Magic meets gardening in new Harry Potter book by Buffalo’s Jim Charlier

by Connie Oswald Stofko

Mad-eye Moody terrarium
This terrarium is based on the character Mad-Eye Moody. It’s made with a bottle cap, a marble, some leather, plants, a flask planter, and imagination, Jim Charlier said. Photo courtesy Insight Editions

Update: The book is now available. See ArtofGardening.org.

“My whole thing is art in gardening,” said Jim Charlier, who created gardening projects on the theme of Harry Potter, the boy wizard in the popular series of children’s books and movies.

Charlier is co-author of the new book Harry Potter: Herbology Magic.

The subtitle gives you a hint of what is in the book: Botanical Projects, Terrariums, and Gardens Inspired by the Wizarding World. It contains gardening tips, instructions for creating unique Harry Potter-inspired terrariums and charming uses for everyday plants.

Insight Editions, the publisher, has already produced Harry Potter-themed books on knitting, crocheting, crafting and watercolor.

When the company wanted to publish a Harry Potter book on gardening, “They found me,” Charlier said.

Charlier, a graphic designer, also publishes a blog called the Art of Gardening. His blog shares many of his gardening projects, including the most famous shed in the world, a small version of his house.

He is a high-profile, pusher and mover in the Western New York gardening community who co-authored the book Buffalo Style Gardens with Sally Cunningham.

And he has a Harry Potter garden, which he wrote about on his blog. He started it when his daughter Margaux was a child. They chose weird-looking plants and gave them names from the wizarding world of the Harry Potter.

It’s easy to see why the publisher found Charlier.

signpost from book Harry Potter: Herbology Magic
Jim Charlier said this was his favorite project for the book. “Typography is in my bailiwick,” he said. There will be a webpage to visit to download templates for the type and other projects in the book. Photo courtesy Insight Editions

His role in the book was to create gardening projects that Harry Potter fans could make at home. He worked from September 2022 to February 2023, but the publisher didn’t want him to talk about the book until it was ready.

“I’ve been dying to tell people for so long!” he said. He missed gardening meetings and “I had to tell people, ‘I’m busy right now, but I can’t tell you why.'”

Some of the projects for the book were easy– Charlier had already made a rain chain you may have seen on his shed. In the book, it’s called Professor Flitwick’s charmed ever-raining rain chain.

A new project that he created was a signpost pointing to important wizarding locations such as Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, the Ministry of Magic and Kings Cross Station, where students returning to the wizarding school got on the train at platform 9¾.

You can see these projects–and a few other new projects that didn’t make it into the book– when you visit Charlier’s landscape on Garden Walk Buffalo from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 29 and 30 and during Open Gardens WNY from 2-6 p.m. Thursdays in July.

The book will be coming out Sept. 26. You can buy a copy–signed by Charlier!–on his blog. See more details there.

Charlier submitted more than 40 ideas for the book and 27 were chosen. Harry Potter: Herbology Magic is based on the Warner Bros. movies, so some of Charlier’s ideas were scrapped because they referenced events from the original Harry Potter books that didn’t make it into the films.

“The books were so detailed,” Charlier said.

floating candles from the book Harry Potter: Herbology Magic
For a different way of lighting your patio, try these floating candles. Photo courtesy Insight Editions

The publisher also didn’t want a lot of plastic and spray paint.

“It’s hard to argue with that,” he agreed.

In addition to creating the projects and directions, he also wrote sections on “Safety Tips;” “Terrarium Terminology;” “Wizarding World Plant Substitutes;” “Real But Weird Plants;” “Types of Gardens;” “The Magic of Pollinators;” “Why use Latin for Spells, Charms, and Plant Names;” “Zone Grown,” and “Native Plants.”

He also wrote many plant lists and sidebar information for crafts. The plants listed are all houseplants– not everyone who reads the book has an outdoor space for gardening.

“The book is national in scope and the gardening zones across the country are so different,” he added.

His co-author, Jody Revenson, wrote the narrative, pulling in information about behind-the-scenes filming, set designs, props, locations, and actors.

The Harry Potter series of books came out 25 years ago; the kids who read them then are adults now. Many of those adults are still avid fans.

Charlier hopes Harry Potter: Herbology Magic brings those fans into gardening.

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