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Discover the best gardening books

The best gardening books to read in 2021

We consider the best horticultural and gardening books that all discerning gardeners need on their bookshelves

There are so many top-notch gardening and plant books to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming where to start. So, we have rounded up the best selection of books for plant lovers available in 2021. From books on wellbeing and gardening, growing vegetables in pots, cottage gardens, to Sissinghurst and royal gardens of the world; peruse through the best books for gardeners.

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The best gardening books in 2021

Herbarium by Barbara M Thiers

Herbarium by Barbara M Thiers

In this book, Barbara Thiers draws on her experiences with her mycologist father, and as the owner of one of the world’s biggest archive collections. She discusses the history of gathering botanical data across the planet, and the role this practice might play in the future, particularly in terms of conservation. 

Thiers complements her in-depth analysis with colourful illustrations, maps and materials from the New York Botanical Gardens. 

Read our full review of Herbarium

Do Bees Need Weeds? by Holly Farrell and Gareth Richards

Do Bees Need Weeds by Holly Farrell and Gareth Richards

An interesting book you can return to again and again, Do Bees Need Weeds? contains over 100 questions and answers on the subject of sustainable gardening. You’ll find out more about topics like the harmfulness of garden lights and shop-bought compost, and the possibility of growing pest-proof vegetables. It also touches on how gardening might change in the coming decades.

Plus, the book is packed with gardening ideas and projects you can accomplish on a budget, like crafting your own water butt. 

Read our full review of RHS Do Bees Need Weeds?

Potted History: How Houseplants Took Over Our Homes by Catherine Horwood

Potted History How Houseplants Took Over Our Homes by Catherine Horwood

Houseplants have become highly fashionable additions to our homes in recent years, but they’ve fluctuated in popularity over the decades. Catherine Horwood’s Potted History takes us right back to their beginnings in the 17th century, depicting their role in Victorian and Edwardian society, up to our current fascination with them. 

In this latest edition, Horwood has updated her 13-year-old book with fresh information on the ‘green revolution’ taking over our homes today.

Read our full review of Potted History

Rewild Your Garden: Create a Haven for Birds, Bees and Butterflies by Frances Tophill

Rewild Your Garden Create a Haven for Birds, Bees and Butterflies

Here, Frances Tophill offers her tips and tricks on restoring ‘wildness’ to our outdoor spaces to better support local wildlife. The Gardeners’ World presenter provides useful ideas and information on protecting our native species and creating space for biodiversity. 

Alongside the insights, there are colourful illustrations to enjoy too.

Read our full review of Rewild Your Garden

The Botany of Gin by Chris Thorogood and Simon Hiscock

The Botany of Gin by Chris Thorogood and Simon Hiscock

Did you know gin was first concocted as an Ancient Greek medicine? The distinctive tipple has a fascinating history, sure to interest anyone with a soft spot for the spirit. Over the centuries and across the world, people have used a variety of different plant combinations to create gin, as the popularity of the beverage has fluctuated. 

Here, Thorogood and Hiscock take us through the history of gin and its relationship to botany, with 35 colourful illustrations. 

Read our full review of The Botany of Gin

The Garden of Vegan: How plants can save the animals, the planet and our health by Cleve West

The Garden of Vegan How plants can save the animals, the planet and our health by Cleve West

Behind this book is Cleve West, animal rights activist, landscape designer and nine-time gold medal winner at the RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows. He’s passionate about promoting the huge negative impact of animal agriculture and meat-eating, and the steps we can – and should – take towards a plant-based future. 

Inside The Garden of Vegan, you’ll find clear data, real-life accounts and clever advice on how we can use our outdoor spaces to make meaningful change. 

Read our full review of The Garden of Vegan

Green: Simple Ideas for Small Outdoor Spaces by Ula Maria

Green Simple Ideas for Small Outdoor Spaces by Ula Maria

There’s no need to dismiss the notion of creating your perfect garden just because yours might be smaller than you’d like. Green teaches us to accept the positives of compact plots, including the ease and affordability of maintaining them. 

At a time when so many of us are living with small, city gardens, knowing how to create a calming green space is key. Bursting with ideas and real-life case studies, this book provides inspiration for anyone with a ‘bijou’ garden – or even just a balcony. 

Read our full review of Green

No Fear Gardening: How to Think Like a Gardener by Charlie Hart

No Fear Gardening How to Think Like a Gardener by Charlie Hart

If you’re after an easily digestible introduction to gardening, this is the book for you. Charlie Hart uses his own experiences and fun anecdotes to present the basics, from plant names and pruning tips to landscaping tasks. 

Conversational yet densely packed with information, reading this book is like getting advice from a close friend, which makes it an unintimidating introduction to gardening.

Read our full review of No Fear Gardening

The Well Gardened Mind: Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World by Sue Stuart-Smith

The Well Gardened Mind Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World by Sue Stuart-Smith

Building on foundations of neuroscience and psychoanalysis, this book explores the power of gardening to nurture our mental wellbeing and ease the symptoms of conditions like stress, depression and addiction. 

Psychiatrist and psychotherapist Sue Stuart-Smith uses international case studies from throughout history, as well as her own personal and family experiences, to reveal the importance of nature in our lives. 

Read our full review of The Well Gardened Mind

Beth Chatto: A Life With Plants by Catherine Horwood

Beth Chatto: A Life With Plants

Beth Chatto fans can learn about the landscape designer in Garden Notebook (1988) and Dear Friend and Gardener (1998), but this biography charts her life from start to end. It includes illustrations and black and white photos from the Chatto family’s collection, and notes written by Beth herself. 

Read our full review of Beth Chatto

The Pig: Tales and Recipes from the Kitchen Garden and Beyond by Robin Hutson

The Pig Tales and Recipes from the Kitchen Garden and Beyond by Robin Hutson

The Pig restaurant and hotel group prides itself on its ‘25-mile menu’ and sprawling kitchen gardens, which allow it to serve up fresh, local food on a daily basis. Ideal for anyone eager to peek behind the curtain of the iconic brand, this book reveals some of the secrets to its delicious food and contagious enthusiasm towards homegrown produce. 

Between the covers of this hefty hardcover is advice on everything from plant and animal breed identification to gardening and foraging, as well as tasty recipes and interior design tips. 

Read our full review of The Pig

Island Gardens: Havens of Beauty Around the British Isles by Jackie Bennett

Island Gardens Havens of Beauty Around the British Isles by Jackie Bennett

Have you ever dreamt of escaping to a remote island and creating your perfect garden there? Well, some people have done it, and this book shines a light on their stunning outdoor spaces. 

Before you get to the end of this inspiring read, you’ll discover many of the most beautiful gardens hidden away across the 100 or so inhabited islands around Great Britain. Jackie Bennett reveals how their owners overcome the challenges brought by local climates, and showcases the impressive results with photography by Richard Hanson. 

Read our full review of Island Gardens

Shades of Green: My Life as The National Trust’s Head of Gardens by John Sales

Shades of Green My Life as The National Trust’s Head of Gardens by John Sales

John Sales has had a fascinating career, not only working as the National Trust’s Head of Gardens, but also as the Royal Horticultural Society’s Vice President. He’s even earned the latter organisation’s highest accolade; the Victoria Medal.

Here, Sales recounts his experiences working across 50 National Trust gardens, starting out when they were considered just an add-on to the much more important houses. He reveals the many challenges he faced as an ambitious garden designer committed to conservation. 

Read our full review of Shades of Green

Walled Gardens by Jules Hudson

Walled Gardens by Jules Hudson

In this informative ode to the walled garden, archaeologist and television producer and presenter Jules Hudson delves into its historical and current-day significance. Since these enclosed spaces boomed in popularity during the 18th century, they’ve been lovingly maintained and restored at many sites across the UK. 

Hudson helps us understand more about walled gardens and the role they’ve played over the centuries. 

Read our full review of Walled Gardens

Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

Dreamscapes by Claire Takacs

With beautiful photography by Claire Takacs, Dreamscapes showcases some of the world’s most bewitching green spaces. It allows readers a peep inside the gardens of some of the horticultural world’s famous faces, from Vita Sackville-West to Piet Oudolf. 

Takacs also allows us a glimpse into her day as a garden photographer, and the lengths she goes to in order to capture a space in its best light – literally. 

Read our full review of Dreamscapes

Letters to a Beekeeper by Alys Fowler and Steve Benbow

Letters to a Beekeeper by Alys Fowler and Steve Benbow

Letters to a Beekeeper is a collection of the messages sent between Alys Fowler and Steve Benbow while learning the art of beekeeping and creating a ‘pollinator-friendly’ garden respectively. It charts their journey, as they swapped problems, advice and photos over the 12-month project.

In short, it’s an easy and entertaining read, whether you’re looking for beekeeping and gardening tips or not. 

Read our full review of Letters to a Beekeeper

No Dig Organic Home & Garden by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty

No Dig Organic Home & Garden by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty

‘No-dig’ gardening is more than a method for people who want to improve their outdoor space with minimum hassle. It’s also an effective way to keep soil healthy without disrupting its natural processes. This book is a guide to creating your own ‘no-dig’ garden and creating everything from compost to food and beauty products.

Read our full review of No Dig Organic Home & Garden

The Windowsill Gardener: 50 Easy-to-grow Plants To Transform Your Home by Liz Marvin and Annie Davidson

The Windowsill Gardener 50 Easy-to-grow Plants To Transform Your Home by Liz Marvin and Annie Davidson

Here’s an inspiring read for anyone who wants to turn their home into a tropical paradise on a budget. This cheerful book provides clever tips and creative project ideas for taking advantage of any windowsill or tabletop, and repurposing items destined for landfill. 

The pages are decorated with sweet illustrations and clear information, and there’s an engaging ‘visual index’ to keep things interesting. 

Read our full review of The Windowsill Gardener

The Complete Gardener by Monty Don

The Complete Gardener by Monty Don

The Complete Gardener is a thorough guide to gardening brought to you by one of the UK’s most well-known horticulturalists. It begins by emphasising the importance of planning when it comes to creating outdoor spaces, and covers a wide range of different topics, from flower combinations to crop rotation. 

Also included are detailed photos of Monty Don’s own personal garden. 

Read our full review of The Complete Gardener

The National Trust School of Gardening by Rebecca Bevan

The National Trust School of Gardening by Rebecca Bevan

Having worked as a National Trust Garden Researcher, as well as a BBC Gardeners’ World Researcher and an RHS Horticultural Adviser, Rebecca Bevan is well-placed to develop this ‘gardening school’. It’s a comprehensive resource covering everything from ‘gardening under glass’ to lawns and meadows, and sustainable practices. 

Plus, there are plenty of photos of National Trust gardens and evocative illustrations to complement the practical guides.

Read our full review of The National Trust School of Gardening

Rootbound: Rewilding a Life by Alice Vincent

Rootbound

An inquisitiveness underpins Alice Vincent’s book: a natural compulsion to seek and nurture green amid London’s grey. It is Nature’s unwavering constancy that Vincent finds grounding, as a twenty-something contending with the pressures of ambition, loneliness and heartache.

Rootbound is both relevant and important, questioning what it means to call oneself a gardener, and where horticulture fits within the modern urban experience.

Reviewer Matt Collins is head gardener at the Garden Museum.

Read our full review of Rootbound

Grow Fruit & Vegetables in Pots by Aaron Bertelsen

GRowf&V

Aaron Bertelsen has spent his life loving plants and as a passionate cook has always had a special interest in growing fruit and vegetables. If you have limited space and time but have always wanted to grow fresh produce, this book will inspire and guide you in enjoying one of the most basic pleasures in life.

It also encourages experienced growers to think outside of the box and consider what can be achieved with plants in any situation.

Reviewer Tom Coward is head gardener at Gravetye Manor.

Read our full review of Grow Fruit & Vegetables in Pots

Your Wellbeing Garden by Alistair Griffiths and Matt Keightley

RHS

There is no better time to reap the calming benefits of natural spaces. Professor Alistair Griffiths, director of science at the RHS Centre for Horticultural Science and Learning, highlights the benefits of four types of wellbeing garden: Protective, Healing, Nourishing and Sustainable.

Each chapter is dedicated to the benefits of each type, while practical design advice from Matt Keightley shows how to put ideas into practice.

Reviewer Katie Dutton is editorial assistant for Gardens Illustrated.

Botanical Revelation by David J Mabberley

BR

Botanical Revelation is not light reading. It is so densely packed with knowledge and incident that you may need a large pot of coffee and several reference books to make the most of it. But the text is leavened unstintingly with botanical illustrations and with facsimiles of historical herbarium specimens, which bring a particular immediacy to the account; all efforts to delve into this book will be more than amply repaid.

Reviewer Rory Dusoir is a Kew-trained gardener and writer.

Tokachi Millennium Forest by Dan Pearson with Midori Shintani

TMF

The centrepiece of Dan Pearson’s design for the Tokachi Millennium Forest is the Meadow Garden, an immersive celebration of indigenous plants and selections of them. A third of the book is devoted to a detailed description of how this matrix was developed and continues to be managed, with a light hand, by head gardener Midori Shintani and her team, and this provides a masterclass in naturalistic planting.

Reviewer Annie Gatti is a freelance garden writer.

Read our full review of Tokachi Millennium Forest

Palace of Palms by Kate Teltscher

PP

Cultural historian Kate Teltscher sets out to tell the human story of the iconic Palm House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the men who conceived, realised and maintained this extraordinary edifice.

Wearing her research lightly, Teltscher tells her tale of politicking and financial wrangles, domestic tragedies and epic plant hunting expeditions with a pace and vibrancy more commonly found in novels than in academic study.

Reviewer Jodie Jones is a freelance garden writer.

Gardening with Drought-Friendly Plants by Tony Hall

DFP

The main part of this timely guide to plants that will flourish in hot, dry summers is a comprehensive encyclopaedia of plants tried and tested by the author to be able to thrive in dry conditions. More than 200 plants are catalogued, with sections on bulbs, annuals, grasses, perennials, shrubs and trees, alongside, most usefully, details of the author’s experience of the plant.

Reviewer John Hoyland is a plantsman and writer.

How to Grow Your Dinner Without Leaving the House by Claire Ratinon

GYOD1

Author Claire Ratinon understands that space for growing veg might not be much more than a few hanging baskets outside a window; she is also experienced in all the nuances of city growing from lugging containers to top-floor flats to the need for small-scale nutrient production, such as a wormery. As an engaging guide to getting going, I hope it gets a whole new generation hooked.

Reviewer Alys Fowler is a garden writer and horticulturist.

Sissinghurst: The Dream Garden by Tim Richardson

Sissinghurst

The most up-to-date exploration of the garden, how it was created and why it remains so loved. Bringing the story up to date, Richardson reveals how, since the appointment of Dan Pearson as ‘godparent’, and under the tenure of Troy Scott Smith, the garden has once more regained the tone and feel of Harold and Vita’s intensely personal retreat.

Part horticultural tour and part exploration of the dreamlike qualities of the garden’s spaces.

Reviewer Annie Gatti is a freelance garden writer.

Read our full review of Sissinghurst

Flower: Exploring the World in Bloom by Phaidon Editors

Flowers

Images from across the ages are presented on facing pages, each picture echoing the other in its impressions of a flower or flowers.

By comparing the archaic with the contemporary, we are reminded that, though the years and context between the images may be vast, the artist’s relationship and fascination with their subject is steadfast. A captivating catalogue of flowers, as depicted in art throughout the ages.

Reviewer Katie Dutton is editorial assistant for Gardens Illustrated.

The Modern Cottage Garden by Greg Loades

MCG

New Perennial planting has lately achieved an indelible impact on how we view gardens. While this style answers well to the problems of large-scale landscapes, what of the domestic gardener, anxious to squeeze as much colour and joy as possible from a small plot?

In this title, Loades advocates incorporating elements of modern planting style into the traditional cottage garden idiom, and includes some of its key plants.

Reviewer Rory Dusoir is a Kew-trained gardener and writer.

The Garden: Elements and Styles by Dr Toby Musgrave

TG

A journey through 3,000 years of garden making that covers gardens and planting styles, from the first Islamic gardens of the seventh century to Piet Oudolf’s currently voguish New Perennial planting style.

This title may well grace the shelves of many a student of garden design, but it will just as easily appeal to plant lovers who may want to delve into the sumptuous photography while learning a thing or two about the wonders of the garden.

Reviewer Rae Spencer-Jones is books publisher at the RHS.

Royal Gardens of the World by Mark Lane

RG

In this delightful book, garden designer and BBC Gardeners’ World presenter Mark Lane takes you on his personally curated Grand Tour, through Europe to India, Japan and Bali, to visit 21 famous royal gardens he believes have had an impact on garden design and history.

In these days of restricted travel, it is a pleasure to visit these great royal gardens from your own armchair and to share this labour of love from an erudite enthusiast.

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Reviewer Matthew Biggs is a Kew- trained gardener and presenter.