I’ve always bought books and have been an avid reader since I first learned how. The pleasure of taking a journey through an author’s unfolding words is a sublime experience. Reading, rather like drawing or making music, is a submersive experience and the absorption of information occurs on many levels simultaneously. Reading about finished gardens per se has never been high on my list of priorities, yet at a glance I have roughly 60 linear metres of garden-related books in the library. I clearly enjoy the subject. With gardening I want the pith, not the fruit. I need the facts, the soul, and the experience of the subject matter. If I could read about garden matters in bullet points, I’d be happy! Judging by my book choices, I seem to favour concise, encyclopaedic authors who deliver aphoristic shots of knowledge.

Designer Jinny Blom sits at her desk in front of a filled bookcase and antique paintings
Jinny Blom in her studio surrounded by the books that inspire her. Photo: Rachel Warne

The culture associated with gardening and landscaping is profoundly interesting. Botany, for example, is an absorbing science so it is mystifying that there are not more degrees in British universities on the subject. Horticulture spans the science and technology of plant husbandry, the business of plant production and sales, and the art of growing plants and landscaping. It’s a hugely broad subject and the natural sister to agriculture, yet applied in many diverse ways. I am mystified as to why it has fallen from view and is considered the ‘poor relation’ of other academic subjects, especially as our lives depend on it. Gardening is rooted in the geological symphony of the landscape, weaving together the complexities of the land we stand on and draw our materials from. Gardening is weather, the uplifting poetry of ever-changing light and the mercurial seasonal variances that make our gardens glow. Gardening touches social science and social history. Gardening consumes the hands, hearts and minds of poets, artists, scientists, businessmen, academics, naturalists and craftsmen. That’s why I love it and here is how my book choices express that love.

Jinny's desert island books

One Man’s England
by WG Hoskins (BBC, 1978)

Gardens are for People
by Thomas D Church (University of California Press, 1955)

Perennials: Volume 1 Early Perennials, Volume 2 Late Perennials
by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix (Macmillan, 1994)

Ancient Roman Gardens
by Linda Farrar (Sutton, 1998)

The Country House Garden: A Grand Tour
by Gervase Jackson-Stops (Pavilion, 1987)

Flowers of the Mediterranean
by Oleg Polunin and Anthony Huxley (Chatto and Windus, 1972)

The English Year
Compiled from diaries and letters by Geoffrey Grigson (Oxford University Press, 1984)

English & Scottish Wrought Ironwork
by Bailey Scott Murphy, architect. Photo-lithographed and printed by George Waterston & Sons, Edinburgh (1904)

Perennial Garden Plants or The Modern Florilegium
by Graham Stuart Thomas (JM Dent, 1976)

Therapeutic Landscapes
by Clare Cooper Marcus and Naomi A Sachs (Wiley, 2015)

Words Jinny Blom


Photographs Rachel Warne