A bumper crop of books to inspire every gardener’s passion
This year’s selection covers everything from nature’s healing power to a masterclass in nurturing a garden on a grand scale
The healing power of nature is a theme that’s central to many of this year’s crop of great gardening books.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that nature has the power to soothe and restore us even in the very darkest of times, a theme that’s central to many of this year’s crop of great gardening books.
Beautifully written and profoundly insightful, The Well Gardened Mind: Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World by the British psychotherapist and psychiatrist Sue Stuart-Smith is a paean to the restorative power of gardening and the diverse and sometimes surprising ways in which it can nurture and support our wellbeing, (William Collins, £20).
Rootbound: Rewilding a Life by the journalist and Noughticulture-founder Alice Vincent is a young, urban millennial’s disarmingly candid, life-affirming memoir of how gardening reconnects us to the things that matter most (£14.99, Canongate Books).
The British garden designer Dan Pearson is known for his intuitive “sense of place”, and the ways in which he embeds a deep respect for nature within his work. His latest book Tokachi Millennium Forest: Pioneering a New Way of Gardening with Nature, co-authored with Midori Shintani (the head gardener of Tokachi) is an in-depth, beautifully illustrated account of his 20-year-long involvement in the design and development of this 400-hectare ecological park in Hokkaido in northern Japan. Not a book for beginner gardeners but a fascinating masterclass in how to design and nurture a garden on a grand scale and in harmony with nature (Filbert Press, £40).
Also known for his subtle, elegant, sensitively-designed gardens, the British garden designer Cleve West is a committed vegan, a subject that he writes about with unflinching honesty in his new book The Garden of Vegan: How Plants Can Save The Animals, The Planet and Our Health where he explores the ways in which what West describes as “the largest garden of all, planet earth” is being harmed by the actions of humankind. Definitely not an easy read but a compelling one (Pimpernel Press, £20).
Created by the poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, Sissinghurst is considered to be one of the world’s greatest gardens. A new book by the well-known garden writer and historian Tim Richardson, Sissinghurst: The Dream Garden (Frances Lincoln, £30) tells the story of how this unconventional couple succeeded in making “the Mona Lisa” of British gardens, along with how their legacy has been managed and embellished by subsequent generations of gardeners and designers.
For those in search of gardening inspiration, The Garden: Elements and Styles by the garden historian Toby Musgrave is a sumptuously illustrated A-to-Z compendium that explores the art of garden design through more than 200 garden elements, styles, features, and ornaments, from the glories of Versailles and the gardens of artists such as Frida Kahlo and Claude Monet to the work of contemporary designers such as Piet Oudolf and Dan Hinkley (Phaidon, £65).
For time-pressed gardeners searching for practical ways to nurture their plots without feeling overwhelmed, Laetitia Maklouf’s The Five-Minute Garden is just the ticket. Written in a short, snappy, easily-digested style, it’s packed with bite-sized, useful nuggets of advice along with reassurances from the author that all will be well (£9.99, National Trust Books).
The Earth in Her Hands: 75 Extraordinary Women Working in the World of Plants by the award-winning American broadcaster and gardener Jennifer Jewell (Timber Press, £26.99) tells the stories of 75 women around the world whose lives and careers have been shaped by their relationship with the kingdom of plants. From seed producers, soil scientists, farmers, landscape architects and garden designers to botanists, floral artists, and herbalists, it’s a moving testament to the myriad of ways in which we are all dependent upon the generosity of planet Earth.
Gardeners who like to grow and arrange their own flowers will love Cultivated: The Elements of Floral Style by the Kew-trained Canadian gardener, writer, teacher and floral artist Christin Geall (Princeton Architectural Press, £19.99), an absorbing, far-ranging, lushly-illustrated dissertation on the art and craft of creating seasonal flower arrangements, from the ways in which we interpret colour, texture, shape and line to the thorny question of personal style.
In a world where we’re all spending so much more time outdoors, The Wild Food Plants of Ireland: The Complete Guide to their Recognition, Foraging, Cooking, History and Conservation by authors Tom Curtis and Paul Whelan couldn’t be more timely. It covers 27 different plant families of interest to foragers and foodies including details of numerous species notable for their culinary possibilities along with a description of their natural habitat, distribution and history of use. You’ll never look at Ireland’s wild plants in the same way after reading this (Orla Kelly Publishing, €30).
Last but not least, written by the award-winning garden writer Jane Powers, now nature diarist for the Sunday Times, An Irish Nature Year is the perfect pocket-sized stocking filler for anyone with an interest in garden wildlife, from speckled wood butterflies and summer snowflakes to spiders, swallows and field mice (HarperCollins, €14.99).