Out West Books staff picks

Each week as part of SunLit — The Sun’s literature section — we feature staff recommendations from book stores across Colorado. This week, the staff from Out West Books in Grand Junction recommends three books to get gardening season off to a great start.

The Undaunted Garden

By Laura Springer Ogden
Fulcrum Publishing
April 1998

Purchase: Check your local independent bookstore or library.

From the publisher: Well-adapted plants, practical and environmental perspectives, and a uniquely aesthetic approach to gardening in a challenging climate by pioneering plantswoman, garden designer, and author Lauren Springer Ogden.

From Marya Johnston, Owner: Lauren Springer Ogden was one of the first people to identify and educate us about waterwise gardening in our climate. The “hell strip,”  that little slice of yard between the sidewalk and the street, was a particular problem for her when she moved to the Front Range. She has given the people of the West an alternative to watering the sidewalk and pavement with her xeriscaped plans for beautiful color all summer long. My gardening intelligence reached new heights with her advice for what plants worked and what didn’t in our climate and her plant suggestions, both native and cultivated,  are dead-on. 

Springer’s Colorado alternatives to the Kentucky bluegrass lawn and traditionally landscaped yards make you want to work toward a waterwise property that’s as stunning as depicted in her books. I planted an Annabelle hydrangea on the north side of my house on her advice that’s bloomed into a showstopper, and it’s something I would never have dreamed could grow here, I consider Lauren Springer Ogden to be a real authority on waterwise gardening in the West.

Grow Native

By S.Huddleston and M.Hussey
Fulcrum Publishing
March 1998


From the publisher: Here is a frank discussion of the hardiest of trees, shrubs, and groundcovers suitable for landscaping in the rough, and at times unforgiving, Rocky Mountain climate.

From Marya Johnston, Owner:  This little book has been around forever and is still my go-to recommendation for those new to the area and its landscaping challenges.  In 1975, when this book was first printed, the authors were discussing water conservation with landscaping and plants, utilizing native plants that could thrive on half as much water as imported varieties required, but the developers were not listening. That’s 1975, folks!  This wonderful book contains charts for water usage and tolerances, basic landscape design, and planting instructions for 50 trees, shrubs, groundcovers and grasses that can be planted and will survive to make your Colorado landscape waterwise and stunning. 

Soil: The Story of A Black Mother’s Garden

By Camille T. Dungy
Simon and Schuster
May 2023


From the publisher: Poet and scholar Camille T. Dungy recounts the seven-year odyssey to diversify her garden in the predominantly white community of Fort Collins, Colorado. When she moved there in 2013, with her husband and daughter, the community held strict restrictions about what residents could and could not plant in their gardens. In resistance to the homogenous policies that limited the possibility and wonder that grows from the earth, Dungy employs the various plants, herbs, vegetables, and flowers she grows in her garden as metaphor and treatise for how homogeneity threatens the future of our planet, and why cultivating diverse and intersectional language in our national discourse about the environment is the best means of protecting it.

From Marya Johnston, Owner: In this powerful eco-memoir, Camille Dungy makes us think about our connections to nature and each other as she “decolonizes” the landscape of her Fort Collins home.  It’s crazy to imagine that garden plants were restricted there in 2013, but we’ve all had our HOA nightmares haven’t we?  Kentucky bluegrass lawns and roses only….in Colorado? 

I always thought what grew successfully was for the gardener to find out for themselves or for families and communities to pass down, as Dungy emphasizes.  So, in “decolonizing” her garden, Dungy not only makes a place for  new plants to thrive, but makes us think of thriving in our own lives.  This book is so beautifully written that you forget you’re reading non-fiction.  It’s a book to give to your family, your friends, your community….and you don’t even have to wrap it because…that cover!  


Out West Books

533 Main St., Grand Junction


As part of The Colorado Sun’s literature section — SunLit — we’re featuring staff picks from book stores across the state. Read more.

The Colorado Sun

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