La Rosa’s Garden


Plant Mentors - in person and in print

By Frank La Rosa

We, as gardeners, learn as much from books as we do from friends, neighbors and gardening mentors. Our gardening books often become our life-long mentors. Many of us have collections of gardening and plant books amassed over a lifetime, and we even have books that we have inherited from our parents. I myself know that teachers and books are a viable two-way approach to gardening.

Big-time book dealers such as Barnes and Noble do provide a good selection of basic “how to” and trendy garden books. But, let’s face it, many of us have moved beyond the Sunset Western Garden Book and we want something more meaningful. If the passionate gardener wants specialized and fine garden books, he or she has to frequent privately- owned bookstores that are beginning to make a comeback. They are known as “brick and mortar” bookshops and have a special ambiance all their own. They don’t have magazines, cell phones, and video stuff going off all the time, and the clerks are courteous and knowledgeable. They savor books.

Alfred Bauer’s Rare Books at the corner of Girard and Pearl in La Jolla is a “brick and mortar” book shop. This is a spacious, comfortable and well-accoutered book shop with books and paintings throughout. Bauer has advanced degrees in literature and art, and he has dedicated his life to the appreciation and acquisition of books and art. His collection of garden and plant books reflects his life-long interests which lead off in numerous directions, and this is the main point. He has plant books in regard to art, design, photography, and world travel!

Here is an excellent example. Bauer has a fine copy of Karl Blossfeldt’s Plant Forms in Nature. Blossfeldt was a talented photographer who lived from 1865 to 1932. His book is a stunning collection of black and white photographs of plant form. It is an inspiration for gardeners of all kinds, and all passionate gardeners are artists.

Bauer’s plant interests lead another way — gardens and world travel, with such titles as The Bagatelle Gardens in Paris, California Gardens, The Huntington Gardens, Sissinghurst and gardens in Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, and numerous other countries. It is a marvelous experience for garden lovers to open these books and remember such places, saying “I saw that, and it was beautiful” or “Yes, I shall go back one day.” If you are planning a trip abroad, Bauer’s is a good starting point.

Then, there are specialized books such as David Austin’s lavishly illustrated Heritage of Roses. Austin roses are still admired and grown throughout the world today, from Tokyo to San Diego. This is only one of the many titles in Bauer’s plant book collection. You will have to browse the shelves yourself.

Finally, these plant books and plant related titles are an eclectic collection that goes beyond the usual basic books that certainly have their place, but, at Bauer’s, plants books are indeed an easy entry into gardening and culture.