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The perfect gift for the gardener: books about gardening from Prairie writers

I’ll admit, the Internet helps me extensively in what I do, especially with researching and writing about gardening.
A small selection of garden books by Prairie-based writers. Photo by Darren Hill

I’ll admit, the Internet helps me extensively in what I do, especially with researching and writing about gardening. But not everything about Prairie gardening is found on the net, so I haven’t entirely abandoned my books, especially the ones by Prairie authors. These people know first-hand what grows here and how to deal with the tricky conditions our climate imposes. The following are just a few of the recent Prairie authors I turn to (with apologies to the ones I have missed).

Sara Williams: I met Sara shortly after moving to Saskatchewan more than 20 years ago. At the time, she was already well known in gardening circles across the province having been the University of Saskatchewan horticultural extension specialist. Always generous with her time, she continues to give horticulture workshops, is a regular newspaper and magazine contributor, was founding editor of the Gardener for the Prairies magazine, leads international garden tours, was a recent inductee to the Saskatchewan Agricultural Hall of Fame and is an honorary Doctor of Laws recipient for her horticultural and humanitarian work. Sara’s recent books include Creating the Prairie Xeriscape: Low Maintenance, Water-efficient Gardening and Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo: A Photographic History. And with Hugh Skinner, Gardening, Naturally: A Chemical-free Handbook for the Prairies; Best Groundcovers and Vines for the Prairies; and Best Trees and Shrubs for the Prairies.

Hugh Skinner: Hugh Skinner literally has horticulture in his blood. His father, Dr. Frank Skinner, was an important early Prairie plant breeder who used hardy plants from Asia and northern Europe as starting materials. Some of his introductions have stood the test of time and are still available. Hugh inherited his father’s love of horticulture and continued the family nursery and then later developed an arboretum showcasing Frank’s many introductions. In addition to teaching and giving workshops, he has co-written several books with Sara Williams.

Lyndon Penner: Since I’ve known Lyndon, he has followed his enthusiasm for gardening with a single mindedness that is rare. To all accounts, he has always had a garden, he worked at garden centres in Saskatoon, is a sought-after speaker at garden shows, gives workshops (e.g. U of S Master Gardener program), has travelled extensively to gain inspiration, is a horticulture consultant, regularly blogs at, belongs to the Twittersphere and can be heard regularly on CBC in season. He has added two recent books to his accomplishments: The Prairie Short Season Yard: Quick and Beautiful on the Canadian Prairies and Garden Design for the Short Season Yard: Everything you Need to Know for the Chinook and Canadian Prairie Zones.

Jim Hole: For years, it was Jim’s mother, Lois, who was the prairie queen of horticulture. She was a frequent presenter at garden shows despite being active in the business, community and politics. From her base at Hole’s Greenhouses and Gardens in St. Albert, Alta., she penned 10 books starting with Vegetable Favourites in 1993 and then co-authored a further five books with Jim. After her death in 2005, Jim has continued the tradition with recent books including: Canadian Vegetable Gardening Favourites: A Rich Vegetable Harvest; Bulbs, What Grows here? Indoors, What Grows Here? Problems; and Hole’s Dictionary of Hardy Perennials.

Other Prairie garden authors include June Flanagan (Edible Plants for Prairie Gardens: The Best Fruits, Vegetable and Herbs; Native Plants for Prairie Gardens), Donna Balzer (The Prairie Rock Garden; No Guff Vegetable Gardening [with Steven Biggs]) and Liesbeth Leatherbarrow and Lesley Reynolds (101 Best Plants for the Prairies; Perfect Partners: Beautiful Plant Combinations for Prairie Gardens; Best Bulbs for the Prairies).

Gardening books make a great Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanza/Any-occasion gift for the gardener in your life. All above titles should be available through your local bookseller.

— This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (;; NEW Check out our Bulletin Board or Calendar for upcoming garden information sessions, workshops and tours.

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