One way Portlanders express themselves is through their gardens. The Pacific Northwest is home to a stunning variety of plants -- wild and domestic, edible and ornamental.

We're even pushing the boundaries by growing things we never thought would survive here, let alone thrive -- like bananas, and other tropical plants. Multnomah County Library provides resources for growers of all levels and interests.

Two books on kitchen gardening caught my eye this year: 'Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook' by Jennifer R. Bartley is a stunning book, complete with garden plans, and information on integrating a vegetable garden into your landscape. It is a little more challenging than 'The Art of the Kitchen Garden' by Jan and Michael Gertley, which may be a little better for the beginner. However, both books are useful and are beautifully illustrated -- a true pleasure to read.

Vegetable gardeners should check out the gorgeous 'Gardening with Heirloom Seeds' by Lynn Coulter, offering plenty of information both practical and historical. Flowers and fruits are also discussed, and there is a section listing sources for seeds.

'Success with Organic Vegetables' and its companion, 'Success with Organic Fruit', both by Yvonne Cuthbertson, are packed with plans and specific growing information for the organic gardener. Lavishly illustrated, and non-intimidating in size, both are well worth reading.

Ciscoe Morris is a true Pacific Northwest gardening expert. 'Ask Ciscoe' answers 400 real questions gardeners ask about plants, trees, pests, and irrigation, among other things. It's also very readable, and should provide many evenings of pleasure when it's too dark to see the weeds!

'Rodale's Vegetable Garden Problem Solver', by Fern Marshall Bradley, is full of gardening advice for the organic gardener. It's more encyclopedic than Ciscoe's, which is more anecdotal; but it's full of valuable information for the serious organic gardener.

'The Way We Garden Now', by Katherine Whiteside, contains forty-one garden projects, ranging from preparing beds to trellising peas. Good for amateur as well as interesting for the experienced gardener, this is an inspiring book for all.

'Bird-by-Bird Gardening' by Sally Roth tells us how to attract certain birds to our gardens. Whereas it isn't specific to the Northwest, it certainly includes many familiar species. An added benefit is that you may be able to discourage unwanted species as well!

Tara Dillard's 'Garden Paths and Stepping Stones' is a truly lovely book, with inspiring photos and a tremendous variety of options, ranging from the simple to the laborious. Not just a pretty book, it has much detailed information on various aspects of creating the correct walkway for your needs.

Finally, after working so hard to grow beautiful and sometimes unusual vegetables, we need to know what to do with them! 'From the Cook's Garden', by Ellen Ecker Ogden of Vermont's Cook's Garden organic seed catalogue, has written a cookbook just for the cook who loves to garden. It even has a section for preserving and canning 'extra' produce. The woodcut illustrations by Mary Azarian make this book even more special.

All of these books and more are available at your nearest branch of the Multnomah County Library. If any of these aren't on the shelf, remember to ask at the reference desk for help in borrowing a copy.

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