Reviewed by Karen Preuss
Garden designer. Horticulturist. Arborist.
Master Gardener. Radio and television personality. Beloved local celebrity. Humorist. Author.
about Ciscoe Morris, of course. As if he’s not busy enough, with his television and radio shows and a busy public speaking
schedule, Ciscoe’s written a new book. I’m exhausted just reading the book’s introduction, which gives an
overview of his career. Where does he find the time?
Ask Ciscoe is
a compilation of hundreds of gardening questions and answers. Before I picked up a copy of the book, I wondered how well the
organization of this type of format would work in a book (I am a librarian, after all, and am a little compulsive about these
kinds of things). I’m happy to report that Ask Ciscoe works beautifully for both its sheer entertainment value and its
solid horticulture information, all delivered as only Ciscoe can.
the book’s organization. The Q&As are grouped into seven broad categories: flowering plants; edible plants; other
trees, shrubs, and grasses; container gardens and houseplants; garden and lawn care; birds, bugs, and butterflies; and garden
shed. In each category, the questions are arranged alphabetically by the subject of the question. So in edible plants, for
example, we start with apples, and move through the alphabet to learning about which vegetables are best for winter gardening.
The subject of the question is highlighted in bold type, so it’s easy to follow along.
is one of those books that I like to keep in easy reach, to just pick up and open to any page. For the browser, Ask Ciscoe
is great fun, as you never know what the topic in any given question might be, and the answers are littered with all of those
familiar Ciscoe-isms and his unique sense of humor.
One of my personal
favorites bears the heading “Lose Ten Pounds on the Hedge-Pruning Diet.” The question: “I’m thinking
about planting a laurel hedge along about 125 feet of my property line as a privacy screen. Am I making a lot of work for
myself?” Ciscoe’s response? “If you want to stay fit as a fiddle, plant a laurel hedge. You’re guaranteed
to lose weight because for the rest of your life you’ll be climbing the ladder with shears in hand at least once per
month to keep it under control…Laurel hedges are like people: They get wider as they get older, and there’s nothing
you can do to stop them.”
Strip away the media hype and goofy
phrases, and Ciscoe is first and foremost an expert horticulturist with an abundance of solid plant knowledge that he shares
in his book. I was thrilled to see so many questions on growing berries and fruit trees in the edible plants category; he
may have just given me the courage to attempt growing some myself.
the section on Birds, Bugs, and Butterflies, there are a couple of entries dealing with hummingbirds, including a list of
great plants to attract these delicate creatures to your garden.
an excellent index, if you’re looking for information on a particular plant. My only complaint (and it’s not really
a complaint, but more of an obvious observation) about this kind of format is that it limits the depth of information Ciscoe
can provide in his answers. I want to know more! I’m sure he could go on for hours, talking about any one of the plants
included in the book.
There’s so much information here, and
hopefully Ask Ciscoe will inspire readers to learn more about the plants they love (that, and to seek out Ciscoe at one of
his speaking engagements). Pick up a copy; Ask Ciscoe is a must for your Pacific Northwest gardening library.
As a side note: there’s a bumper crop of new books by local authors this
season! Next month: Val Easton’s latest, A Pattern Garden.
Preuss is the Library Manager of the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the University of Washington Botanic Gardens.