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It was a dark and stormy day...


by James Alexander-Sinclair

This is my, very brief, guide to Garden Books for a Filthy Afternoon. In no particular order but with the only criterion being that they have no pictures apart from the occasional illustration.


Wet winter gardenToday is a wet, windy, cold, miserable, dreary, murky, depressing, cheerless, uninspiring and downright dingy day. It has not stopped raining and it always seems as if darkness is about to fall. It is the sort of day when only the very dedicated are out there gardening (or those looking for an excuse to be out of the house - sometimes rain dripping down your neck can seem a much more attractive option than ironing).

You could pass some time tidying the shed or pootling around in the greenhouse but sometimes it is good to just curl up in the warm. Assume, therefore, that there are no good films on afternoon television, your children and animals are otherwise engaged and you have a chance to read about gardens - not just look at pictures but actually read.

This is my, very brief, guide to Garden Books for a Filthy Afternoon. In no particular order but with the only criterion being that they have no pictures apart from the occasional illustration.

- More Papers from the Potting Shed by Charles Elliott. This is the second volume - I am hoping to get the first for Christmas (hint, hint). A series of essays on a whole raft of fascinating subjects ranging from worms and guano to the Chelsea Flower Show and garden machinery (via plant hunters in China and Sir Walter Scott's tree planting habits).

- The Merry Hall Trilogy. I adore these books: beautifully written, light and fluffy sagas about a new garden taken on in the 1950s by novelist Beverley Nichols. He writes very amusingly about people, places, plants and cats. Just the thing for a rainy day.

- The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan. I have always been a bit of a scientific dunce; at school my copper sulphate crystals never grew and things went downhill from there. However, every gardener needs to know a bit of botany and this book explains various things in a very entertaining fashion. The author talks about the effect humans have on such basics as the apple, the potato or the tulip. A bit of history, a bit of anecdote and just enough science.

- Sex, Botany and Empire by Patricia Fara. A fascinating little book (easily fits in the pocket if you have taken refuge in the shed) about the lives and discoveries of Carl Linnaeus (the Swedish botanist who organised all plants into groups and classifications) and Joseph Banks (who travelled with Captain James Cook and discovered many new plants). He was also one of the founders of the Royal Horticultural Society and, possibly, the only committee member of that august institution to have had his trousers stolen while carousing with the Queen of Tahiti.

There are, of course, many more. Any that you can think of that I should put on my Christmas list? Remember - no pictures allowed.



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Gardeners' World Web User 11/12/2007 at 13:10

Christopher Lloyds - The Well Tempered Gardener is a must

Gardeners' World Web User 12/12/2007 at 19:10

The Well tempered Garden is definitely a must, thank you. I don't know Katherine White's book but it looks well worth the hunt. Also try Better Gardening by Robin Lane-Fox (which, I think is out of print) and don't forget Kate Colquhoun's wonderful book about Joseph Paxton, A Thing in Disguise.

Gardeners' World Web User 14/12/2007 at 07:10

On Wednesday 5th December I was presented with no fewer than 12 yellow daffodils! Howzat for cheerfulness on grey December days?? They grew outdoors on the grounds of our local garden centre - no I didn't pick 'em! the owner of the garden centre is the President of our local Gardeners' Club and I was stepping down as Chairman, hence the presentation. They have been in a vase on the windowsill in my study since then and, sadly, I feel they have finally come to an end and I must bin them today.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:30

Well, of course the Nichols books have those lovely Rex Whistler line drawings, but they don't make it a coffee table book, for sure...Hmm...no pictures... How about Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto's "Dear Friend and Gardener"? Or Katherine White's "Onward and Upward in the Garden"?