Hammock reads

Some books in a gardener's library remain irresistible. These are a few of my dog-eared favorites. Robin Chotzinoff's "People with Dirty Hands" (1996) is full of real-life colorful characters I never tire of. During her travels throughout the country, Chotzinoff rubs elbows with "rose rustlers" who scour old cemeteries and abandoned homesteads looking for lost varieties of hardy roses. She meets a fellow who guarded, with the aid of his shotgun, a 6-plus-pound tomato in his garden, in the hopes it'd grow to prizewinning proportion. She introduces us to passionate formal and informal gardeners, city gardeners and country gardeners, some with book learning and others with family secrets.

In "Despicable Species" (1999), writer Janet Lembke describes the lives, lore and natural history of hornworms, sandspurs, kudzu, deerflies and other plants and animals we love to hate. Lively, poetic, historical and informative, this book appeals to the true nature lover (and hater).

Ever wondered why rain has a smell? If scarecrows really work? Or why people don't put oak syrup on their pancakes? You'll find the answers to these and other quirky questions in "Why Moths Hate Thomas Edison and Other Urgent Inquiries into the Odd Nature of Nature" (2001), the best of Outside magazine's The Wild File. A sequel, "Real Mosquitoes Don't Eat Meat" (2005), picks up the trail again.

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