploration of the vital role insects play in every garden ecosystem."

—Patt Kasa, National Gardener

"I had only to leaf through the pages to see the most extraordinary color photographs of insects I have ever seen."

—Russell Studebaker, Horticulture

"Although Grissell is an entomologist, he writes for the layperson ... with plenty of earthy humor."

—Dulcy Mahar, Oregonian

"Eric Grissell escorts us on a fascinating journey through the little recognized work of our garden's ecology. Through this down-to-earth text, and Carll Goodpasture's remarkable and well-captioned photographs, the world of insect biology and the role of insects in our garden's ecology emerge as a solid part of our daily gardening experience."

Pacific Horticulture

"Entertaining and enlightening. ... I highly recommend Insects and Gardens, which is a recipient of the American Horticultural Society's Book Award for 2002. ... Grissell's lifelong fascination with the insect world is contagious and the magnificent color photographs by Carll Goodpasture perfectly illustrate the author's concepts. ... I give this book two antennae up!"

—Kathryn Lund Johnson, American Gardener

"Grissell manages to navigate the reader through all the intricacies of the insect world while being completely entertaining ... There is so much information jammed into this book, along with fabulous photographs by Carll Goodpasture ... In fact, I can say without reservation that this should be required reading in school biology courses and for everyone who is remotely interested in the world around them."

—Susan Banks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"With a captivating blend of humor and candor, this research entomologist describes in detail the insect orders residing in our gardens and their habits. Goodpasture's fine photographs befit Grissell's effervescent treatise."

—Alice Joyce, Booklist

"I love this book. I love this book. I love this book. and by the way, I love this book. Eric Griselle ... has communicated his love of insects ... he believes they belong in the garden and the less we do toward interfering with them the healthier and better functioning our gardens will be."

—Caroline McCullagh, Let's Talk Plants

"Elegantly attempts to find the middle ground where humans and insects can co-exist ... Well worth the attention of serious gardeners."

Southeastern Naturalist

"Good source for insect information."

—Kathy Gilbert, Chattanooga Times Free Press

"Truly deserves its awards, and needs to be read by all broad–minded gardeners and — if possible — by strictly conventional growers."

—Carol Howe, Rockland Courier-Gazette

"In a word, fascinating! ... Wise, informative, very readable, and even funny."

—Marge Hols, St. Paul Pioneer Press

"Insects and Gardens explores the vital role that insects play in every garden's ecosystem ... Remarkable color photographs reveal the surprising beauty and vital energy that insects bring to the garden."

Seeds of Change

"This entomologist definitely knows his stuff."

—Deborah Mills, Ventura County Star

"After you read Eric Grissell's amazing, award-winning book, Insects and Gardens: In Pursuit of a Garden Ecology, your thinking about insects will forever be changed. That's a promise."

—Lynette Walther, Palatka Daily News

"The clear and light style of writing provides both basic and fascinating information. The handsome photographs are sharp and clear, and nicely complement the text ... This book informs, entertains, and gives insight into insect interaction, insect plant interaction and how this all ties in with diversity in the garden ecology."

—Barbara Joe Hoshizaki, Southern California Horticultural Society Newsletter

"This is a wonderfully engaging book written with wit and style."

—Natalie Walsh, Schenectady Daily Gazette

"The beautiful and detailed photography by Carll Goodpasture is a wonderful touch to an already educational and entertaining read."

—Alyssa Armentrout, Neil Sperry's Gardens

"It is obvious that the author both respects and admires insects of all kinds ... Insects and Gardens is well-written, thought-provoking and profusely illustrated ... [It] deserves to be read by anyone interested in gardens, insects or both."

—S. Rawlins, Botanical Artist

"Sensible and humane ... Readers will be entertained and informed by Grissell's effort ... Carll Goodpasture's photographs are the perfect complement to the text, presenting the insect world as we have never seen it."

—Janice E. Bowers, Quarterly Review of Biology

"Insects and Gardens is a thoughtful guide to creating a garden that works with nature."

—Cliff Fairweather, Audubon Naturalist News

"Never have I been more surprised to fall in love with a book ... This well-written book has done more to increase my joy in the garden than others I've read."

—Wendy Ely, Woodland Garden

"The photographs for this book are so spectacular that 34 of them are traveling throughout the USA in a Smithsonian Museum exhibit. If you can tear yourself away from the fascinating photographs, you will find that the well-written text is riveting. Buy this book. You'll love it."

—Susan Knorr, Fairchild Tropical Garden

"Grissell's book will help to generate a greater respect and appreciation for insects and possibly a new approach to gardening."

—Sharon Wootton, Everett Herald

"The author approaches his subject with humor and childlike fascination at the complexity and diversity of the insect world ... Highly recommended."

Ecology Action

"Share this with your children."

—Marty Figley, Michigan Observer and Eccentric

"This is an important book indeed, with the potential to become a classic ... It is a must-read for all who plunge a trowel into the earth, and care about the health and well-being of our natural world."

—Ethel Fried, Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer

"Bar none, this is the best garden book I have read that was published in 2001 ... I have never seen a book with such beautiful pictures of insects."

—Diana Pederson, Suite101.com

"Every gardener or anyone who has a garden can easily read and should read this book. I am sure much less pesticides will be used with the help of this book."

—Agah Uguz, Plant Science Bulletin

"This is a complex and fascinating book, a great winter companion to garden catalogs."

—Virgil Rupp, East Oregonian

"In an entertaining fashion, Grissell gently steers the reader toward a better understanding of the meshing of all facets of nature in a well-planned garden."

Off the Shelf

"Insects and Gardens is destined to become a classic of garden literature."

—Deborah Brown, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"The writer and the photographer have together joined the separate worlds of the visual and the written word and created a tour de force garden book. They have dedicated their book to Rachel Carson, whose book Silent Spring has achieved classic status. I suspect their book may achieve such acclaim also."

—Madeleine Wilde, Kirkland Courier

"With over one hundred extraordinary photos by Carll Goodpasture, this book is an enjoyable and informative read for any gardener."

Monarch Watch

"A fascinating little book."

—Valerie Sudol, Newark Star-Ledger

"Grissell writes in a remarkably clear, down-to-earth manner that is in turn educational and entertaining. The photos by Carll Goodpasture are so beautiful they could be framed and hung on the wall ... Here's a book that finally puts insects in their place: our gardens."

—Kym Pokorny, Oregonian

"Carll Goodpasture's fascinating photographs show readers the world ... from an insect's point of view."

—Rebecca Sawyer-Fay, Country Living Gardener

"As gardeners we may be surprised to discover the hidden wonders of the insect world when we invite them into our gardens. Phenomenal close-up photographs."

—Joanne S. Carpender, National Gardener

"It addresses an area that no one has really ventured into before. ... It's a highly readable book that ought to be read in every classroom."

American Gardener

"He makes us appreciate the value of insects and their significant place in the environment."

—John Van de Water, Newark Star-Ledger

"Insects and Gardens provides science readers with an excellent survey. Highly recommended."


"[This book] is an eloquent and fascinating look at a world most of us are not even aware of. Pair his prose with the extraordinary photographs ... and you have a book that is hard to put down. Not only is there no specialized jargon, but he adds a dash of humor to his text. His literary voice is strong and his message is clear."

—Susan Banks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"Engaging ... The accompanying close-ups of insects and other creatures and other photographs are beautifully composed and illustrate the text well ... Highly recommended for all gardening collections."

Library Journal

"Explaining the delicate balance of nature is next to impossible. Condensing it to book size is no less a feat."

—Mary Ann Fink, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"With droll humor and a friendly style, Grissell puts his subjects back in the garden (with the help of many intimate, colorful portraits) and invites us to come on in, get friendly and take the big view."

—Nancy Bauer, Gardens

"More than 100 images by photographer Carl Goodpasture work hand-in-hand with the text to share the beauty and energy that insects bring to the garden."

—Linda Coyner, Senior Women Web

"With the understandable text and awesome photographs, Insects and Gardens is an excellent reference book."

—Suanne Sikkema, Alaska Botonical Garden

"Spend a little time with Grissell and you'll find a whole new world right in your own backyard ... Th photographs by Goodpasture are stunning."

New Hampshire Union Leader

"Book Worth a Close Look"

—Glen Andresen, Portland Alliance

"I cannot think of any gardener who would not love and benefit from this book."

Hoosier Organic Gardener

"It is no coincidence that this book ... has won prestigious awards from both the Garden Writers Association and the American Horticultural Society."

—Liz Ball, Springfield Press

"The award-winning book by Eric Grissell with his remarkable sense of humor, together with award-winning fantabulous photography by Carll Goodpasture ... should change the way you think about insects, bugs, creepy crawlers or whatever. Or, at least get you to think about insects and how they relate as an essential part of a garden's structure."

—George Graine, Virginia Master Gardeners Association Report

"Read this book."

—Helen Chesnut, Victoria Times Colonist

"Offers much that good gardeners should ponder over."

—Mary Davies, Irish Garden

"Eric Grissell's book challenges our deeply ingrained intolerance of insects, especially in the garden ... Insects and Gardens is filled with stunning colour photographs, taken by Carll Goodpasture, that should make everyone (well, almost everyone) change their view from disgust to awe. Gardeners everywhere, especially native plant gardeners, would be wise to consider Grissell's message, for it is gardeners who are in the best position to be ambassadors for these maligned creatures."

—Gail McCormack, North American Native Plant Society Newsletter

"Every gardener or anyone who has a garden can easily read and should read this book."

—Agah Uguz, Plant Science Bulletin

"Page after page of fascinating information ... The author takes a complex subject and explains it in an authoritative, yet entertaining, way."

—Tim Morehouse, Cincinnati Enquirer

"Once in a very great while, art and science unite to produce a work that is one-third natural history, one-third philosophy, and one-third poetry. Think of Thoreau's 'Walden,' Rachel Carson's 'The Sea Around Us' and the canticle Beneddicite omnia opera Domini domino ... To this list I would add Insects and Gardens: In Pursuit of a Garden Ecology."

—Stuart Kellogg, Daily Press

"Upon reading it you will have a new appreciation for garden insects and their roles in the ecology of your yard."

—Don Davis, Lynchburg News and Advance

"Eric Grissell's charming sense of humor and engaging prose, and Carll Goodpasture's amazing photographs make this an excellent basic reference on insects of all ecologically minded gardeners. ... Most people, even gardeners, don't know the second thing about insects, and for that reason alone this book is to be highly recommended: it makes learning about insects a pleasure."

—Peter Bane, Permaculture Activist

"Seeks to explain the vital role insects play in every garden ecosystem."

—Amanda Solomon, Sussex Wildlife

"As a research entomologist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and an avid gardener, [Eric Grissell] certainly knows the subject. Even better, he has a gift for presenting scientific ideas in an engaging and understandable way."


"An impressive book, interestingly written and superbly illustrated."


"This is a must read for gardeners interested in learning more about the delicate balance between plants and insects."

Ontario Gardener

"Not only does he understand and appreciate the work of insects, he has a wild sense of humor. It's nice to chuckle when reading about insects. ... The many color photographs by Carll Goodpasture will change the attitude of the most determined insectophobe. They are stunning, showing insects as graceful, colorful creatures in beautiful settings."

—Cathie Draine, Rapid City Journal

"A fascinating book filled with useful information, Insects and Gardens is illustrated with over 100 exceptional color photographs by Carll Goodpasture that offer close-up views of a diversity of insects. A book that can be enjoyed from cover to cover, it also reads nicely as a pick up, put down, read again sort of volume."

—Judy Glattstein, Home Monthly

"For a long time, I've hoped to find more humor in American garden writing. Oddly, I've found it in a surprising place—a scientific book called Insects and Gardens ... The text is lively and closely linked to some superior close-up photographs of these curiously chic creatures."

—Pamela Lord, Gardener for the Prairies

"For gardeners who are realistic about acting as stewards of the world we live in, Insects and Gardens is an inspiration."

—Jean Starr, Northwest Indiana Times

About the author

Eric Grissell

Grissell — a member of the Garden Writers Association as well as a half dozen entomological and horticultural societies — has written three books on gardening, the latest of which encourages gardeners to take a broader and more benign look at their gardens and the insects in them.

Read more about Eric Grissell

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