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Planning is now for the garden of your dreams
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Now that the holidays are almost over, it is a good time to read some gardening books to help you with those spring garden dreams. If you are like me, I am always looking at different spots in my yard and leafing through garden magazines for new plants and garden ideas to plan for in the warmer months ahead.

I would like to share some of the great gardening books I have found, and a magazine or two that can get you started on that planting project ahead.

One of my favorite gardening books is "The Southern Living Garden Book." It is written and researched by Southerners for Southerners. It contains beautiful colored photos of more than 7,000 plants and is packed with the latest practical information for both the experienced and novice gardener. Spend some time by the fire and soak up a wealth of information and ideas about your favorite plants and find some new ones that you might want to plant in your own garden.

Walter Reeves has several great books for the Southern garden. If you enjoy a little humor with your insight, you will love his books. One of my favorites is "Month by Month Gardening in Georgia." It is easily divided into a month-by-month explanation of what should be done with your plants, trees, lawns etc. Reeves also has several other books called the "Georgia Gardener Q&A," and a series of books titled "The 50 Great Flowers, Trees, or Shrubs of Georgia." I have often picked these up for an easy reference and great gardening ideas.

Another favorite is "Landscape Plants of the Southeast" written by R. Gordon Halfacre. This book divides plants, vines, groundcovers and trees by their size and height and lets the gardener know whether a particular type of plant will work in their garden plan based on its size requirements. This book also lets you know which plants are evergreen or deciduous (leaf dropping).

I like visual books on gardening. If you like to see colorful pictures and want to know what type of plant works best in sun or shade, then read the Time Life Book, "Pick the Right Plant". This is a sun and shade guide to successful plant selection. This book will help the reader achieve garden success through the "seven" principles of plant selection - light, type of plant, hardiness, height, soil and moisture, care and interest.

One of the best diagnostic books that I have on my desk at all times is the "Ortho Home Gardeners Problem Solver" book. This book contains symptoms and solutions that will help you research and diagnose problems for more than 1,500 garden pests and plant ailments. If you are into organic solutions to insect, disease and weed control, try reading Rodale's "Chemical-Free Yard and Garden".

One of the best gardening magazines out today is the "Garden Gate." Anytime I am trying to design a garden plan, this is the one I reach for. It is packed full of actual garden designs for all size gardens. If you are looking for winter beauty or planning for a beautiful summer garden, you will enjoy looking at all the great ideas in this magazine. You can go to to subscribe. Also, check out the garden sections in "Better Homes and Gardens" and "Southern Living" magazines. They always have great tips for the enthusiast.

Read a good book and soak in the knowledge of a garden well planned. Enjoy the warmth of the indoors and begin jotting down new plants and ideas. There is no better time. Happy New Year!

On a personal note, I would like to congratulate my supervisor and friend, Billy Skaggs on his new job as chief operating officer for our new Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

Billy, you will be missed here in the office and I could never fully thank you for your horticultural insight, knowledge and help to me as your assistant. I am truly grateful and honored to have worked with you for the past 2½years.

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293.