Garden Books for Gardening Enthusiasts 2014 – chosen by the nice people here who sell our lovely metal garden furniture.
Garden Books – Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst: The Creation of a Garden: The Making of a Garden by Vita Sackville-West, Sarah Raven (Virago £30)
“What is lovely about Vita’s writing is that she is not a know-it-all, nor officiously bossy as some garden writers are. She is relaxed, generous and playful, wanting to share delight while undeceived about slog … Sarah Raven proves a most graceful chaperone, chiming in, amplifying and only occasionally updating”
Garden Books – With wonderful additions by Sarah Raven, Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst is packed with photographs old and news. Leaning heavily on the archive of weekly columns that Vita wrote for the Observer from 1946 to 1957, this garden book is a treasure trove of advice and inspiration, helpfully organized into sections on container plants, scents, roses, shrubs etc.
Often funny and written with great panache, Vita Sackville-West’s columns describe the reality of crafting the garden at Sissinghurst that has gone on to become one of the most inspirational gardens in the world. Her writing reveals both her favourite characters in the plant world (she was a great personifier of plants) as well as oodles of practical advice.
Garden Books – The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops by Naomi Slade (Timber Press, £17.99)
There’s nothing trendier in the garden world than a snowdrop, it seems. Here’s a poppy little number, sponsored by Kew which celebrates the enormous diversity of this little showstopper. Exquisite close up photographs.
The Flower Farmer’s Year: How to Grow Cut Flowers for Pleasure and Profit by Georgie Newbery (£19.95 Green Garden Books)
With increasing awareness of the environmental cost of many supermarket cut flowers, many of us are choosing to grow our own. I, for one, spend the autumn pressing my dahlias onto all and sundry. I can’t wait to branch out with some of Georgie Newbery’s ideas. Wonderful photographs and quirky illustrations; certainly one to get you thinking.
The Writer’s Garden by Jackie Bennett (Frances Lincoln, £25)
Tailor-made for a book lover like me! From John Clare’s Cambridgeshire Cottage to Charles Dickens’s Gad’s Hill and Agatha Christie’s Greenway, this book is a compendium of all the usual suspects. I particularly liked the description of John Ruskin’s Brantwood and how he used it as inspiration. Full of nuggets like Roald Dahl being mad about orchids; I’m sure he’s not the only writer who has used gardening to get over critical reviews and Walter Scott’s failed attempts to grow pineapples (should have stuck to the day job).
Meadowland: the private life of an English field by John Lewis-Stempel (Doubleday £14.99)
“A magnificent love letter to the natural world, full of wisdom and experience, written with wit, poetry and love. It is, in fact, one of the best five books I have ever had the privilege to read. I want to scream from the rooftops: buy it, give it, read it.”
Tim Smit Eden Project; Heligan
Meadowland is an intimate account of an English meadow’s life from January to December. This is a beautifully written ‘biography’ of one of our native habitats. John Lewis-Stempel records the passage of the seasons from cowslips in spring to the hay-cutting of summer and grazing in autumn. He writes about the badgers, foxes and rabbits; the skylark brood and the curlews. The biographies of these creatures – their births, lives and deaths are interwoven with the story of the habitat that supports them.
Best Garden Books – The Creative Shrub Garden by Andy McIndoe (Timber Press £20)
The winter months when we can’t loll around outside on the patio garden furniture nor even do an awful lot of digging and weeding, are perfect for planning ahead. As all so much plant matter dies back, your garden is revealed in its barest form. The real architectural high points are likely to be shrubs and here’s a great up-to-the-minute guide to what’s available.
Shrubs have been largely ignored in recent years, but it seems that they are becoming flavour of the month again. Packed with fresh ideas, Andy McIndoe’s book is divided creatively into sections such as “cool and calming” and “mellow and glowing”. There are great recipes for mixing shrubs with bulbs and perennials and helpful, opinionated comments about each shrub’s characteristics. This is a book to return to time and again.