Franklin County Master Gardener Book Club

Suggested readings by Jerry Lewis, Franklin County Master Gardener

I usually think of a Master Gardener as a lone wolf in a wide-brimmed hat busily kneeling in front of some upturned soil, surrounded by seedlings, various tools, and a water bottle. Or the more familiar Master Gardener in front of a room of anxious faces talking about their love of perennials/roses/compost/tomatoes/bugs/etc. I don’t get a picture of the Master Gardener sitting in a comfortable chair in his den reading a book.

But I do think of Master Gardeners as folks who love to try something new. So we in Franklin County established an informal book club as an continuing education tool for us. We chose a book, gave everyone time to read it, and met at a local restaurant for lunch and an informal book talk. Those first few participants liked it so much, we tried it again, and again, and again.

So far, we have enjoyed four books, and just selected our fifth. We have gotten into a rhythm of meeting about every two months about noon, the rule is you bring something for your lunch plus something to share with everyone, and plan on staying for a couple hours of discussion. The host (we have since met at MGs homes) has provided drinks and the place, everything from a session outside under the trees to a session in a home bar.  We have 11 regular participants, and our recent committee fair provided us with four additional interested members.

Here are the books we have read so far:

  • Founding Gardeners by Andrea Wulf (Our early presidents and their involvement in agriculture and gardening)
  • Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf (The origins of sharing our flora between the US and Europe in colonial times)
  • The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan (Addressing the question of whether we control nature or nature changes us)
  • Lewis and Clark: Pioneering Naturalists by Paul Russell Outright (The story of the Lewis and Clark expedition and its astounding personal and gardening stories)

Someone has taken the initiative to lead the discussion at each session, ask some questions and get everyone’s impression of the book, then try to tie it to our varied interests in gardening.  We all learned some fascinating history we weren’t familiar with in each of these selections, and continue to forge on to the new year (Next up: The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart).


We have started a list of possible books for the future, mostly put together by suggestions of participants who have read something they liked or stumbled across in looking up interesting books in our reading or research.

Here are a few, if you are personally interested or would like to start your own book club:

  • 50 Plants That Changed the Course of History by Bill Laws
  • Pennsylvania Month by Month Gardening by Liz Ball and George Weigel
  • Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart
  • The Reason for Flowers by Stephan Buchman
  • The Triumph of Seeds by Thor Hanson
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Our intent is to keep growing our list and then choosing a book for the next session as we follow our interests.

I’m personally looking forward to reading something other than seed catalogs as the weather chills my gardening habits! Happy reading!