There’s a huge amount of information out there to inspire and help us in our gardening efforts; but it can be tough to sift through, and there’s only so much time.

I’ve listed some of my favorite research sites and books below, but urge you to take a little time to find your own list made up of go-to references and a couple voices you trust and enjoy reading. We need both as gardeners.  I hope it is helpful to you.


Go-To Horticultural Information:

UMD Home and Garden Information Center
Educational gold mine for Maryland/Mid-Atlantic Gardeners.

Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder
If I’m looking up a plant online, I’m usually looking here first.

World Flora Online
This is a working list of all known plant species (and their synonyms) put together by botanical institutions worldwide, including Missouri Botanical Garden and Kew. It picks up where The Plant List left off in 2013.  An excellent reference when you’re trying to figure out the latest taxonomic gymnastics of your favorite species. Note: No common names allowed!

Ohio State University Extension
Excellent database of fact sheets for the home gardener.

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Good resource for the North American gardener looking for a plant’s native/invasive status.

USDA Plant Hardiness Map
Don’t know your zone? Plug in your zip code and you’ll get it.

Rutgers Ratings of Plant Deer Resistance
When deer are responsible for your alcoholism, this list might help in planting smarter.

Great Voices
Witty, informative and often wise, Gardenrant is a guilty pleasure that I’m not giving up anytime soon. Plus I’ve recently been christened a Ranter,  how can I not respect and love them?
An excellent collection of challenging, entertaining and exciting garden writing, contributed by some of the very best garden writers worldwide, and edited by Anne Wareham of The Veddw in Wales.
A wise team of gardening women in North America with specialties in many fields of horticulture – resulting in a great website filled with excellent, seasonally relevant information.
Popular worldwide gardening forum and chat site.

Catalog Sites:

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply – Organic catalog site with seeds, plants, equipment and great advice.

2017-01-02-15_49_40-renees-garden-seedsRenee’s Garden Seeds – A terrific place to buy seeds (many of which you will find in local nurseries).  New, old, innovative, traditional…you’ll find it here. The catalog is online only, but the amount of information on each seed packet is incredibly helpful to the gardener.  The gorgeous watercolor images are just gravy.

Heirloom Seeds – Open pollinated seeds for the gardener who wants to confidently collect their own seeds in the fall.

Baker Creek Rare Seeds – Go ahead and order their beautiful catalog.  It will become a reference book in your library.  Baker Creek carries seeds from all over the world and is a go to when I’m looking for an unusual edible.

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs – I have a special place in my heart for these wonderful people and their fabulous selection of bulbs.  This is their passion and gardeners all over the world have trusted them for decades.

Van Engelen – Another great bulb company.  If you get their print catalog, there’s no messing around with pretty pictures – just categorized lists of wonderful bulbs (and excellent sales in the late fall!).

Forest Farm – Not only a wonderful database for unusual plants, but a place to buy them too.

Plant Delights – Each January, a nursery friend and I get together with our mutual friends, Gin and Tonic, build a fire in the fireplace and dream over this catalog. Unbelievable selection (particularly for shade) from all over the world, but even if you weren’t into rare plants, Tony Avent’s irreverent descriptions of some of his favorites are so very worth the read.

Camellia Forest – Woody paradise for camellias, rare trees and shrubs. I came, I saw, I wanted.

American Meadows – Online nursery with a strong commitment to natives, bulbs, seeds and wildflowers.  You’ll find strong healthy plants, lots of growing information and a wonderful staff ready to answer all your questions.

Favorite Books:

Sometimes you just want a book.  Or several thousand.  My personal library is extensive and constantly reminds me that many of the experts out there don’t have time to blog, update, tweet, share, pin and post – they’re too busy compiling incredible reference books. Here are a (very) few of my favorites broken down by categories – some old, some new, all wonderful:


big dreams small garden

General Flower Gardening:

Christopher Lloyd’s Flower Garden – Christopher Lloyd

When Perennials Bloom – Tomasz Anisko

What Plant Where – Roy Lancaster

Color Echoes – Pamela Harper

Designing with Perennials – Pamela Harper

Taylor’s Guide to Growing North America’s Favorite Plants – Barbara Ellis

Essential Perennials – Ruth Rogers Clausen & Thomas Christopher

Garden Flowers from Seed – Christopher Lloyd and Graham Rice

General Information:

Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs – Michael Dirr

The Principles of Gardening – Hugh Johnson

The Complete Gardener – Monty Don

Rodale’s Garden Problem Solver – Rodale Press

Botanical Latin – William T. Stern

AHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers – Christopher Brickell (ed.)

Hortus Third – Cornell University

Garden-pedia: An A-to-Z Guide to Gardening Terms – Maria Zampini & Pamela Bennett

Shrubs and Hedges – Eva Monheim

Secrets of Plant Propagation – Lewis Hill

General Vegetable Gardening:

The New Victory Garden – Bob Thompson

The New Kitchen Garden – Anna Pavord

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible – Edward C. Smith

Growing Seeds and Vegetables from Seed to Harvest – Terry and Mark Silber

Square Foot Gardening – Mel Bartholomew

Specialty/Natural World:

Backyard Foraging – Ellen Zachos

The Countryside Cookbook – Gail Duff

The Backyard Beekeeper – Kim Flottum

Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide – Lawrence Newcomb

The Field Guide to Mushrooms – William S. Thomas

The simple pleasures of gardening:

In My Garden/Cuttings – Christopher Lloyd

The Essential Earthman/One Man’s Garden – Henry Mitchell

The Living Garden – George Ordish

Gardening Mad – Monty Don

Thomas Jefferson The Garden and Farm Books – Robert C. Baron

The Founding Gardeners – Andrea Wulf

Deep-Rooted Wisdom – Jenks Farmer

In The Garden – Hugh Johnson

Other Helpful Resources