The days are still cold. The days are still short. I’ve snuck outside a few times for winter pruning, but have spent the majority of my free time reading. They say winter is for sharpening tools — brains count.

Each month, I’ll list the books I’ve read even if I didn’t complete them. Many of these were from the library, and I’m glad I didn’t spend money. Others are worth their price.

The big takeaway for January is that I was interested in comparing pruning books that I hadn’t read, and a small but thick guide called The Pruning Answer Book was my favorite.1 It’s written as Q & A’s and gets right to the point.

Another highlight was Phaidon’s The High Line. I’d call it a coffee table book but that would sell it short — it dives deep into every aspect of the project. It’s also fantastic from a book design perspective. Even if you feel like you’ve seen enough things about the High Line in NYC, check it out.

Recommended books are in bold.

History / Essays

  • Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing the American Landscape. Beveridge
  • Gardens Are for People (2nd ed.). Church
  • Plans and Views of Public Parks. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press
  • The Story of Gardening. Hobhouse
  • A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening. Downing (1851)
  • Writings on Landscape, Culture, and Society. Olmsted

Pruning / Care

  • Essential Pruning Techniques. Brown & Kirkham
  • Pirone’s Tree Maintenance (7th ed.). Hartman & Pirone
  • The Pruning Answer Book. Hill & O’Sullivan
  • Pruning and Training. Brickell


  • The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Maples. Harris
  • An Illustrated Guide to Japanese Maples for Garden Planting and Patio Pots. Kenney
  • Native Trees of Washington: A Photographic Guide. Zobrist
  • Trees for the Small Garden. Toomer

Case Studies

  • The High Line. James Corner Field Operations
  • New Small Garden. Kingsbury
  • Tree Gardens: Architecture and the Forest. Crandell
  • 住宅景观 Zhu zhai jing guan [Residential Landscape]


  • Drawing for Landscape Architecture. Hutchison
  • Figure: Drawing Methods for Artists. Boerboom


  • American Tall Tales. Osborne
  • A Tree is Nice. Udry

Misc / Fiction

  • Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces. Slatalla
  • Pillars of the Earth. Follett
  1. Cass Turnbull’s Guide to Pruning, 3rd Edition is still the first pruning books I’d recommend. But why keep to just one — each will have unique tips on specific plants and new illustrations. The Pruning Answer Book represents something I’d like to see more of: fits in one hand and makes no attempt to overreach, like so many encyclopedic garden books. ↩︎