An impassioned reader's guide to books new and old

Friday, 12 August 2011

Books for Gardeners - some old and new favourites

Recreating a Book (can you guess, without scrolling down to what I have written about the circumstances?
I have been undecided as to whether each book post should concentrate on a single topic – gardening, travel or craft, and aspects of each thereof – or a mixed book-bag of titles. On the point of seeking the opinion of kind and dedicated followers, I decided against doing so, for it would be churlish to ignore the result of any ‘vote’; for whatever the swing in favour of one or the other, someone would feel I had ignored their preference.
Amazing that this was an ivy-clad wall in a Show Garden - but exactly as I recall from the book (which I happened to read again earlier this year)
Reality, yet unreal

So today’s post will feature books associated with GARDENING, the first somewhat indirectly for it is a children’ book which this year celebrates its centenary. I would never have thought to include it had it not been the focus of a garden design at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show: ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett. 

cover of the original
1911 edition
It was a book that captivated me in my childhood, and some titles never leave you. This is one of them, as engaging now as when I was ten; and my hardback edition was I am sure illustrated by J.Arthur Rackham.

'Arthur Rackham - A Life With
Illustration' - click HERE to
discover more, or to buy a copy

(On second thoughts, I'm less sure, for I've now discovered and this  bought a book about JAR and as yet cannot find a reference to his having illustrated this particular children's book.) I’d love to know whether a centenary facsimile of the Secret Garden has been published, for I feel equally sure that the copy I loved was my mother’s. The dates would fit; and not many such beautiful books came my way during the second-world war, when I first read this.

First shown on my Dobies Gardening blog but such a joyous picture to celebrate salads - and even the flowers are edible
Let’s move on. I missed the fact it was National Salad Week at the end of July when we were at the RHS Tatton Flower Show, but discovered my omission in a press release within the Suttons Seeds press pack I collected from the Tatton Press Tent. Salads are so easy to grow, and quick and easy to prepare – yes I know this is a book-blog! – but you do need to actually grow and eat what you read about. Some of my favourite gardening books are devoted to salads – do you own / know / covet any of these that follow?

Click HERE for more details
or to order a copy
'The Organic Salad Garden' by Joy Larkcom (originally 'The Salad Garden') published in both hardback and paperback by Frances Lincoln in 2001. At the time, The Observer said that this was "the edible gardener's bible', and it certainly is as far as salad plants are concerned. Based on organic principles, it covers every aspect from site preparation to harvesting, detailing special growing techniques and giving advice on the best salad varieties for growing and for flavour. With full descriptions of more than 200 plants - traditional, exotic, herbs, wildlings and edible flowers - this book is indeed worthy of a place on every gardener's bookshelf. Ir gives suggestions for creating a salad garden that is both practical and beautiful, and includes recipes for using one's produce - I love the sharp-flavoured green salad with hot bacon dressing - and as I have some young mixed lettuce seedlings ready for planting out will be able to enjoy other salads in the weeks to come.

Click HERE for more details
or to order a copy
And now to another favourite which I acquired when I was creating my own first potagers filled with salads, herbs and edible flowers: 'The Salad Book' by Clare Connery, published in 1993 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson. It has a freshness about it that I love, and is based upon the author's garden in County Down, Northern Ireland. As a journalist and chef, she is well qualified to create this book, but what comes shining through is her love of tranquility, and her childhood memories of her grandmother's kitchen garden which she recreated in a tiny patch of land in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains. The pictures somehow soothed me, too, and taking it off the shelf again for this post, I am all set to read it yet again, and add some of Clare's inspiration in my own current tiny 'secret garden' veg plot.

Click HERE for more
details or to buy
this book.
Finally to a recent title that will appeal to all struggling to garden within less than ideal surroundings - or indeed who wish to grow edible crops for the first time. 'NewUrban Farmer' by Celia Brooks Brown (Quadrille Publishing, 2010) intrigues with its subtitle of 'from plot to plate: a year on the allotment', for it could just as easily begin in an urban garden anywhere. In reality, Celia (an accomplished food writer and professional cook) discovered and took on a neglected plot on an allotment in North London in 2007. Part-journal, part-gardening-manual and part-recipe-book, she has divided the year into four seasons, subdivided into individual months and again into two-sections per months with key tasks and seasonal veg - the sort of book one wishes one had thought of and written oneself; and all illustrated with inspirational photos.

BUYING BOOKS: you will now see that by clicking on any book title link within this blog - sidebars or within posts - it will take you to Amazon where you can discover more about the book, or buy it at reduced prices. That's a quick and easy option, but nevertheless, I would urge you to support local bookshops which often offer other services, and where you can browse at leisure (should you have the time) and even enjoy a cup of coffee and some delicious home-made food.


  1. Gosh, Ann, I well remember the Joy Larkom book. It was a bit of a gardening bible for me at the time. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Laurie - do you remember the original (non-organic) Salad Garden - that was the one that really set me going, after I had seen an article by JL in the Sunday Telegraph magazine. I didn't mention it, as the organic version updated it. More JL to come; if I'd added any more, the post would never have been published. Should be up to speed now, with more books every week of one genre or another.

  3. The idea of a secret garden is so wonderful. I'd love a walled garden with a vine-covered door hidden away somewhere. This was a beautiful posting. Thank you.

  4. Nan, thankyou for your comment, much appreciated. The students' recreation was EXACTLY as I remember visualising it when I read the book as a small child all those years ago. The vine is ivy, which can be a nuisance but is wonderful for attracting early pollinating insects as it flowers in winter.

  5. 'flowers in winter' - this is beyond my imagination. I think of all I love about your land this is the best. I first became smitten with the idea of flowers in February, when we have mounds and mounds of snow and cold weather, when I read Derek Tangye's books. Do you know them? Read them? We visited in 1977 and were given such a kind welcome by Derek and Jeannie. I wrote a little bit about it four years ago.