Gardening books for green fingers
There is a wonderful variety of gardening books for the plantsperson in your life
Get the gardener in your life a book they will ahve forever
I’ve really enjoyed browsing through the pages of The Irish Garden by Jane Powers (£40, hardback, Frances Lincoln). Beautifully produced, artfully written and lavishly illustrated with photographs by her husband Jonathan Hession, it won “Inspirational Book of the Year’ at last month’s Garden & Media Guild Awards.
In doing so, it pipped the shortlisted Garden Design: A Book of Ideas (£30, hardback, Mitchell Beazley) to the post. Written by Heidi Howcroft, with images by award- winning garden photographer Marianne Majerus, the latter is a first-rate visual reference to the building blocks of good garden design.
The work of top garden designers and landscape architects is something of a theme as regards this year’s crop of books. One such is The Gardens of Arne Maynard (£45, hardback, Merrell), written by the designer himself. Focusing on 12 of the gardens that he’s designed over his award-winning career, Maynard gives readers an utterly absorbing account of how he approaches the business of garden-making.
Hummelo: A Journey Through a Plantsman’s Life by Noel Kingsbury, (The Monacelli Press, $50) tells the story of Dutch-born plantsman and designer Piet Oudolf’s gradual evolution from unknown nurseryman into one of the 21st century’s most influential garden-makers.
Sheila Brady’s groundbreaking design for New York Botanical Garden’s “Native Plant Garden”, is amongst the gardens featured in The Inspired Landscape by Susan Cohen (£35, Timber Press). Filled with detailed design sketches, this book offers a fascinating analysis of how of the world’s most celebrated landscape architects go about the process of “finding the muse”.
Similarly instructive as regards the mysterious process of garden design, Landscape and Garden Design Sketchbooks (£29.95 hardback, Thames & Hudson) features the design plans and hand-drawn sketches of 37 world-class designers, handchosen by author and garden historian Tim Richardson.
The skilful use of plants is, of course, central to the success of any garden, which is why the latest additions to the Timber Press Plant Lover’s Guide series (Tulips by Richard Wilford, Ferns by Richie Steffen and Sue Olsen, Asters by Paul & Helen Picton, and Epimediums by Sally Gregson, all £17.99, hardback) are all to be welcomed.
Also published by Timber Press, Cultivating Chaos by Jonas Reif, Christian Kress, and Jürgen Becker is a persuasive call-to-arms to gardeners to loosen the reins a little and let nature work her magic.
Practical and inspiring in equal measures, Grow Your Own Wedding Flowers by the artisan flower farmer, Georgie Newbery (£24.99, hardback, Green Books) is an excellent guide to growing seasonal, eco-friendly flowers for that very special day. Newbery writes in a way that’s both chatty and yet reassuringly authoritative, offering tips on everything from selecting the finest varieties to how best to avoid any Bridezilla-style meltdowns.
Meanwhile kitchen gardeners will thoroughly enjoy Mark Diacono’s latest publication, The New Kitchen Garden (£25, hardback, Hodder), another of this year’s Garden & Media Guild Awards winners, which winningly makes the case for a kitchen garden that will “light up rather than weigh down your life”.
The newly-minted British publishing house Pimpernel Press has produced a clutch of excellent gardening books, including Paradise and Plenty: A Rothschild Family Garden (£50) by the garden writer and designer Mary Keen.
“It is a modern tendency to want instant results,” Keen points out crisply, before cautioning that “gardening is a process that takes time”.
A book as beautifully and incisively written as this, so filled with detail, careful observations and with lavish photography by Tom Hutton, must also, you feel, have taken much time to create.
Herterton House and a New Country Garden by Frank Lawley, (£30, Pimpernel Press) also tells the story of a garden, in this case one made over four decades by the author and his wife Marjorie. Lovingly penned, deeply personal and strangely moving, it speaks volumes about the intense relationship that a gardener gradually forges with the space that he/she tends.
A book that I find myself returning to is Great Gardens of London by Victoria Summerley, with photographs by Marianne Majerus (£30, Frances Lincoln).
From the exoticism of Irish-born designer Declan Buckley’s private town garden to the eccentric brilliance of Malplaquet House, this book proves why London is reknowned as the world’s cultural melting pot.
On an even grander scale is The Private Gardens of England, (£75, Constable), a lavish publication edited by Tania Compton, in which the owners of 35 gardens contribute individual chapters on the story of their own garden’s creation. So many different voices might have made for a noisy confusion, but not in this case.
Instead the result is an exquisitely illustrated, satisfyingly sumptuous coffee table book that drives home the fact that England has far more than its fair share of world-class gardens and garden-makers.
Finally, for an eminently readable, slender bedside volume, I heartily recommend Onward and Upward in the Garden, the collected writings of the late Katharine S White, which first appeared in The New Yorker between 1958-1970, and are now republished in a new edition by New York Review Books Classics (£11.99).