By Kelly Sirett

Spring has finally sprung! If you’re like me, your thoughts have quickly turned to how to spend more time outside – perhaps cycling, exploring one of our many great Ottawa neighbourhoods or weeding, digging and planting in your own backyard.

At the Sunnyside branch we’re very lucky to have beautiful gardens – the towering sunflowers are especially noteworthy. The Sunnyside gardens will be better than ever this year thanks to a generous donation from the Friends of the Ottawa Public Library Association that will be used to revitalize the garden with organic fertilizer, equipment and plants.

The Sunnyside gardens as well as about a dozen other sites in Old Ottawa South are maintained by a group of volunteers called the Green Dreamers. The Green Dreamers will be holding a plant drive on Saturday, June 8 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Sunnyside branch. They are asking for donations of plants that are local, hardy and drought-resistant, e.g. perennials like shade-loving hostas, always-blooming black-eyed Susans and daisies, fragrant peonies, sturdy stonecrop and walkable thyme. Please no shrubs, bushes or trees and remember to drop them off potted and labelled. If you have a green thumb or just want to get some fresh air and exercise, please consider becoming a Green Dreamer by contacting or speaking with them at the plant drive.

As you begin garden planning and green dreaming of your own, here are some book recommendations to help you get started. Don’t forget, these books as well as gardening magazines, DVDs and so much more are available from your public library.

Many gardening books fall under a category that some of us at the library call “picture books for adults.” These large books are filled with beautiful photographs, minimal text and plenty of inspiration. Some of my favourites include:

  • Everyday Monet: A Giverny-inspired Gardening and Lifestyle Guide to Living Your Best Impressionist Life by Aileen Bordman
  • Gardens of Style: Private Hideaways of the Design World by Janelle McCulloch
  • Garden Style: Inspirational Styling for Your Outside Space by Selina Lake
  • Green Escapes: The Guide to Secret Urban Gardens by Toby Musgrave

If you’re looking for something a bit more practical, then you may want to borrow one of our many gardening guides. Written for new and expert gardeners alike, these books include simple, step-by-step gardening techniques and helpful tips:

  • The Food Lover’s Garden: Growing, Cooking, and Eating Well by Jenni Blackmore
  • The Backyard Gardener: Simple, Easy, and Beautiful Gardening With Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers by Kelly Orzel
  • Ground Rules: 100 Easy Lessons for Growing a More Glorious Garden by Kate Frey
  • Beginner Gardening Step by Step: A Visual Guide to Yard and Garden Basics by DK Publishing
  • The Botanical Bible: Plants, Flowers, Art, Recipes & Other Home Remedies by Sonja Patel

For those more experienced or adventurous gardeners interested in trying something new in their gardens this year, I would recommend Niki Jabbour’s Veggie Garden Remix or Grow Something Different to Eat: 224 New Plants to Shake Up Your Garden and Add Variety, Flavor, and Fun by Matthew Biggs. Both books offer a variety of uncommon plant and vegetable options, detailed growing instructions and beautiful images to help guide you.

Want to dig even deeper? Here are some books related to gardening and the larger role it plays in our personal lives, as well as in our city and the world:

  • Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively
  • The Sound of Cherry Blossoms: Zen Lessons from the Garden on Contemplative Design by Martin Hakubai Mosko
  • The Fruitful City: The Enduring Power of the Urban Food Forest by Helena Moncrieff
  • Escape to Reality: How the World Is Changing Gardening, and Gardening Is Changing the World by Mark Cullen and Ben Cullen
  • Gardening Notes from A Late Bloomer by Clare Hastings

Kelly Sirett is a librarian and the Coordinator at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. She has many interests and loves many things – but especially sunny days, first and last lines, and doing the hokey pokey.

David Chernushenko’s climate thriller Burning Souls

David Chernushenko, former Capital Ward councillor, new author, will launch his climate thriller Burning Souls on May 27, 7 p.m. at Southminster United Church.

A novel, you say? A roman à clé? Not exactly. According to David Chernushenko, on leaving municipal politics, it’s healthiest to step away completely. He chose instead to address pressing global environmental issues head-on through the power of fiction.

Said Chernushenko, “You can really let loose! Disturbing changes are afoot in our world: the collapse of fish stocks and pollinating insects; the surge in high impact storms and fires; a resurgence of populism and retreat from collective welfare; the fuzzing of truth, and debate about whether science exists or matters; a surge in desperate migration; and of course the breakdown of climate and ecological systems. How can we not go to dark places? Dramatic fiction was the tool I needed to use. I could have fun writing, even if the subject matter was often wrenching.”

What’s Burning Souls about? Long-time best friends Simone, Sagan, Jenny and Jiro meet at Cambridge in 1997. By 2025, things have gone very badly for Earth’s ecosystem and civilized society. The four “burning souls,” incensed at the predatory practices they see driving climate breakdown and social collapse, work to make a difference in the world. But as they confront a world where change meets resistance and backlash, they must decide what matters most. The stakes are high and civilized society hangs in the balance.

Simone Cohen is a Canadian investigative reporter who won’t stop speaking truth to power, even when the powerful make it clear she really should. Sagan Cleveland is a gay, black, American climate scientist whose charm and sense of humour don’t prevent him from being targeted. Jenny Fung, Malaysian engineer, has a passion for energy storage. Mild-mannered Jiro Ebitsubo, a Japanese lawyer, is called back to his home in Fukushima when things go badly. Powerful interests who seek to profit from the status quo by engaging in “predatory delay” are working against the four friends.

Chernushenko has incorporated some urgent themes into his thriller: the critical role of investigative journalism; how we deal with ecosystems in free-fall; harassment of truth-tellers; the surge in global migration in tandem with the rise of populism, authoritarianism and supremacist sentiments. But he insists it’s a “character-driven novel where the reader will learn and perhaps evolve along with the heroes and villain.”

Chernushenko has a related project in mind for the summer.

“The Electric Burning Souls Road Trip is my fun way of doing a cross-country book promotion tour. Leaving in early June, I will be travelling across Canada in an EV (electric vehicle), with a bike on the back for excursions while the car charges, and boxes of books to sell. It will be quite an adventure.

“I will be crossing as far as Vancouver (perhaps Victoria) via Saskatoon and Edmonton, and then returning via the Okanagan, Calgary and Regina. I hope to set up everything from full-on book launch events to smaller bookstore signings and even house book club visits. Really, I am open to whatever fate, generosity and a good dose of hard work and active self-promotion will bring me.

“Sadly, there is no better or worse time to be promoting a book that I bill as a ‘climate breakdown thriller.’ Everywhere we look, the climate and our ecosystems are breaking down. Urgent action is needed by everyone of all political stripes. That’s what my book shows via a rollicking story and it’s what I will be emphasizing.

“I’ll be posting on my website and Facebook page the towns where I expect to go, and looking for people to suggest possible event hosts. I am even open to some couch-surfing and backyard camping.

“Oh, and I will need to plug in my Bolt. That is the “electric” part. And I will be blogging all the way. Readers should visit to find out more and to subscribe to my mailing list.

“I wrote this book because I had to. The despair of seeing things get progressively worse while there is insufficient action (and now huge steps backwards in Ontario, Alberta and the United States) is shocking and disheartening. I had to channel my grief and anger into something creative and potentially positive.

“But this is no happy ecotopian story. I had to tell it straight up. Things are going to get bad and soon. If we act now with resolve, we could keep things from being really bad really soon.

“That is the truth. It is what all the science indicates. No point sugar-coating.

“Let’s get onto it now and make this next federal election about truth, science and concrete action.”

David Chernushenko, former Councillor for Capital Ward, has spent his time skiing and writing a novel since leaving municipal politics last fall.


Book Launch

Burning Souls
By David Chernushenko

Monday, May 27, 2019, 7 p.m.
Southminster United Church
15 Aylmer Avenue (at Bank)

To be sold in most local bookstores and online. Print and e-book versions, with plans for an audio version. Funded through Indiegogo campaign.

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