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Books that offer inspiration
for gardeners old and new
Jarrold book buyer Holly, selects some of the best new guides this season to help us celebrate our green spaces.
‘Our gardens assert a powerful hold on our collective imaginations; they are reflections of our secret selves, places of memory and nostalgia…’
So writes Penelope Lively in her wonderful memoir Life in the Garden, the book that has inspired this fortnight’s edit. A book about Lively’s twin passions, gardening and reading (see full review below), it celebrates the value and power of gardens, whether you are a gardener or not (sadly, I am not).
There is a burgeoning market for new and innovative books about gardening, tapping into and cultivating (no pun intended) an appreciation of growing and tending a green space, whether it’s a window box or a little herb garden, an orchard or a wildflower plot. I’ve selected some of the best new guides this season, general and specialist, practical but all beautifully produced. Who knows, maybe these books will make a gardener of me yet!
Life in the Garden
In this exquisite memoir, Lively asks why and how do people garden, past and present? The book is made up of anecdotes, ideas, questions and musings on the two central activities in her life: reading and gardening. She carefully conjures literary gardens and gardeners to life, moving through gardens in fiction to the influence of seminal gardening texts, from the writings of Gertrude Jekyll to the Yellow Book. Interwoven are memories of the gardens that have shaped and grounded her life, from a childhood spent in an exotic Egypt garden to her present ‘few square yards’ in North London. Gentle and intimate while also managing to provide elements of social and literary history.
RHS Gardening Through the Year
The fully updated edition of a definitive gardening guide, packed with essential advice and recommended for both new gardeners and ‘old hands’. For the novice gardener, the layout of this chunky book is ideal, structured month-by-month with key tasks, to-do lists and ideas, plus new photo galleries showcasing the best plants and flowers through the year. Once you’ve decided on a planting idea there is guidance for growing, pruning, propagation and where relevant, harvesting. Adding further value at the end is an illustrated Plant Directory.
Perfect Pots: A Practical Guide
Perfect Lawns: A Practical Guide
Perfect Pruning: A Practical Guide
This series of colourful, pocket-sized hardbacks published by the National Trust has proved very popular since its arrival in the book department a few months ago. Simple, clear advice on each subject is accompanied by lovely little (useful) illustrations creating a clean, no-fuss feel to the books; they look good and give you all the information you need (and make great little gifts for the gardener in your life). They’re pretty… perfect!
Orchard: Growing and cooking fruit from your garden
Jane McMorland Hunter and Chris Kelly
Whether you intend to start growing fruit trees in your garden or not, this is just a gorgeous book to own, the chapters divided by fruit type then bookended by a history of orchards and how they are used in garden design and an excellent ‘resources’ section including specialist gardens to visit. The photographs throughout are stunning. Fruits range from apples to pears, quinces to mulberries: for each there is a little social history, advice on varieties and growing and a set of delicious recipes for when the fruit is ripe. See in particular Damson Ice-cream (p.165) and Clafoutis with sweet cherries (p.182)!
A Nation in Bloom
Stunning photography illustrates this new celebration and showcase of the work being done by the Royal Horticultural Society, including luminous images of its gardens in England, from Wisley to Harlow Carr. A worthy contender for any coffee table, there is also great substance to this book, which explores the history, evolution and projects in progress today at the RHS, as well as taking a broader look at the way gardening can change lives and help define our culture.
Paperscapes: The Tropical Hothouse
Dr Chris Thorogood
Not many of us are likely to have a hothouse in our back garden so this is less a practical book and more a thing of beauty and intrigue, celebrating the botanical delights of the hothouse. With sumptuous illustrations sourced from the archives at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, each page is filled with unusual plants, telling their origin stories and describing their features. If that wasn’t enough, this book comes in its own slipcase and is also a ‘paperscape’ – you can press out the shapes of the flowers from each page so that the book itself turns into a standing botanical paradise!
Prices and availabilty checked Friday 9 August 2019.