13:54 EST, 28 November 2013
12:54 EST, 4 December 2013
An explosion of colour: Great Dixter, one of 25 gardens featured in The New English Garden
There’s not much you can do in the garden at this time of year, other than admire the winter-flowering honeysuckle and frosty architectural foliage that you prudently planted last season.
For those of us who somehow forgot to do our winter planting, this is an ideal time to sit by the fire and make resolutions for next season with the help of a good gardening book.
THE NEW ENGLISH GARDEN BY TIM RICHARDSON (Frances Lincoln £40)
Gardens bust the boundaries of art, science, craft and hobbydom (as well as social class, on occasion),’ writes Tim Richardson in the introduction to his inspiring and beautifully illustrated book. Arguing that English gardening is at an exciting moment of change, he proves his point with witty studies of 25 gardens illustrating different aspects of current gardening style.
From Patrick Blanc’s startlingly modern Living Wall at the Athenaeum Hotel in central London to the ravishing 18th-century vistas created by Julian and Isabel Bannerman at Hanham Court in Gloucestershire, there is something on every page to rekindle your enthusiasm when the thought of mulching gets you down.
VIRGINIA WOOLF’S GARDEN: THE STORY OF THE GARDEN AT MONK’S HOUSE BY CAROLINE ZOOB (Jacqui Small £30)
You might not think of Virginia Woolf as an enthusiast for vigorous mulching, and it is true that her husband, Leonard, was the more diligent gardener: ‘Leonard has become what I daresay is called garden proud,’ wrote Virginia, soon after they had moved into Monk’s House in the Sussex village of Rodmell.
The house is now owned by the National Trust, and Caroline Zoob lived there as a tenant for 11 years from 2000. Her affectionate book tells the story of how the garden was created, with evocative archive photographs and romantic pictures of the garden as it is now.
GARDENALIA BY SALLY COULTHARD (Jacqui Small £30)
When it comes to designing a garden, the plants are only half the story. Fences, containers, furniture and even garden tools and sheds can help turn the smallest patch into an outdoor room with a distinctive character.
Sally Coulthard’s passion for reclaimed and vintage objects inspires a look that is high on style and low on cost. Among her ingenious suggestions are using recycled wine crates as planters in the kitchen garden, and giving broken ceramics or the bases of wine bottles a useful second life as eyecatching mosaic paving.
RHS SMALL GARDEN HANDBOOK: MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE BY ANDREW WILSON (Mitchell Beazley £18.99)
‘When dreaming about your ideal garden you may well imagine the space to be much larger than it is,’ writes Andrew Wilson, a trifle quellingly. Yes, well, we’ve all been there.
My own tiny garden is dominated by a rampant rambling rose planted in a moment of horticultural madness.
Wilson’s methodical guide encourages you to understand your plot, find your style and look at the underlying structure of your garden before you even think about planting anything. ‘Evaluating your hardscaping’ may not be the sexiest heading ever, but trust him: you’ll be glad you did.
WILD FLOWERS, NATURE’S OWN TO GARDENS GROWN BY CAROL KLEIN (BBC Books £20)
There was a time when ‘wild flower’ was just another word for ‘weed’, and keen gardeners would devote much time and energy to eradicating them. But gardening expert Carol Klein of BBC’s Gardeners’ World wants us to rethink our relationship with wildflowers, celebrating their natural beauty and understanding their relationship with their domesticated cousins.
Arranged by season from spring to winter, her prettily illustrated book encourages us to see the beauty all around us in hedgerows and field margins, from the humble dog violet to the ‘beautiful and abundant’ (if fiercely prickly) creeping thistle.
NO-NONSENSE CONTAINER GARDENING BY CHRISTINE WALKDEN (Simon & Schuster £20)
Not having a garden is no excuse for not growing things, according to Christine Walkden, whose enthusiasm for container gardening leads her to suggest planting a mini-orchard on your patio.
Container-grown apples, tubs of raspberries and redcurrant bushes, a growbag planted with strawberries – and there’s your orchard! Other ingenious ideas include a container of scented herbs (lemon balm, verbena, lavender and scented geraniums) to steep in your bathwater, and cultivating waterlilies in a half-barrel or an old tin bath if you don’t have space for a pond.
RHS CONTAINER GARDENING (Mitchell Beazley £12.99)
Children love to do grown-up things on a miniature scale, and one of the cleverest ideas of the RHS Container Gardening book is to encourage little ones to get involved in gardening by starting them off with containers.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the book points out that keen gardeners who are too old to cope with the more strenuous physical labour of maintaining a full-sized plot can still get pleasure and satisfaction from growing ornamental and edible crops in pots and raised beds. This is a practical, nicely laid-out guide to everything you need to know about container gardening.
RHS CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW BY BRENT ELLIOTT (Frances Lincoln £25)
Each Spring for the past hundred years, keen gardeners have made the pilgrimage to Chelsea Flower Show.
The show has become notorious for occasional spats between exhibitors, and the formidable presence of sharp-elbowed matrons from the Shires, determined to fight their way to the front of every exhibit. Brent Elliott’s handsomely illustrated history celebrates the show’s centenary in its Chelsea site. There is a comical insight into the exacting Chelsea rules, in the form of a humble 1984 plea to be allowed to exhibit gnomes, tersely refused. So Hurrah! for Chelsea Gold Medallist Jekka McVicar, who cheekily defied the ban in 2009 by smuggling Borage the Gnome into her show garden.
RHS BOTANY FOR GARDENERS (Mitchell Beazley £14.99)
The smell of cut grass is the most evocative of scents. But have you ever wondered about its origins?
According to this intriguing book, cut grass releases a variety of volatile chemicals which may have a “defensive function that can be picked up by other plants”. In other words, the Prince of Wales, much mocked for his belief in the ability of plants to communicate, may have been right all along. This and a plethora of other fascinating details about the intimate lives of plants make this exquisitely illustrated book an ideal present for the keen gardener.