Gardening books for Christmas gifts 2017

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Here are 5 gardening books on my Christmas List this year

I always put gardening books on my Christmas list. They’re the perfect gift for me, and for all gardeners. At this time of year, when the sun hasn’t come up when I go to work and has long since set before I leave for home, the opportunities for gardening become squeezed. With a book, you can visit other gardens, learn new techniques, and improve your own skills whilst the winter garden rests untended outside.

As the proud owner of a gardening bookshelf that dwarfs our local bookshop’s offerings, you’d think I wouldn’t have space for any more titles. You’d be wrong. We’re building a new bookcase next year and there are so many books I’ve come across this year that I’ve made a gardening books Christmas List.

Previous Christmas gardening books wishlists

Gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016

8 Books for my gardening bookshelf Christmas 2015

Epic Tomatoes

by Craig LeHoullier

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I’ve learnt about my namesake Craig LeHoullier from Jennifer Ebeling‘s (6ft mama) podcast – Still Growing. I’ve been listening and interacting with Jennifer for over a year now and I really like her interviews with interesting people. Craig has a wealth of experience growing tomatoes and is particularly involved in finding and breeding heirloom varieties that are in danger of being lost. Most importantly he’s clear on the merits of a tomato for different uses in the kitchen as well as ease of growing. I’m hoping to find a robust outdoor bush tomato to use the space on my allotment.

The Garden Photography Workshop

by Andrea Jones 
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I heard about this book listening to Andrea on Peter Donegan’s Sod Show Podcast this year. I really like photography and I occasionally take to my garden with SLR in hand. It would be great to improve my amateur skills.

The Thoughtful Gardener

by Jinny Blom

This book on garden design has had some strong reviews so I’m keen to see what it’s like. I’m a big fan of Jinny Blom’s planting and it would be good to see how she plans, and implements, her designs.

RHS Genealogy for Gardeners

by Simon Maughan and Ross Bayton

I have the two other books in this RHS series of plant geekery. Latin for Gardeners was released in 2012, with Botany for Gardeners following in 2013. These small, beautifully illustrated, handbooks are the perfect thing for plant nerds to get a better understanding of the science and history of gardening. I’m hoping that Genealogy for Gardeners will be just as good.

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Tender – Volumes I & II

by Nigel Slater

Now I know that, technically, this isn’t a gardening book. I’d say it’s gardening adjacent. I’ve had my allotment since April and I’m hoping for big things next year. The whole point of the allotment was to provide some fresh, seasonal food for us to cook and eat. I’ve mastered my sauteed Cavelo Nero with garlic and it’s become a staple in the weekly meal plan. I’d like to do more with what I grow and I’ve read some amazing reviews of these two books.
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Book Review: Rhapsody in Green – Charlotte Mendelson

Book Review: Rhapsody in Green - Charlotte Mendelson

Book Review: Rhapsody in Green

Charlotte Mendelson

Back in  December, I listed a few books on my Christmas list that I hoped to get my sticky-from-all-the-mince-pies hands on and this was one of them. I’d not heard about Charlotte before but this title kept cropping up on my Twitter feed and book review sections of magazines so I thought I’d better give it a read.

What it’s about

Charlotte is a London-based novelist who is trapped between her insatiable addiction to gardening and the realities of a small back garden. Very few of us have the perfect garden and Charlotte captures the longing for more space, better harvests, less slug damage, and infatuation with catalogue descriptions. It’s a very real, very personal, diary.

Book structure

The book is ordered into chapters covering early, mid and late periods of the four seasons. That’s where the structure ends, unfortunately. The sub-chapters are more random in their construction with topics seemingly placed without order. On its own, this isn’t a problem; it’s a good book for reading intermittently, and the variety would keep it interesting. My main issue is the topic creep. What starts off talking about compost might end, instead, discussing bees. This, as a spreadsheet and listmaker, I found irritating and a thorough editing would have improved it.

Readability

That being said, Charlotte is clearly a very gifted writer. Her sentences are rich with description and the tone throughout the book is engaging. Her observations are spot on and there’s humour throughout the book.

Resources

I like the list of other books that have inspired and informed her gardening; titled The Blacklist, ‘they will lead you astray; approach with caution’.

Summary

I nice read for someone who has a less-than-perfect garden and is looking for reassurance that it isn’t always like it says in the books. Engaging text but would have benefited from tighter editing to keep things on topic.

 

Book Review: Real Gardens – Adam Frost

Book Review: Real Gardens - Adam Frost

Book Review: Real Gardens

 Adam Frost

Book Review: Real Gardens - Adam Frost
Book Review: Real Gardens – Adam Frost

Adam Frost is cropping up all over the place at the moment, fronting a hugely popular segment in Gardeners’ World – the Twitter reaction has been encouraging – and taking us around the Chelsea Flower Show 2017. It’s taken me a while to warm to him and I don’t know why. However, I’m now firmly in the fan club and listened to him speak at my local Toby’s GardenFest. He came across as very down to earth, humble about his impressive achievements and very approachable. As I’m doing more designing, in my own space and for others,  I was drawn to his book detailing the process and plans involved in designing his seven gold medal-winning gardens at Chelsea.

What it’s about

The book aims to show the inspiration for each of the gardens and also taking a look at Adam’s own experiences in developing them. It’s as much about him as the gardens themselves.

Book structure

Each garden is given its own chapter. Information about the concept, the inspiration, the sponsorship and the build are all covered. The plants used are described in the text but there’s also a section showing some key plants used in the design in more detail. Built components are given in plan form drawings should you be tempted to recreate them. A garden plan image is provided to make sense of the layout. Smaller boxes are dotted about taking some information that’s not directly about the garden into an aside should you want to know more. Examples of this are a mini-biography of Frank Lloyd Wright and John Clare, the inspiration for Adam’s 2012 garden. These add a depth of information that doesn’t clutter the focus of the book.

Readability

This book would fall into the coffee-table-book end of the spectrum. It’s easy to read but is much more engaging than the normal offerings in this category. Adam’s warm and self-deprecating text draws you in and he comes across as thoroughly likeable. Importantly, there’s no grandstanding or peacock about his description of these gardens.

Resources

The drawing plans of the garden structures, although interesting, would likely only appeal to a small number of readers who would go out to build and recreate some of the hard landscaping. More useful would have been a list of suppliers for materials, rills, obelisks, plants etc so you could start work on sourcing items for your own space. I loved the garden design plans and seeing the finished gardens alongside these is great.

Summary

A beautifully presented garden design book. The images are stunning and the text explains the ideas and skills used to create the gardens. Adam’s story is equally engaging and the whole book is a treat for fans, designers and gardeners.

Book Review: Book Review: The Apple Orchard -The Story of our most English fruit – Pete Brown

Book Review: The Apple Orchard -The Story of our most English fruit - Pete Brown

Book Review: The Apple Orchard

The Story of our most English fruit

Pete Brown

Back in  December I listed a few books on my Christmas list that I hoped to get my sticky-from-all-the-mince-pies hands on. An Amazon voucher from my sister-in-law meant I was able to purchase the hardback of this book guilt free. I’m really glad I did. It may not be for everyone, I gave it to my mum to read whilst I was finishing another book and she couldn’t get into it as ‘it was all about apples’. Apparently, there’s a certain amount of NerdAlert needed to read this.

What it’s about

The blurb says this is going to be the author spending a year in the apple-growing regions of the UK uncovering the mythology and the true history of the apple.

Book structure

The book is sorted into sections titled Blossoming, Fruiting, Ripening, Harvesting, Celebrating, Transforming, and Slumbering. These are all pretty self-explanatory and nicely echo the rhythm of the yearly cycle in the orchard. The chapters are a good length, perfect for reading a couple before bed or during your morning commute.

Readability

Pete’s writing style is excellently engaging. The unexpected F-bombs remind me of chatting with a friend rather than being lectured at by a professor which would have been a risk had the tone of the book been more traditional. I like it. It’s so much more approachable and will win over someone not sure how much they’re into non-fiction books. The shortish chapters and humorous observations, akin to Bill Bryson, make it very easy to plough through the book faster than you’d like. I even put it down to read a magazine for a few days just so I didn’t rush it.

Resources

At the end of the book is a reading list should your interest be peaked. This is a nice touch. After getting all fired up with optimism about small-scale private growers (not the bits on commercial farming and the general public’s changing tastes – that’s truly depressing) it would have been nice to have a list of UK growers if you wanted to source your own orchard. I suppose ten minutes on Google would probably give you that.

Summary

Simultaneously informative and enjoyable, this book did exactly what I hoped it would, but in a style that was refreshing and engaging. I’ve not read his other works on Cider and Beer but that matters not when this book is so good. I’m glad I went for the hardback as it now sits on my gardening shelf proudly.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016

gardening books for christmas gifts 2016

At this time of year it can be hard to come up with ideas for Christmas gifts for your loved ones. That can be especially true for gardening gifts as we’re a very particular lot. I know myself that most of the tat I see in garden centres – I’m looking at you novelty mugs and neon plastic hand tools – would require a very large effort on xmas morning in the ‘look like you’re pleased face’ department. You’d think that just buying someone a plant would be an easy win but at this time of year a garden centre or nursery can look a bit dismal to the untrained eye and if it’s not on the planting plan it doesn’t go in my garden.

One safe option should be a good gardening book. You’ll now know the obsession I have with gardening books. It’s dark and cold outside and curling up with a good gardening book seems perfect. Only if it’s a good book mind you. ‘101 fake houseplants’ or ‘dummies guide to plant care’ would be re-gifted without hesitation. What I’m looking for is not so much the ‘How to’ style of publication but books about gardening. Gardening has a wide variety of sub-genres to mine for book ideas (history, plantspeople and finders, historical gardens, species specific, instruction guides, travel, and many more) but the ones that have caught my eye this year look to be opinion, historical and ecological. A suitably vintage / illustrated cover also seems to be a requirement.

The Apple Orchard

I heard Pete Brown on a recent BBC podcast with Mark Diacono (of Otter Farm and River Cottage fame) and made a note to look up his most recent book. The poor chap has an allergy to the apples he was researching! The apple merges the horticulture, food, and history of gardening perfectly and I’m excited to delve in and learn more.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
The Apple Orchard

Nigel

Okay, hands up, I know this isn’t technically about gardening but this list is for gardeners and who doesn’t love a bit of Monty?

It’s too soon since the loss of our beloved chocolate labrador to be diving in to this book just yet. I’m not making a Marley and Me mistake again. Monty has shown time and again through his published books and articles that he’s a master of words and I’m looking forward to learning more about him and his beautiful retrievers.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
Nigel


Rhapsody in Green

The ‘look inside’ option on amazon is a really useful tool if you’re like me and can be easily annoyed by the voice of an author. There’s nothing worse than finding a good book ruined by irritating prose. My top peeves include overly tortuous metaphors and asinine turn of phrase. None of that with this writer. I chuckled in the first paragraph I read and I am very looking forward to getting my hands on this book.

The blurb suggests it’s content is a gardeners experiences managing a cramped urban garden and other thoughts.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
Rhapsody in Green

The Running Hare

I’ve not come across the author John Lewis-Stempel before. Looking into his bio I’m not sure why that is as his past catalogue looks to be right up my street. This book details the plight of the native hare in England as an example of the changes in the countryside due to modern agriculture.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
The Running Hare

Hedgerow

John Wright will be familiar to some from his appearances on River Cottage over the years. He has spent a year foraging for his food in earlier works. In this book he takes you through the history of the hedgerow, and variations on alternative field boundaries.

Hedgerow

The Sceptical Gardener

I’m always a little apprehensive when a collection of newspaper articles makes it into book format. There’s always a feeling of ‘bubble and squeak’ trickery in reusing material. However the reviews of this book look great. I love a different viewpoint approach and more than that I like the being more informed than the Average Joe so I can feel superior in my knowledge.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
The Sceptical Gardener

Explorers’ Botanical Notebook

I’m currently reading The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf and this new book immediately caught my eye. Having a peek at the inside pages provided by the publisher reveals images of the actual herbarium specimens and notes made by the explorers covered. It looks like a beautifully constructed book covering one of my favourite gardening topics.

New gardening books for Christmas gifts 2016
Explorers’ Botanical Notebook

 

We’ll see is Santa is being generous this year and with any luck I’ll be able to post a book review of one or more of these titles. Fingers (sticky with mince pies) crossed. What’s on your Christmas book list?

8 Books for my gardening bookshelf this Christmas

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The confession

I love gardening books. It’s true to say I probably have too many gardening books (but don’t tell the other half). Yesterday I was in a well-known national book shop and realised I had more books than their gardening section offered! Shame on them.

When the weather changes to wet and dreary, the garden has been tidied for winter and the seed shopping is done, what’s better than curling up in front of the fire and losing yourself in indulgent fantasy.

I’ve included links to amazon pages. Also have a look in your local independent bookshop, or online book recycling websites.

Christmas Book Wishlist

1. Carol Klein – Wild Flowers

Carol Klein WIld Flowers

I love Carol Klein and have all her books and I can happily watch re-runs of her tv series. I even had an embarrassing fainting episode at RHS Tatton Park show a couple of years ago during her demonstration on propagation. To this day I still maintain that it was a combination of the hot sunny day and a lovely pint of cider but my fiancée is convinced it was a teenage-TakeThat-fan-like reaction to seeing Carol.

2. Jennifer Potter – The Rose

This book has received great reviews and would sit well alongside my Anna Pavord titles. I had a look at the beautiful hardback in the bookshop yesterday.

3. Jennifer Potter – Seven flowers and how they shaped our world

I love the meeting of plants and history. I have Andrea Wulf’s offerings in pride of place on my bookshelf. In Jennifer Potter’s second book on this list she covers seven plants and explores their impact on the world.

4. Sue Stickland – Back garden seed saving

The first of two books on this list I’ve learnt about via the Real Seeds website. Reviewed as being invaluable for anyone looking to save their own seeds and interestingly looks to be achievable at home.

5. Kate Collyns – Gardening for profit

I learnt about this book via Grow Green @ Hartley Farm and I have also found great reviews elsewhere. This fits the daydreaming requirement of gardening books for me. It’s unlikely I’ll be running my own well-respected, viable, specialist nursery any time soon. What this book offers is practical and experience-based information on the business of gardening.

6. Carol Deppe – Breed your own vegetable varieties

With my love affair with all things heritage, see here, I was intrigued by this book on the Real Seeds website. I shall be saving the seeds of my recent purchases and hopefully this book could come in handy.

7. Geoff Hodge – Botany for gardeners

Last year I bought the RHS Latin for Gardeners. I was really excited to see this new title appear. I had a quick, indulgent look yesterday in the book shop. It’s so tactile with its textured hardback. The inside looks like a series of paintings. I know it’s wrong to covet but ….

8. Chris Beardshaw – 100 plants that almost changed the world

I’m a huge fan of Chris Beardshaw. His explanations on gardeners question time and Beechgrove are always interesting and imbued with his vast knowledge. I also like the humour he brings to things.

Thanks to a kindly donated sideboard from a relative we’ve been able to clear one of the shelves in the gardening bookshelf.

So Santa, if you’re reading……