It’s worth buying each gardening book on this list twice – once to give as a gift and once to keep yourself.
Or you could discreetly sneak a read before you gift wrap it.
Gardening books in 2023 are no longer divided into ‘practical’ and ‘inspirational.’
Practical books are now beautifully made manuals. They have textured covers, stylish photography and contemporary illustrations, printed on satisfyingly thick paper. A good example is No Dig by Charles Dowding.
Inspirational books now combine growing care instructions with lavish bespoke photography in glorious colour. For example, Lilacs by Naomi Slade, with photography by Georgianna Lane could sit on any well stocked coffee table. Yet it also has all the information you need for choosing and growing lilacs.
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What is the best gardening book for beginners?
This is probably the most asked question. First, think about the lifestyle and aims of the beginner gardener.
For example, A Greener Life by Jack Wallington would start a new town or city gardener off with excellent gardening habits. This book has good practical advice about how to garden. It also offers a contemporary, relaxed look at how to treat your garden as a part of your lifestyle rather than something completely separate. ‘The ‘greener’ element is lightly woven in, combing a personal story with good wildlife, soil care advice and garden design.
What to sow, grow and do by Benjamin Pope is another brilliant gardening book that will give the beginner gardener all the information they need. It’s well structured, with a list of gardening terms at the beginning. Thoughtfully written and comprehensive, it has atmospheric photgraphy by Kim Lightbody.
What is the best book for growing vegetables?
Grow-your-own gardening today is about growing for food in harmony with nature. It’s no longer about endlessly trying to control it.
Charles Dowding’s No Dig is a comprehensive explanation of how to grow more crops with less effort. The key is to preserve your soil structure. The Vegetable Grower’s Handbook by Huw Richards is based on the principles of permaculture. It’s also a good practical, well laid-out manual for anyone wanting to grow food.
Both books are clear, well-written and have all the detail you need to grow vegetables successfully. And both writers experiment with ‘breaking the rules’ of veg growing in order to find easier, more productive ways of growing. Buy either. Or both.
Best gardening books for small gardens and pots
If a would-be veg grower is short of space, then The Vertical Veg Guide to Container Gardening by Mark Ridsdill-Smith is a must. It won the Garden Media Guild Practical Book of the Year Award 2022. Sub-titled ‘how to grow an abundance of herbs, vegetables and fruit in small spaces,’ it’s a spin off from the hugely successful Vertical Veg blog.
If you want a blaze of flowers in a small space, then The Flower Yard by Arthur Parkinson has been one of the gardening book successes of recent years. Arthur Parkinson is a young horticulturist who trained at Kew Gardens and filled his own tiny yard with an abundance of flowers grown in pots.
And publishers Bloom have produced a collection of small, beautiful gardening books by top garden experts. Try Pots – fill your containers with plants, tend to their needs, watch them flourish by Harriet Rycroft. She was in charge of the pot display area at Whichford Pottery for years, and is an avid pot grower. Over the years, she’s found that some pot-growing advice is unnecessary. So although she promises ‘not to over-simplify things’, she focuses on what she’s found works.
Good gardening books for toddlers or kindergarten age children
Get children interested in gardening by introducing them to the Willsow Plantable Books. They’re colourful picture books about vegetables, such as The Basil Who Built Bridges or The Lettuce Who Wanted a New Look. Each book has real seeds, so you can grow your own basil, carrots or lettuce as well. I first saw them on Dan Cooper Garden.
He also stocks The Little Growers Cookbook with a range of gardening and cookery activities to do with children.
Best indoor gardening book
The Plant Rescuer by Sarah Gerrard Jones is billed as the ‘book your house plants want you to read.’ It’s a ‘practical toolkit’ on how to choose and care for indoor plants. She also aims to help eradicate the idea of house plants as a quick purchase – often dying and being replaced soon. Just a few tweaks, she says, can ‘help your house plants not only survive but thrive’. And that means you won’t have to go out and buy more.
Best eco-friendly gardening book
All the books in this listing have environmentally friendly gardening at their heart. Next year, this will be an even more important topic, with both the Society of Garden Designers and the RHS placing sustainable gardening as a priority.
For those who want specific instructions about how to achieve a better, more eco-conscious garden, The Regenerative Garden by Stephanie Rose is a proper handbook. It’s sub-titled ’80 practical projects for creating a self-sustaining garden eco-system.’ Some books gloss over key instructions, but this one is clear and and exact. Find out how to create a rain garden, a self-watering planter, a hugelkultur bed, an olla watering system for pots, a food forest and more.
If you want to inspire someone to walk on the wilder side of gardening, see Wild Gardens by Stephanie Mahon. This beautiful book looks at how wildness and gardens have gone hand in hand over history. It’s meticulously researched , and combines highly enjoyable storytelling with how to create your own wilder garden.
Best book for flower lovers
Miranda Janatka’s A Flower A Day is both an enjoyable read and full of interesting facts about flowers. Discover the botanical history and legends about flowers and what people have used them for over the centuries. Did you know that magnolias date back to the age of the dinosaurs, for example? This is not a how-to gardening book but Miranda is a Kew-trained horticulturist, so she knows her plants and weaves fascinating stories around them.
Best book for garden trees
The premise of RHS The Tree in My Garden by Kate Bradbury is that if you plant just one tree in your garden, you can achieve an amazingly positive effect on the environment. She explains the science behind it. And the book has 50 tree species to help you choose the right tree for your garden, covering its appearance, its care needs and the wildlife it supports. It’s both a useful reference and a fascinating read.
Best gardening book for renters
Lockdown taught us that even if you’re only in your garden for a year or so, it’s still an essential space. Matthew Pottage has written How to Garden When You Rent. It’s sub-titled ‘Make it your own, keep your landlord happy’, which sums up the key elements. He points out that even if you have to leave a few plants behind, you’ll be learning about gardening and making a space you can enjoy more. Much of the gardening is in pots, which you can take with you. A must for anyone who would like a garden but thinks it’s not worth investing time and trouble if they rent.
Best for garden visitors
The South East of England has some of the most famous gardens in the world, such as Great Dixter and Gravetye Manor. It also has a wealth of private gardens, many of which are historically interesting. Barbara Segall has followed The Secret Gardens of East Anglia with The Secret Gardens of the South East. It’s a tour of the lesser known gardens of Kent, Surrey and Sussex, often called ‘The Garden of England.’ The book has beautiful photos and expert insights from one of the UK’s most experienced garden writers.
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