Gardening books

by James Alexander-Sinclair

...when it's too dark (or perishing cold) to garden we like to read about gardens and dream of seasons as yet unborn.

Gardening books on a shelfGardeners are relatively undemanding and pretty easy to keep amused. When we're not gardening we like nothing more than visiting other gardens (or nurseries/shows/plant sales etc). And when it's too dark (or perishing cold) to garden we like to read about gardens and dream of seasons as yet unborn.

There's a vast choice of stuff out there to keep us amused, from newspaper garden supplements and magazines to books both large and small. I have shelves full of them; some old and some new. How extraordinarily good the pictures are nowadays - it seems so strange now to have gardening books which only have black and white illustrations!

Among my collection are a few which, I must admit, were given to me and I've never read. Most notably a very intense looking dictionary of plants which is written in German using very small print. I would have thrown it away ages ago but am strangely fond of having something so ridiculously impractical and, who knows, a German might want it one day.

Others may have little relevance to my everyday gardening but I enjoy having them anyway. In this list I include old books like Gardening For Ladies which was published in 1851. It includes some wonderful stuff: for example in the chapter on Digging (Stirring the Soil): "...digging appears at first sight a very laborious employment peculiarly unfitted to small and delicately formed hands and feet". It was written by Jane Loudon who was an early pioneer of science fiction and wife of the great horticulturist John Claudius Loudon.

Some books are great favourites which I consult almost every day and without which I would feel bereft. Not just invaluable reference books like the RHS Encyclopaedias and the more opinionated Christopher Lloyd's Garden Flowers, but others which I look to for both inspiration and entertainment. At the moment my favourites are Beth Chatto's Woodland Garden and The Potting Shed Papers by Charles Elliott (no pictures but some excellent writing).

This last was given to me by the mysterious Garden Monkey who is obsessive about garden books and, apparently, has a vast collection. He has set up a blog called The Garden Monkey's Book Flange, which is always worth browsing (if you're not sure of the significance of his use of the word 'flange' he kindly directs you to this video clip).

Any recommendations for a really good garden book?

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Gardeners' World Web User 29/08/2008 at 11:37

I'm trying to compile - not write! - my own, since I live in the hills of Portugal. I love Gardener's World magazine, there is nothing like it in any other European country I am familiar with, but of course the Calendar doesn't work for me,so I am starting on the assumption that everything you post for July, say, I should be doing in June, and then tweaking for the fact that I have no frost, so Spring planting is best done in Autumn, and so on! Most of the Mediterranean gardening books I have seen assume plentiful irrigation, which, as a hill dweller existing on the rain I catch each winter, isn't an option. By the way, Pippa Greenwood didn't think much of chard last month, but for me it is the best summer vegetable!

Gardeners' World Web User 21/09/2008 at 21:09

Marjorie Fish's 'Gardening in the shade' may have been written many years ago and has no illustrations, but I find it invaluable.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:37

I think The Perfumed Garden is marvellous some really thought provoking stuff and interesting pictures.