What to Sow, Grow and Do: A Seasonal Garden Guide
by Benjamin Pope
Frances Lincoln, £22
With this, his first book, Benjamin Pope has pulled off the neat trick of appealing to beginner and more experienced gardeners alike. No matter how many years you have had your hands in the soil, it is always good to be reminded not only of the right way to tackle essential tasks such as pruning and propagation, but also of the importance of observing what is going on around you. As the author quite rightly says, one of the best things about gardening is that you never stop learning.
Season by season, we are guided through the process of planning, preparing and managing the garden. As a visual person, I found the extremely clear pictures accompanying Pope’s explanations very useful. For each stage of the year, he picks out an interesting selection of trees, shrubs and plants that will be at their best, and provides a handy list of seasonal tasks.
But he also goes further, encouraging us to really embrace and celebrate the season, whether by creating a seasonal arrangement, foraging for delicacies such as elderflowers to make cordial, or preserving the precious traditions that connect us to the rhythms of the wider natural world. While I cannot say for sure that I will be singing to my fruit trees, I may well recreate the part of the wassailing ceremony that involves raising a glass to their good health.
I will also be following Pope’s excellent advice on supporting bird life by providing food and water and materials for nesting – something I am keen to do in my own new garden.
This is a thoughtful and inspiring book by an author who truly understands – and values – the work involved in creating a garden, but also recognises the importance of stepping back and appreciating the moments of beauty that make the effort worthwhile. It’s often said that gardening is good for mind, body and soul. With this book, Pope proves that point, and his own credentials with some glimpses of the glorious garden where he works.