We like to do this type of blog post at this time of year. Christmas is just around the corner, and all the books featured here make for a great gift for that beloved green-fingered someone in your life.
I’ll be honest, I can’t remember if we posted our favourite books of 2017? I’d need to check but I’m pretty sure we did. We’ve definitely done several posts that have compiled some of our favourite home and garden books in the past.
There’s quite the library at Lazy Susan HQ too, and the team and I are all avid readers. These books provide inspiration for everything from new product development to ideas for blog articles. Plus many of us are do-it-yourselfers and amateur gardeners, so its always nice if you can combine business with pleasure.
And to keep things current, this post will simply compile our favourite gardening books from this year. That way I definitely won’t repeat any books we may have included in previous posts. Well, with the exception of one book that was published late 2017. However, it has been a massive source of inspiration in my own garden this year, so I wanted to include it.
We will also be publishing a more general gardener gift guide, so make sure you give that article a read too if you need a little festive inspiration. As for our favourite books, in no particular order.
Down to Earth – Gardening Wisdom by Monty Don
In fact I’ll kick things off with the odd one out. This is the only book in this list that was published pre-2018. Technically it was first published in October 2017 but I really wanted to include it in case you missed it. Plus I’m sure the paperback version was out in 2018?
Anyway, as I’ve already said, it has been a massive inspiration in my own garden, many of Monty’s tips I’ve put into practice, and to great effect I may add.
One thing you’re always going to get from Monty is unrivalled gardening know-how. He really is the don if you pardon the awful pun. And as it says in the title, this one is packed with his gardening wisdom. It is full of his essential tips, knowledge and rumination from his 50 years of horticultural experience.
I found the book really easy to follow, and it covers such a wide range subjects from shrubs, containers, pests and compost, to growing your own edibles that I’ve found myself reaching for it on an almost weekly basis.
There’s some excellent practical pointers on what to do in each month of the year, and each chapter is concise and clearly marked for quick reference as and when you need it. But for me, it’s the handy monthly guide at the back that proved most useful.
At Lazy Susan, we love watching Monty on the TV, and his calm laid back presenting style transfers to the written word too. It is almost like he’s there with you having a chat. Encouraging you to get the best from your garden.
Down To Earth is a great read, but what’s just as important is the photography. Full of some truly stunning photographs too. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. Ticks all the boxes for me, but most importantly it has inspired me to get out there and get my plot in fighting shape.
At West Dean – The Creation of an Exemplary Garden by Jim Buckland and Sarah Wain
This is another book that really inspired several of the Lazy Susan team, myself included. It really illustrates what you can achieve with plenty of persistence, skill and artistry.
By combining a high standard of gardening excellence with good old fashioned hard graft, you can create a successful garden in any set of circumstances. Although West Dean sets the benchmark incredibly high, why not aim for the stars?
At West Dean – The Creation of an Exemplary Garden is the inspirational story of how Sarah Wain and Jim Buckland brought back to life a neglected garden in Sussex. This book is a celebration of gardening excellence and what they’ve established there.
Super-tidy sheds, meticulously cared for glasshouses, a biomass boiler and steaming compost heaps are the engine that drive West Dean but these would be nothing without the artistic vision and thoughtful philosophy of Sarah and Jim.
West Dean attracts thousands of visitors each year, and whilst the expansive site is the starting point of this book, it is the specially commissioned photographs by award-winning garden photographer Andrea Jones that really bring the place to life for those of us that haven’t had the chance to visit yet. Don’t worry it is on my to do list!
The kitchen garden is a personal favourite of mine, and whilst it is of a standard I can only hope to aspire, this book serves as a great reminder of the infinite rewards that can be gained from a hard day’s graft in our own gardens.
Island Gardens – Havens of Beauty Around the British Isles by Jackie Bennett and Richard Hanson
I didn’t know this until I picked up this book. Obviously I knew we are an island but I didn’t know that the British Isles had more than 6,000 islands scattered around Britain and Ireland. More than 100 of those British off-shore islands are inhabited too. And of course where there are people, there are gardens.
Lighthouse gardens, gulf-stream-soaked, tropical gardens, windswept remote gardens with giant and ancient yew trees, and gardens surrounding castles and monasteries of historical significance. We have them all.
And whilst we might not be the nation with the most islands. I think that honour falls to Sweden but most of there 220,000 plus islands are not inhabited. This book makes a strong claim that we have more island gardens than anywhere else in the world, particularly on the inhabited islands of the Scottish Hebrides, the Isle of Wight, Anglesey and the Scilly Isles.
One thing you’re guaranteed with a book looking at the island gardens of the British Isles is diversity. From shady dells, to sunny banks, deep-soiled productive gardens to rocky, alpine slopes. However, one thing all island gardens in this book seem to have in common is the special light, almost mythical atmosphere and an indefinable magic that only living close to water can provide.
It takes in a wide variety of different habitats and gardening conditions too, from coastal to woodlands, mountains, dunes and meadows. I particularly enjoyed how Jackie revealed the challenges gardeners had encountered, the designs required in such extremes, and the skills they’ve mastered to thrive. A notable mention to Richard Hanson’s drone photography too. There’s some truly incredible aerial shots.
RHS Gardening Through the Year: Month-by-month Planning Instructions and Inspiration by Ian Spence
Let’s be honest, you can’t really go wrong with a book from the RHS. Everything they publish is first class, and this book is no exception. Quite simply it is essential. I thought I knew a little about gardening. I was wrong. I recently moved into a new build home and the garden was a blank canvas. This book has helped me plan ahead, get everything in place.
BBC Gardener’s World writer Ian Spence tell’s you month by month exactly what to do and when. He takes you systematically through the year, each chapter looking in-depth at one month at a time. It taught me not to rush in my own garden. Do things at the right time, and don’t worry too much if it looks unfinished. Better to wait.
There’s a handy to do list, along with last chance reminders and tips, plus it gives you an overview of the best tasks to tackle month by month. Each monthly chapter is also packed with advice on plant care, maintaining garden features such as lawns and ponds, what to prune and when. All beautifully illustrated with a comprehensive photographic A-Z appendix of nearly 350 plants provides detailed information on growing habit and care.
This is the 2018 updated edition, which features brand-new visual galleries that showcase a gardening year at-a-glance, with inspirational ideas for achieving colour, scent, or eye-catching foliage in your garden for every month of the year. Each month has updated Weather Watch and plant care information. Packed with essential gardening advice, RHS Gardening Through the Year is the must-have book for new gardeners and a trusty reference for old hands.
The Gardens of Bunny Mellon by Linda Jane Holden and Sir Peter Crane
Bunny Mellon was a newish name to me when a colleague passed this book on to me with a note that just said, “read this”. I’d heard the name Rachel “Bunny” Mellon but wasn’t really aware of her talent and passion for garden design. Throughout her long and storied life, she and her husband Paul Mellon, one of the wealthiest men in America, maintained homes in New York, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Antigua, and Upperville, Virginia. And she was responsible for designing the gardens at all of them.
She also designed gardens for some of her dearest friends, including the Rose Garden and the East Garden at the White House, at the request of President Kennedy, and the gardens at both the Paris home and the château of couturier Hubert de Givenchy.
All of these gardens are featured in this book, along with Mellon’s own garden plans, sketches, and watercolours. There’s also archival photographs and specially commissioned photographs of Oak Spring, the Mellon estate in Upperville. Author Linda Holden’s text is based on extensive interviews with Mellon before her death in 2014, and it makes for a fascinating read. However, for me, it is the illustrations and photography that are the real star here.
The English Country House Garden by George Plumptre and Marcus Harpur
There is something a little special about the English country house garden: from its immaculate lawns to the high yew hedges, it is a style much-desired and copied around the world.
Often conceived as a private, intimate place, a getaway from working life. A pergola, a sundial, a croquet lawn, a herbaceous border of soft planting; it is a space to wander and relax, to share secrets, and above all, enjoy a spot of afternoon tea.
But much like the work that’s gone into West Dean, even the most peaceful of country house gardens takes and incredible amount of passion and hard work to deliver all that peace and tranquility. This book takes a fresh look at the English country house garden, starting with the owners and the stories behind the making of the gardens. It’s a real insight into the hard work that goes on to achieve horticultural perfection.
The sublime photographs capture the gardens at their finest moments through the seasons, while the text goes into just enough detail of twenty-five stunning examples; some grand, some personal, some celebrated, some never-before-photographed – to explore why this garden style has endured and influenced so many.
From the Victorian grandeur of Tyntesfield and Cragside, to the Arts & Crafts simplicity of Rodmarton Manor and Charleston from Scampston. However, for me, the true highlight of this book is the new gardens by Dan Pearson and Tom Stuart-Smith. Simply breath-taking. I can assure you, this book will make for a great gift for any garden-lover.
City of Angels: Houses and Gardens of LA by Jennifer Ash Rudick and Firooz Zahedi
From the English country house to the City of Angels, our tastes at Lazy Susan are nothing if not eclectic. LA’s dramatic setting, Mediterranean climate, and outdoor lifestyle have long attracted creative individuals to its diverse neighbourhoods. It is about as far removed from the Victorian slender of Tyntesfield as you could possibly get, but we love both.
The thirty houses and gardens featured in City of Angels have been designed by renowned architects, interior designers, and garden designers, and they all offer a rich mix of quirkiness, elegance, glitz, and that all important Hollywood glamour.
Expertly guided by author Jennifer Ash Rudick and photographer Firooz Zahedi, this book looks at Kelly Wearstler’s stunning beach house in Malibu, Hutton Wilkinson’s exotic ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains, and so much more.