My 10 most useful and inspiring gardening books
Are gardening books dead? Can’t we get all the info we need free off the internet?
The best gardening books are the ones you go back to again and again. You don’t need to recharge their batteries.
Their glorious photography isn’t shrunk down to the size of your mobile phone.
And you can put them back on the shelf, leave them for a couple of years and simply pull them out again. You won’t get an ‘error 404’ message because the link has gone somewhere else. You will simply have a beautiful, inspiring informative book in your hands.
So I’ve rounded up the books I’ve read again and again over the past 10 years. They’re still in print – which means lots of people agree with me.
We’ve also had a bit of a tweak here at Middlesized Garden. We’ve added a shop to make it easier to buy some of the things you read about in our posts (note: there are affiliate links which means we may receive a fee – possibly even the price of a cup of tea – if you buy something). So here are the books (click on either the title or image for prices or to buy):
Piet Oudolf was one of the chief pioneers of naturalistic 'prairie style' planting, but I also learned a great deal about the general principles of planting from this book. So you don't have to be a fan of grasses to find this both inspiring and informative. Co-author Noel Kingsbury is a highly knowledgeable writer, too. And there are glorious pictures, planting plans and lots of reasons to re-read chapters over the years.
You should read any book you can find by the late, great Christopher Lloyd (some are out of print, but you can usually find used copies). Succession Planting for Adventurous Gardeners was one of the first gardening books I ever bought and I still re-read it 10 years later. The principle of making one big bed look glorious for as long as possible is of particular use to 'middle-sized gardens', as that's often what we have.
This is another of my first ever gardening books. And it's still in print over 10 years after I first bought it, which means that lots of other people love it too. It's a great, practical gardening guide by the immensely readable Helen Yemm. Gardening in your pyjamas is what marks the amateur gardener out from the professional - you're clearly at home, waking up on an early summer morning - and out you go to tackle everything from planting to pests.This book will help you.
Lunar and biodynamic gardening is probably something you've heard of. You may even think it means planting by the light of the moon (it doesn't.) Matt Jackson's book is very useful - even if you only want to pick up a few bio-dynamic or organic tips when growing your vegetables. It's a good practical gardening book with lots of excellent advice. Matt is also an enthusiastic 'no-dig' gardener and all his gardening trials are on small, domestic plots.
This is a giant amongst coffee table books. With fabulous photography and high quality production values, this well-written and thoughtful book will immerse you in the 'new' wave of English country gardening. Many of the gardens are rarely open to the public, but they are major gardens absolutely at the top of their game. Your garden? No. Gardens to inspire? Yes. I read this once late at night, hoping that the beautiful images would soothe me into slumber. But it was so glorious, it had quite the opposite effect.
A wonderful guide to planting and using colour in your garden. Sarah Raven's style is clear and very readable and the pictures are inspirational. There are planting plans and plant names, too. Another one I've kept for years!
The author, Ian Hodgson, is a really good writer, and he knows his stuff. This has lovely photographs, plus lots of ideas and practical information for including wild gardening and wildlife in every garden from balconies upwards. It's new out in May 2016 (pub Frances Lincoln £25), but I reckon it's a keeper.
Beth Chatto's Shade Garden: Shade-Loving Plants for Year-Round Interest (Pimpernel Garden Classics) ">
First published as Beth Chatto's Woodland Garden, this is a must-have book for anyone who wants to make the most of the shady spots in their garden. A recommendation from garden consultant Posy Gentles, who has it constantly to hand.
Herbs are probably the best value grow-your-own plants. You can grow them on a balcony or windowsill, as well as in the smallest of gardens. You can cut herbs and they'll re-grow, saving you a quid or so over the supermarket bags each time. Jekka McVicar is the herb queen.
This gorgeous garden book is suggested by readers of The Middlesized Garden. I love Marianne Majerus' garden photography and co-author Heidi Howcroft is a top garden designer. There are loads of ideas in this book - for planting, seating, fences, terraces...it really is a book of ideas, and beautifully photographed.
Not strictly a gardening book, but lots of good expert info about which flowers to grow for decoration. I love this for its floral decorating ideas: how to make or adapt containers, floral wreaths and fascinators and craft tips, such as 'how to dry plants.'
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