Tuesday, September 22, 2009

We've Moved!

We're still writing, but we've moved to a new space. To keep reading, click here.


Kathryn Juergens, sales and marketing associate

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Black Plants bloom day!

I'm a relative newcomer to the world of garden blogging, and I sometimes come across blog topics that are a whole new world of gardening that I never thought of. The concept of "bloom day" was just such a topic. "What's this 'bloom day'?" I thought to myself. "It looks like pictures of people's flowers. Surely it can't be that simple? There must be some larger purpose."

After much curious browsing of the internet, I think I've discovered three things.
1) There is no larger purpose that I can see - and really, it doesn't matter.
2) Flowers are pretty.
3) Bloom Day appears to occur between the 14th and the 16th of every month. Ideally the 15th, but you know - some people get excited, and some people get late.

So, in honor of Bloom Day, finding useful information on the internet, and the release of our new book on black plants, I am posting some images of black flowers. I believe that technically, these flowers should be growing in my own garden, so I've picked ones that I would like to have in my garden, given half a chance. I am also posting a day late - but I'm hoping that no-one will refuse to look at flowers just because they are posted on the 16th instead of the 15th.

Aeonium zwartkop - Not technically a flower (I'm breaking all the Bloom Day rules in my first post)but look how incredible it looks. If this were in my garden, I would wear striped Dr. Seuss socks every single day in honor of my aeonium.

Helleborus Winter Jewels Black Diamond - I think the green and black combination would make for a really interesting shady spot.

Viola Sorbet - So velvety. Like sorbet. Blackberry sorbet.

Alcea nigra - I love the drops of water on the petals.

Chani West-Foyle, Marketing Associate

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Raleigh, Here We Come

In the grand scheme of things, four business trips a year doesn’t seem like much. But for me, four trips feels like a lot. I’ve been to Seattle for the Northwest Flower Show. I’ve been to New York twice--once for Book Expo America, and again last month for pitching New York media. Next week, I’m headed to the most anticipated event in the garden media world--the annual Garden Writers Symposium, this year held in Raleigh (September 23-26).

If you’ve never been to the Symposium, you’re probably wondering what it’s all about. Typically, the show has a two day exhibit, lots of seminars, fabulous garden tours, and an awards banquet. This year is no different, but there are a couple of differences for me in my third year of attendance. First, Timber is sharing a booth with our sister company Storey Publishing for the first time. Normally we have a double booth, but this year we decided to economize. It’s going to be lots of fun--kind of like trying to see how many people can fit into the same shirt all together. We’ll certainly be cozy!

The second difference is that I’m going to be on one of the seminar panels. This is a huge leap for me as I haven’t addressed a crowd larger than ten since my high school graduation speech. And here I’ll be, with three of my peers, talking about what it’s like to publicize a book at Timber. Sound straightforward? Well, technically yes, but I’m still wondering exactly what I’m going to say. It may just come down to the wire on this one.

Garden Writers is a great opportunity to get together with old friends, meet new ones, swap stories, and just have a grand old time. If you’re going to be at the Symposium, please stop by the Timber Press/Storey Publishing booth, #509. We’ll have lots of books, materials, and business cards to give away!

Olivia Dunn, publicity

Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight-byte Epiphytes

As the Timber Press Web and IT Manager, I'm probably one of the nerdier people in the office.

Well, I should probably qualify that, given that from my desk I can see coworkers who are probably thinking right now about graphic novels and/or Star Wars (don't worry, office-mates, I will keep your identities safe from the Internet ... for now). To say nothing of the discussions I've had with members of the editorial department on the finer points of grammar.

Fine, I'm one of many nerdy people in this office. But I'm the only one I know of to have taken an interest in a particular old book I found one day while perusing the extensive backlist in our library. That book is Computer Graphics in Biology, and this is the story of my adventure with that book.

No, wait, don't stop reading yet! I appreciate that it takes a certain kind of nerd to be interested in a computer book published in 1986, and I further appreciate that you might not be that kind of nerd. After all, there's probably a reason we didn't go on to publish a whole lot more books on the intersection of computer graphics and biology -- say, AutoCAD and The Arborist: a Guide to Plotting the Perfect Pruning, or perhaps Variegated Virtual Reality: Why All Gardens in the Future Will Require a Different Kind of Glove.

Technically, Timber Press didn't publish Computer Graphics in Biology, either. That credit goes to our erstwhile imprint, Dioscorides Press. It was part of a series titled Advances in Plant Sciences, though subsequent volumes (including Adventitious Root Formation in Cuttings and Isozymes in Plant Biology) were decidedly more for nerds of a greener stripe.

I'd like to tell you more about the book, but frankly, it's a bit of a slog to get through, unless you happen to like plants (check), computers (check), and possess a technological masochism that precludes you from enjoying the advances made in computing since 1986 (sorry, but here I must draw the line).

I did, however, make it far enough through the preface to find a reference to "the recent upsurge in graphical man-machine interfaces, notably the WIMP (window, icon, mouse, pointer) system seen on the Apple Mackintosh [sic] and Commodore Amiga computers". Oddly, though such things are in fact quite popular today, I can't say the same for the "WIMP" acronym. Not sure why that didn't catch on.

Anyhow, both computer graphics and Timber Press have moved on, and I'm happy to report that there's not a lot of discussion of Fortran in the office these days. But don't let that stop you from submitting your proposal for Eight-byte epiphytes -- I can promise that, if no one else will, I'll at least give it a once-over. But, sorry, we can't accept submissions on 5.25" disks anymore.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Green bean takeover

Only a few short weeks ago I was complaining that my scarlet runner beans were not providing me with the green beany-ness that I was expecting. They had lovely red flowers, and the hummingbirds seemed to like them, but where were the beans? Nowhere. How was I going to practice making pickled green beans if I had no beans to pickle?

My green bean plant rose to the occasion. First, it assumed an intimidating Godzilla-like shape and loomed over my carrots.

(I am trying not to be alarmed that it is headed for the general direction of my house.)

Then, overnight, it produced a huge abundance of green, green beans.

I made a lovely green bean, corn, and ricotta salad with the first batch, and am dreaming of rows of pretty pickles.

Chani West-Foyle, Marketing Associate

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Book Burning and Book Beaching

There are few things in life to which I am willing to attach the phrase, “It will change your life!” Hence the reason that I will never make a living selling cars. Or shoes. Or face cream. But ... I cannot say the same about books. They are life-changing.

A book can change the course of the future. A book can cause a society to see things differently, get riled up, burn things. For example, here is a small list of books that have been banned by certain societies:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was banned in China for the portrayal of animals acting as humans, Animal Farm by George Orwell was banned for political reasons.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner was banned in Kentucky for language and for being anti-Christian.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger was banned in the US and Australia.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was banned in many parts of the US, especially California, because it made the residents of the region look bad.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was banned for obscenity in France, the UK, Argentina, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler was banned because of anti-Nazi laws and for being extremist.

Because books are so wonderful, important, and controversial, I feel 100% great telling everyone about the Sylvia Beach Hotel. I had the immense pleasure of staying there with my sister a few weekends ago, and it was perfect.

Located on a lovely ridge overlooking Nye Beach, Oregon, the Sylvia Beach Hotel is made for people who want to relax on a soft couch on Friday night, drinking mulled wine in lovely silence with a favorite book. There are no TVs or radios or phones or internet access. Instead, there is an enormous library/lounge filled with blankets and pillows and couches and journals for guests to write in. Each room is decorated in honor of a famous author: Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dr. Seuss, and many more.

My sister and I stayed in the Oscar Wilde room. Black and white photos of the author lined the walls, there was a tiny Victorian writing desk in the corner, and the wallpaper was hideously ugly - on purpose. When we checked in, the lady at the front desk told us the wallpaper was a replica of what Oscar Wilde had in his own bedroom. On his deathbed, he is reported to have said, “Either the wallpaper goes, or I do.”

So, if you are looking for an excuse to runaway to the Oregon Coast for no other reason than to curl up with a favorite tome in the good company of other quietly anti-social bookworms, look no further. The Sylvia Beach Hotel is the perfect place to do so. It just might change your life.

Jessica Porter, publicity intern

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Biodynamic Gardening

Should Timber Publish a Book on Biodynamic Gardening?

This was the question of our publications board today, and I don’t think I’ve ever sat in a more contentious meeting!

For the uninitiated, biodynamic gardening can be considered the progenitor of all organic gardening. Begun right at the height of the industrial revolution by theologian Rudolf Steiner, biodynamics were clearly ahead of their time. (Steiner also founded the Waldorf Schools that are sprinkled around in high-income neighborhoods.) His essential belief was that any farm should be self-sufficient--no sending away to Monsanto for GMO seeds, no fertilizers other than compost you make yourself. In an era before we knew about carbon-free offsets and lowering environmental inputs, Rudolf Steiner had it all figured out. And he would have voted for Al Gore, too.

But here’s the problem--Steiner’s reasons for doing all the things that biodynamickers do were primarily spiritual, not scientific. There is a lot of stuff about moon phases and superstitious burying of sheeps’ bladders--and biodynamic types are not innovators. They follow the practices that have been laid down because they’re “right,” not necessarily because they yield 3.5% more tonnage per crop. They can’t really explain why they do what they do other than it really does work (and there IS some research out there to back that up). Biodynamic practices are regulated by a very traditional certifying authority in Switzerland that is more concerned with slowing change in biodynamic practices than with making improvements. In the end, you become a biodynamic gardener because of a spiritual relationship with the land. You take it on faith.

You can probably tell that I’m pretty sympathetic to biodynamic gardeners. I believe we owe more to the land--to all the millions of organisms in one teaspoon of soil--than just some rational analysis of which growing techniques give OUR SPECIES the most benefit. Are we stewards of the land or plunderers?

Saying all this, I don’t think Timber Press will be publishing a book on biodynamics. We have a fundamentally scientific outlook on plants, gardening, horticulture, and nature--we see our job as providing the information that is proven to be accurate, not spiritually more comforting. I must admit, however, that I say this with more than a dose of sadness. There are a lot of farmers in my family history (none of them even remotely organic, God forbid), and I know that the land meant more to them than they could put into words. It was a spiritual thing, although they’d be embarrassed to talk about it. The miracle of a dry little pebble being put into the ground and turning into a six foot high stalk of corn is still the most amazing trick on earth. Biodynamic gardeners have a language that allows for the wonder of such things, and my hat is off to them.

Neal Maillet, publisher

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Bad Garden Pun

Over the weekend, I came into the house with a handful of radishes and tripped and fell, dropping a radish in the process. After nursing my dignity, I looked for the radish. No luck, so I said that it would probably turn up.

And my husband laughed. My radish would turnip. Heh.

Chani West-Folyle, marketing associate