Like millions of others, as a child, I grew up with Beatrix Potter's books. In turn I read them to my children and duly took them to Hill Top to see for themselves the garden, where many of her ideas were to originate.
Surprisingly, very little has been written about her love of gardening and plants and so 'Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life' by Marta McDowell is timely and welcome.
Nothing is worse than paying a small fortune for a treasured plant only to see it wither and struggle because it is sited in the wrong part of the garden or indeed should not have been planted in that type of garden in the first place.
If you have ever asked yourself how plants defend themselves, or why we prune, or how plant growth and roots develop, you probably wished you had a better grasp of botany.
In 'RHS Botany for Gardeners', the art and science of gardening is explained and explored by author Geoff Hodge in a delightful book which is more than just a useful reference book but also a practical, hands-on guide for gardeners. It will help you understand the answers to the questions above and much else besides.
As Peter Seabrook points out in the Foreword to the Sixth Edition, while grafting skills remain unchanged, there have been a number of significant developments since the Fifth Edition of the handbook was published in 1988.
Certainly much of the original text has stood the test of time, however, in this new edition, Steve Bradley shows how much research and development continues to be done and how methods and techniques are constantly being improved and modified.
However, Cumbria can also boast a fine stock of distinguished houses and castles and in his book about the county and its houses, ‘Houses of the Lake District’, Christopher Holliday, takes us on a special journey around 21 of these gems. The book tells the stories of the houses and the people who lived them, from the defensive Sizergh Castle (National Trust) with its 14th century pele tower to the wonderful Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts holiday home on the shores of Lake Windermere.
Our guest reviewer Susie White takes a look at 'The Gardens of England: Treasures of the National Gardens Scheme' and finds much of interest.To my mind an ebook can never replace the joy of handling a well-produced hardback: the feel and weight of it, the smoothness of the cover, the coloured, matt endpapers, the smell of paper and ink and the photographs on every turn of the page. That's how I feel about this new book that celebrates the National Gardens Scheme and is published a year after its 85th anniversary. It makes a good companion to the book ‘Making Gardens’ that was published on the 75th anniversary of the NGS and a book that I still refer to with pleasure.
RHS Growing Vegetables and Herbs
Garden writer, photographer, author and lecturer, Susie White, is our guest reviewer for this new RHS Title: 'Growing Vegetables and Herbs'.Susie has a lifetime's gardening experience which is reflected in her well-crafted articles that appear regularly in the garden press. She lives in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
One in a series of growing guides from the RHS, this is a very practical book and one that I can imagine someone might keep in their allotment shed so that it is always handy. It feels satisfyingly chunky and a sensible size with a strong hardback cover, so that it can put up with being handled in the garden. That means that it would probably be much more used than a larger, glossier book.
I have lost count of the times I wished I had made more notes of the inspirational gardens that I have seen at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show over the last decade. The design trends, ideas and practical details which are important to focus on and the finer details of each garden are always worth noting and every year they bring new inspiration.
In 'Take Chelsea Home', Chris Young, in association with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), gives us the ideal solution to those ‘what if?’ moments, when we know we should have paid attention and probably didn't.
This inspirational sourcebook allows you to take the best of the world-famous flower show's innovation, flair, extravagance and ingenuity home with you and compensates for that lack of note taking.
"Powerhouse Plants" by internationally known plantsman and award-winning writer Graham Rice will be a welcome addition to the bookshelf. Buying plants can be an expensive process and gardeners want to ensure that their money is well spent. In his latest book, "Powerhouse Plants" Graham selects 510 of the top performers for multi-season beauty and plants that truly earn their keep.
RHS Container Gardening
A wealth of useful tips and expert advice on creative container gardening for all styles of garden and container. There are tips on more than 525 species and varieties of container plants with clever ways to transform the look of your garden using everything from self-watering pots to hanging baskets.
As she comments in the introduction, since she wrote the first edition of Carol Klein’s Favourite Plants, in 2004, she has come to know intimately most of the plants included within its pages. She exhorts us to consider good natured ‘bread and butter plants’ such as the meadow cranesbill and Campanula, the wonderful Astrantias and Echinops and the Cinderella plants which shoot to stardom in a matter of weeks such as Snowdrops and Anemone.
In the Preface to ‘RHS Latin for Gardeners’ author Lorraine Harrison makes the point that ".... when confronted with the complexities of botanical Latin many highly accomplished gardeners shrug, sigh and seek solace in Shakespeare."
However, she rightly reminds us that while it is easy to understand why we fall for the “poetry and charm” of common plant names, they fail to tell us anything of the origin of a plant or important points such as colour, form and size.
I have several books dedicated to Latin plant names but none fall into the category of Lorraine Harrison’s book which is not only informative but entertaining and beautifully illustrated.
I suspect that if you gathered a group of people into a room and asked them what they think gardens are for, you would get as many answers as there are stars in the heavens. So it is a brave man who asks the question and then goes on expertly to answer it in a lively, thought provoking and analytical way.
Sandy Felton finds some answers to the question we often ask ourselves, 'What Are Gardens For?" in Rory Stuart's new book.
Sandy Felton reviews a great design book for those small spaces in our life.
There are times when I have sat in my little piece of utopia and wondered what if? What if I could afford to consult a professional garden designer to do a complete make-over? What if I decided to completely change my cottage garden style for something more modern or chic? Like many contemporaries who have small suburban gardens I never get past the what if? stage.
The majority of gardeners in the UK are gardening in small suburban plots or have back-yards, where space is at a premium and uplifting ideas for a total transformation into a peaceful haven can be challenging. Which is why I applaud Ann-Marie Powell for producing such a gem of a book in 'Plans for Small Gardens'.
'The A-Z of Plant Names' by Allen J. Coombes is an excellent reference book to help you unlock the information behind the names of 4000 of the most commonly grown garden plants in Europe and North America. Allen, formerly of Hillier Gardens and now at the University Botanic Garden in Puebla, Mexico, demystifies the subject and makes plant names instantly more meaningful.
In 'Free-Range Chicken Gardens', Jessi Bloom shows us that we can keep chickens and have a beautiful garden too. This delightful and very useful book, originally written for the American market, contains just about everything you need to know about keeping chickens. Jessi takes you through the basics of starting with chickens, from how many to get and what breeds are best through to choosing chicken-friendly plants, coop design and landscaping.
Spend even a short time with Hugh Cavendish in his garden at Holker Hall in Cumbria, and you quickly realise that you are in the company of a supreme plantsman.
Here is a man who has spent forty years of his life gardening at Holker, who has successfully understood his obligations to a historic landscape while at the same time not being strangulated by it and who has had the consummate good sense to evolve a historic garden to fit the demands of a discerning 21st century public.
Afternoon tea has had something of a resurgence recently and we are discovering the pure pleasure of enjoying lovely sandwiches, scones and cakes with a good pot of tea. Mix-and-match crockery, bone-handled knives, lace and linen, china teapots, home baking and the wonderful Victoria sponge are all back in vogue.
Written by the Blue Peter Gardener, Chris Collins and Guardian writer Lia Leendertz, the book combines not only expert advice from the UK’s biggest gardening charity but also a lively and easy to follow text from one of the most popular gardening experts on children’s television. It's full of ideas and step-by-step projects ranging from growing perfect potatoes to creating a tasty tower of berries. The book offers a gentle introduction to gardening covering a wide range of topics including being a green gardener and also a section on why things go wrong – important when little gardeners might get disheartened when they find slugs nibbling their fruit and veg.
He acknowledges that there are a number of publications covering woody plants with one of the most accessible being The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs, which to many is still regarded as the Bible.
There is no shortage of quintessentially British gardens many of which, in their varying degrees, convey a wonderful cross-section of our national horticultural wealth.Because we are blessed as an island with so many it can be difficult to choose where to focus our attention.
In 'Exploring Britain's Country Gardens', edited by Donna Wood, we are of course introduced to some of the most iconic - as one would expect in any guide to the country’s gardens - but we are also treated to some of the less well known gems.
In 'Gardening with Wild Plants', author Julian Slatcher, sets out to re-introduce to the gardening public some of the overlooked gems of the British Countryside.
Primroses, daisies, foxgloves, snowdrops and bluebells are just a few of the beautiful plants we regularly find in our gardens, however, there are many more that could be incorporated if we knew just a little more about them.
This is a handy sourcebook which divides the plants according to their natural habitats. There are almost 200 different wild plants featured along with practical information and tips on planting and growing as well as useful planting plans.
In 'Making a Garden', Matthew Wilson, produces a practical guide to help us harness ideas and techniques used in garden design to produce success in our own gardens.
He uses real case studies to demonstrate how the ideas and techniques behind them can help us avoid pitfalls when designing our own garden.
The 'RHS Encyclopedia of Planting Combinations' last published in 2008 has now been updated and revised by author Tony Lord.The book has an easy-to-follow guide on how to use the Encyclopedia to its best advantage, with each plant entry containing an analysis of the characteristics of the plant, flowering season, light levels and height and spread.
There is a new clear key for symbols that indicate ideal soil and growing conditions for all the 1,000 plants included in the book.
Whether you own a large greenhouse or just a small 'lean-to' , Anne Swithinbank's new book 'The Greenhouse Gardener' will prove a valuable asset.A greenhouse can be the hub of the garden while the gardener can find hours of pleasure cultivating young plants and cuttings, growing vegetables such as tomatoes and chillies or raising tender perennials to fill those gaps in the garden.
The author is one of Britain's best-known gardeners, broadcasters and garden writers and her writing style is not only informative but light and engaging.
February sees the release of a number of new gardening books from publishers Timber Press. With topics from Heirloom Vegetables, Small Space Container Gardening and Cactus, there is sure to be something to interest gardeners on both sides of the Atlantic.
'The Gardener’s Guide to Cactus' by Scott Calhoun introduces a tempting 'peek' into a sometimes overlooked species. It features a 100 of the most interesting and versatile North American cactus species, in a neat and easy to follow layout.
Cactus represent nearly a quarter of all succulent plant species, grow in diverse habitats and if you choose the right species, they will be tolerant of harsh conditions.
Dirr is an icon in the US. He is one of the top American authorities on woody plants and the author of over 300 scientific and popular papers, articles and books. A Professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia, Dirr has received the highest honours from the American Horticultural Society.
Gardeners' at all levels are bombarded with advice from a variety of sources.
Sorting out the 'do's' and 'don'ts', calculating whether our best friend's advice about mulching is really helpful or having the confidence to trust the 'old gardener's tales' from the potting shed, is all part and parcel of everyday gardening.
If you sometimes feel bewildered by all the advice and want to sort out fact from fiction, 'Decoding Gardening Advice' by Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard, may be the answer. This is a good-humoured book that offers the definitive gardening do’s and don’ts and the reasons why, backed up with horticultural and botanical science.
Living quite close to the wonderful Levens Hall in Cumbria it might seem very insular if I confessed that I have not really paid much attention to creative pruning in the past. It might be fairer to say that I have not perhaps appreciated what a creative person with a good pair of clippers can achieve on what would otherwise be a boring and quite ordinary piece of box.
I think it was Tom Stuart-Smith who first awakened in me the realisation that box and hedging could be fun and what is more soothingly decorative – for example his 2010 Chelsea garden arranged established box balls into a shape giving the impression that they were much older and mature – delightful.
If you want to discover the best plants for one of the garden's most challenging problems – dry shade – 'Planting the Dry Shade Garden' by Graham Rice, will fit the bill nicely.
As Graham points out, there is no reason why dry and shady areas cannot be as attractive as the landscaping in other areas of the garden and from the outset he shows us how we can garden successfully by understanding the problem and then using techniques to take the edge off drought and poor light.
- 'The Adventurous Gardener' and 'Foliage Plants'
- Our Plot by Cleve West
- Great Gardens of Britain
- ‘Contemporary Colour in the Garden’
- The English Roses
- RHS How to grow plants in pots
- RHS – How to Garden
- 'Great Gardens of Italy' by Monty Don
- Home Ground: Sanctuary in the City, by Dan Pearson
- RHS How Does My Garden Grow?
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