There are plenty of books that specialise in planting, whether their focus is on planting schemes, garden design or the botanical properties of the plants themselves. As there is so much literature to choose from, Gardens Illustrated put together a list of the best books for plant lovers – the titles any discerning gardener should have in their library. Don’t miss designers Tom Stuart-Smith, Julian and Isabel Bannerman and Penelope Hobhouse’s top book choices too, some of which are within this piece.
Perennial Garden Plants or the Modern Florilegium
by Graham Stuart Thomas
First published in 1976, this comprehensive survey of perennial garden plants has been hailed as a classic since its initial publication.
RHS Latin for Gardeners
by Lorraine Harrison
Author Lorraine Harrison explains how an understanding of the meaning behind botanical names can reveal many of the properties of plants, such as their shape, scent and colour, which can help enormously when choosing the right plant for a garden.
© Andrew Montgomery
by William Jackson Bean
(John Murray, 8th edition published in four volumes during the 1970s)
The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes
by Rick Darke
Grass expert, Rick Darke explores the prominent role grasses play in the sustainability of green spaces, and provides practical advice for propagation, growth and maintenance.
Dream Plants for the Natural Garden
by Piet Oudolf and Henk Gerritsen
These are plants that require little input from the gardener but provide endless enjoyment. A dream of a book for horticultural enthusiasts.
My first choice must be that of the landscape architect Sylvia Crowe who published Garden Design in 1958. I
Henk Gerritsen: Essay on Gardening
by Henk Gerritsen
Architectura & Natura Press
From his earliest memories of gardening, his inspirations, his working relationship with Piet Oudolf and the impact of the New Perennial Movement, it goes on to discuss ecology, the building blocks of a garden, from plants to ‘frills and knick-knacks’, and the impact of urban development.
by James Hitchmough
(Timber Press, 2017)
by David Austin
With clear advice and a comprehensive list of roses illustrated with colour photography, it’s an invaluable reference book for rose lovers.
Botany for Gardeners
by Brian Capon
Known for his clear description of how plants work, Brian Capon uses Botany for Gardeners to provide a detailed guide to a plant’s inner workings, from the biological detail of the plant itself to its relationship to the natural world.
Highly readable, it is a brilliant synopsis of garden-making from Cyrus the Great’s garden in the 540s BC until the decline of the great Mughal dynasty after the death of the Taj Mahal’s builder, the Emperor Shah Jahan, in 1666 AD.
RHS Encyclopedia of Gardening
Edited by Chris Brickell
Divided into two parts – Creating a Garden and Maintaining the Garden – the book provides advice on garden design along with practical planting tips.
by John G Hillier and
Royal Horticultural Society
Reference books lie in a small heap beside my desk. For me the most valuable is Hillier’s Manual of Trees and Shrubs. I have various editions, all heavily annotated by me or my husband.
Annuals and Biennials
by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix
Annuals and Biennials, the tenth volume of Phillips and Rix’s Garden Plant Series, showcases more than 1,000 plants, both wild and cultivated, making it an invaluable reference guide.
by Geoffrey Bawa, Christoph Bon and Dominic Sansoni
(Times New Edition, 1990)
Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden
by Beth Chatto
Drawing on her own experience of tackling a dry and windswept gravel garden and using a no-nonsense approach, the experienced plantswoman demonstrates how every gardener can create a plot where plants flourish despite lack of water and poor soil – and regardless of scale.
The Well-Tempered Garden
by Christopher Lloyd
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Known for his relaxed, non-technical manner, ‘Christo’ discusses many hundreds of plants with passion, intelligence and wit in this entertaining book that covers both the aesthetics and practical process required. Essential reading.
by Tim Richardson
(Bantam Press, 2007)
The Gardener’s Book of Colour
by Andrew Lawson
Using detailed colour photographs and keyline planting plans, Lawson demonstrates how colour has the power to change proportions, evoke different moods and harmonise space.
by Richard Mabey
by Anna Pavord
Each bulb is illustrated and has thorough descriptive detail that highlights the garden writer’s extensive knowledge and enduring passion for plants; an essential reference book.
by Ursula Buchan
(Thames & Hudson, 2007)
Making a Garden: Successful gardening by nature’s rules
by Carol Klein
In her most recent book, acclaimed plantswoman Carol Klein argues we should take inspiration for what will work in our gardens by looking at what works in similar conditions in the wild, be it woodland, wetland, hedgerow, meadow or seaside.
The Education of a Gardener
by Russell Page
Russell Page was one of the greatest landscape designers of the 20th century, and this 1962 book is frequently cited by designers and garden writers as essential reading.
by Christopher Lloyd, with a new introduction by Fergus Garrett