We’ve collated our favourite gardening books from throughout 2019, which cover books for beginners, experts, garden history buffs and more.
And as a particularly nice New Year’s present, we’re giving away all 15 books in a competition this year.
For more Christmas ideas, head to our festive hub.
Our top 15 gardening books of the year
Wild About Weeds
By Jack Wallington
Laurence King Publishing
£19.99 ISBN 978-1786275301
Jack Wallington wants us all to embrace weeds. They’re easy, wildlife-friendly and they fit with the modern enthusiasm for ecological planting. But what is a weed? The word, he suggests, is ‘merely a broad and negative term associated with any plant that pops up where we weren’t expecting it’ and divides weeds into the ‘good, the bad and the unappreciated.’ His lively text urges us to be more imaginative in our gardens, even to plant daisies in hanging baskets.
Read the full review. Don’t miss Jack Wallington on why climate change means gardeners need weeds.
More ideas for Christmas presents
Veg in One Bed
By Huw Richards DK
£14.99 ISBN 978-0241376522
For beginner growers, knowing where to start can be daunting. Huw Richards knows his onions and provides a fool-proof plan of how to produce 19 different vegetable crops from a 3m x 1.2m bed in one season. There is a real sense that Richards is a hands-on gardener with tried-and-tested methods. This is not a book for the coffee table, but a blueprint to follow as the months unfold. Richards has done the hard part so you can enjoy the growing.
Reviewed by Anna Greenland in the April 2019 issue. Read our piece by Huw on how to care for your allotment.
Forest: Walking Among Trees
By Matt Collins, photography by Roo Lewis
£25 ISBN 978-1911595267
Ten types of common tree – pine, juniper, oak, hornbeam, cherry, beech, birch, chestnut, Douglas fir and poplar – make up the ten chapters, and Roo Lewis’s photographs capture the otherworldly feel of these trees. For those of the forest-bathing generation who long to get lost in nature, this is a book in which you can lose your way in the wilderness and come out more clued up on tree species.
Reviewed by Rosanna Morris in the February 2019 issue.
By Jane Kilpatrick and Jennifer Harmer
£45 ISBN 978-1903360286
This extraordinary book chronicles the development of ‘snowdrop mania’ from 1854 to the present day. It tells of the unlikely friendship between James Atkins and his neighbour the exuberant ex-Guardsman and big-game hunter Henry Elwes (of G. elwesii fame), and more latterly the rival ‘snowdrop lunches’ of Richard Nutt and Primrose Warburg. A first-class piece of research, well written and immaculately edited.
Reviewed by Tim Richardson in the February 2019 issue.
RHS Design Outdoors
By Matt Keightley, photography by Marianne Majerus
£25 ISBN 978-1784724801
Thirty-five gardens are featured, some designed by Matt Keightley, the rest by a collection of more than 20 other designers. Each case study includes a ‘design checklist’ describing specific features, along with a focus on ‘garden details’, either a planting combination or a particular material. A garden plan supports each design, enabling the reader to interpret the garden. Ideal for anyone wanting inspirational ideas for a contemporary garden.
Reviewed by Annie Guilfoyle in the May 2019 issue.
Root, Nurture, Grow
By Caro Langton and Rose Ray
£18 ISBN 978-1787132184
A book that takes an inspirational, practical approach, emphasising vegetative propagation methods with chapters on stem and leaf cuttings, grafting, division, runners and offsets plus a useful indoor plant propagation table for over 70 genera. Growing houseplants is often cited as the gateway to ‘proper’ horticulture for new gardeners, and perhaps it is. I’m not sure it particularly matters, as both enthusiasts and fledgling horticulturists will enjoy this fun and insightful book.
Reviewed by Lucy Bellamy in the January 2019 issue.
A Beautiful Obsession
By Jimi Blake and Noel Kingsbury
£25 ISBN 978-1999734527
Most horticultural books fall into one of two categories: those full of technical information and those that capture the personal experiences individuals have with plants and gardens. This book does a little of both. Co-written by Noel Kingsbury, this book about Jimi Blake’s garden is like listening to the musings of two gardeners as they take a stroll, never quite knowing which direction the text will take. What is clear is Blake’s unique personality and his appetite to experiment.
Reviewed by Benjamin William Pope in the October 2019 issue.
A Modern Herbal
By Alys Fowler
£20 ISBN 978-0241368336
For millennia, people have used herbs to support health – a connection many of us have lost. In this book Alys Fowler redresses the void and shares simple ways in which she uses herbs for wellbeing. This modern herbal arms readers of today with the wherewithal to reclaim this practice. For anyone delving into herbs for the first time or those who want to broaden their herbal repertoire in the garden and home, this book is much needed.
Reviewed by Anna Greenland in the August 2019 issue.
Naturalistic Planting Design
By Nigel Dunnett
£35 ISBN 978-0993389269
Nigel Dunnett trained as an ecologist and his insights are informed by a lifelong study of semi-wild plant communities. The book is generously illustrated by his own stunning photos, complemented by pictures of projects that elucidate how his design principles have been put into practice. While not oversimplifying matters, this book makes an arcane and often misunderstood field of knowledge accessible to all.
Reviewed by Rory Dusoir in the April 2019 issue. Read Nigel’s piece on why cutting lawns less often can be good for gardens.
Perfect Practical Gardening Guides
By Simon Akeroyd National Trust
£6.99 each ISBN 978-1911358718 (Pruning) ISBN 978-1911358701 (Pots)
Written by Simon Akeroyd, an experienced head gardener at the National Trust, these guides are aimed mainly at budding gardeners who are ready to tackle some practical gardening tasks. They’re well written with a great depth of knowledge, and the author’s friendly tone inspires trust. Perfect Pruning, for example, will inspire the confidence to tackle all kinds of tricky shrubs and climbers.
Reviewed by Joshua Sparkes in the July 2019 issue.
By Andy McIndoe
£24.99 ISBN 978-1604697674
We’ve all now become familiar with the idea that there is a plant for every situation, and in this book Andy McIndoe clearly sets out what those plants are and describes them in detail. Each shrub is illustrated with one of the author’s own photographs and described in detail, including cultivation or pruning requirements. His advice is clear, practical and honest: the sort of counsel every gardener needs. An invaluable addition to the bookcases of gardeners.
Reviewed by John Hoyland in the March 2019 issue.
The Flower Garden
By Clare Foster, photography by Sabina Rüber
£19.99 ISBN 978-1786274090
Clare Foster, garden editor at House & Garden, set herself, the challenge to grow as many annual flowers from seed as she could. The book is a distillation of the findings and successes, listing 57 gorgeous plants to grow cheaply and easily from seed. For experienced growers it is the most stylish of style guides. For novice gardeners it anticipates the delight to be found in sowing a tiny seed and nurturing it to fully grown, blooming glory.
Reviewed by Sorrel Everton in the March 2019 issue.
A Lesson in Art & Life
By Hugh St Clair
£30 ISBN 978-1910258361
Cedric Morris was one of those mid-century British painters whose work was ‘rediscovered’ recently – even lesser examples of his flower paintings have been on sale at prices starting at £300,000. Gardeners will know him best for the irises he bred in his garden at Benton End in Suffolk, a number of which are still in cultivation, but as this affectionate but unsentimental biography reveals, he led a rollicking artistic life for years before he discovered horticulture.
Reviewed by Tim Richardson in the July 2019 issue.
‘Cherry’ Ingram: The Englishman who saved Japan’s blossoms
By Naoko Abe
Chatto & Windus
£16.99 ISBN 978-1784742027
Japanese political journalist Naoko Abe came across the story of cherry-tree expert Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram while researching a newspaper column. She became entranced by the story of an amateur enthusiast renowned as the man who saved many cultivars of Japanese cherry from extinction. Abe has produced an engaging work that adds illuminating definition to the world about which he wrote.
Reviewed by Jodie Jones in the April 2019 issue.