Thursday, March 5, 2009

There may still be snow on the ground in many parts of North America, but with the arrival of spring this month, I had to compile a list of some of my favourite gardening books to share, just to give the season a bit of a head-start. These books are all perfect combinations of practical advice and design inspiration - a union that I think ends up creating the perfect garden book. What is advice without inspiration? What is inspiration without practical implementation? These books deliver the best of both.

OUTDOORS by Diarmuid Gavin and Terence Conran

The ultimate garden design book: a visual delight covering all aspects of working and living in your garden with stunning photographs of gardens from around the world.Thematic chapters present a wide variety of successful gardens developed for specific purposes. Formal urban gardens on rooftops are explored, as are free-form rural landscapes, backyards devised to encourage children's imaginations, and spaces planned primarily for al fresco entertaining. In these sections, professionally designed gardens are explored methodically to reveal techniques behind planning and layout, planting choices, intended uses, and relation to the larger landscape. A special focus on conservation philosophies addresses wildlife, recycling, and water-wise gardening – timely subjects, indeed. Also included are a step-by-step guide to planning a garden, advice on selecting and working with a garden designer, and an extensive catalog of plants, with scientific names, foliage and bloom descriptions, and planting suggestions.

MAKING THE MODERN GARDEN by Christopher Bradley-Hole

A wonderful analysis of contemporary gardens as well as a fascinating collection of landscapes around the world, this book is a definitive study of the philosophy and practice of garden design at the outset of the twenty-first century and beyond. Author Christopher Bradley-Hole, himself a landscape designer, discusses the process of garden design in a presentation of modern landscapes of all sizes and from numerous locations. Among the designers featured in the book are Fernando Caruncho, Peter Walker, Kathryn Gustafson, and Vladamir Sitta; different types of gardens include roof gardens, courtyards, urban and country gardens, and dramatic landscapes. Bradley-Hole also reviews the ever-changing palette of plants used in the modernist garden as well as materials and landscape features.


The artist and scientist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647-1717) was born in Frankfurt, Germany, into a middle-class family of publishers and artists. In this slim, beautiful volume her meticulous illustrations of insect metamorphosis epitomize the standards of natural history illustration which helped give birth to the field of entomology. At the age of fifty-two, Merian traveled with her younger daughter to Suriname, a Dutch territory in South America, to paint its exotic flora and fauna.

Many of the drawings produced by Merian in the South American jungle were later published as hand-colored engravings in her book Metamorphosis of the Insects of Suriname (1705), which brought her widespread fame. A copy of the second edition is held in the collections of the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute.
Insects and Flowers reproduces vivid color details of sixteen plates from the Getty's copy. It features an engaging essay on Merian's life and work as well as an insect and plant identification guide.


THE HEIRLOOM TOMATO: Here, in 250 gorgeous photos and Goldman’s erudite, charming prose, is the cream of the crop, from glorious heirloom beefsteaks – that delicious tomato you had as a kid but can’t seem to find anymore – to exotica like the currant tomato, a pea-sized fruit with a surprisingly big flavor. Along with the photographs by Victor Schrager (who photographed the Martha Stewart’s Cookies book) are profiles of the tomatoes, filled with fascinating facts on their history and provenance; a section of more than 50 delicious recipes; and a master gardener’s guide to growing your own. More than just a loving look at one of the world's great edibles, this is a philosophy of eating and conservation between covers — an irresistible book for anyone who loves to garden or loves to eat.

THE COMPLETE SQUASH: Part gardening book, part "encounters with remarkable vegetables," Amy Goldman's The Complete Squash unearths the personalities yes, personalities, of the pumpkin and the squash. They are members in good standing in the horticultural hall of fame, and Goldman lovingly ponders their case histories and culinary merits both with common and uncommon varieties. She gets glorious help from award-winning photographer Victor Schrager, who brings out their eclectic beauty in more than 150 luminous color portraits. Growing, harvesting, and seed-saving instructions are included for the gardener, and for the cook a selection of recipes that show off the unique, lovely flavors of these versatile vegetables.

MELONS FOR THE PASSIONATE GROWER: Your local market probably carries only honeydew, cantaloupe, and watermelon, but it's the heirloom melons of the world that contain both remarkable succulence and the critical germ plasm that may ward off future plant diseases. Amy Goldman's tribute to the magnificent family of melons, Melons for the Passionate Grower is both a celebration of the rich gifts of these fruits and a cautionary tale of how many of these treats nearly went extinct.

SEEDS: TIME CAPSULES OF LIFE: Peter Crane, Rob Kesseler, Wolfgang Stuppy, and Alexandra Papadakis

Seeds, the minute building block of plant life, contain firmaments of otherworldly beauty. Through the marvel of scanning electron photomicroscopy, and in collaboration with two renowned experts, visual artist Kesseler unveils the delicate artistry and vibrant wizardry of these horticultural workhorses in an incandescent blend of exacting science and extraordinary art.

POLLEN: THE HIDDEN SEXUALITY OF FLOWERS: by Rob Kesseler, Madeline Harley, and Alexandra Papadakis

Carried by wind, water, birds, and bees, microscopic pollen grains embark on a remarkable journey to fertilize an awaiting plant. Harley writes of the evolution and diversity of pollen and the process of pollination with both the precision of an academic text and the poetry of a heartfelt homage. Whether interpreting the intricacies of symbiotic relationships or extolling the miracle of parthenogenesis, Harley patiently and precisely opens this hidden world to novices and serious students alike.

FRUIT: EDIBLE, INEDIBLE, INCREDIBLE: by Rob Kesseler and Wolfgang Stuppy

This companion title examines why fruits exist and how their short lives are critical to the natural order. Visual artist Rob Kesseler uses special light and scanning electron microscopy to create astonishing images of a variety of fruits and the seeds they shelter. His razor-sharp cross-sections reveal intricate interiors and pods, pouches, keys, nuts and other examples of botanical architecture. Seed morphologist Wolfgang Stuppy deftly explains the formation, development and demise of fruit. Literary, historical and artistic references to fruit are included as well. Fruit is groundbreaking in its intimate examination of plant reproduction. An essential source and reference for artists, designers and gardeners, this stunning book will fascinate any reader interested in the natural world and biological structures.


A Garden of Fragrance explores the aromatic character of all your favorite plants:Seductresses are heavily perfumed flowers whose scent comes out to greet you before you even see them. They include roses, gardenias, hyacinths, lilacs, and lilies. At least one Seductress should always be in bloom in your garden. Come-Closers, such as snowdrops, pinks, and violets, are more subtle flowers that share their fragrance only with those willing to hold them close.Moonlighters dispense their perfume from early evening into the night, allowing for warm, heady evenings in the garden. Moonflowers, honeysuckle, and petunias are the garden's night owls.Shaggy Dogs, which include many herbs, hide aromas in their leaves. Line a path with these, and you'll be rewarded if you brush against them as you walk by.The eccentric Rogues include the love'em or hate'em varieties, the pungent nose twisters, the dual personalities, and the stinkers. Their beauty is best glimpsed from a distance.

Suzy Bales shows you how to increase the aromatic impact of your garden no matter what the season, from spring's daffodils to summer's roses to fall's sweet autumn joy to winter's witch hazels. Ahe provides detailed advice on how to design, plant, and maintain a garden that's both visually appealing and romantically fragrant, including charts on essential oils, plants aromatic properties, and winning scent combinations.


I had never laughed out loud while reading a gardening book before. Thomas Hobb’s two books, however, broke the spell. His sardonic, somewhat sarcastic writing style will have you chuckling to yourself but it belies the intense knowledge he brings to his readers. The nursery owner and landscaper, who lives and works in Vancouver, is a fountain of original landscape design ideas. He identifies unique approaches to planting and supplies the names and habits of some of his best-loved plants. Photographs of his lush garden, as well as gardens from around North America, perfectly illustrate his important points. The underlying theme of both books is not to settle for anything less than the spectacular outdoors and to push the limits of creativity, to indulge your senses and your personal desires when planning your oasis.

A WAY TO GARDEN by Margaret Roach

This book is one of the best gardening books in existence, and I’m sorry it’s no longer in print. It is the perfect pairing of hard-won garden wisdom and practical gardening advice. Margaret, who was once the gardening editor for Martha Stewart Living magazine (and later the chief editorial director) uses her own garden in Copake Falls, New York, as a laboratory of horticultural how-to and “woo-woo” – that indefinable ‘something’ about gardening that builds and strengthens the soul. Her philosophies are gentle suggestions and reminders, made more tangible by the seriously scientific knowledge she provides to back them up. All of it is beautifully captured in photographs by Kit Lathem. It is a book I return to again and again.


Anyone driven to understand the ever-changing world of a seasonal garden will find this lushly-illustrated book fascinating. Using her gardens at her Turkey Hill estate in Connecticut as the canvas, Martha paints seasonal garden tableaus with advice, words of caution and demonstrations of the rewards a good garden can bring to your home, from beautiful flower arrangements to a bumper-crop harvest. Sprinkled throughout the book are numerous recipes that include ingredients from the garden, instructions on floral arrangement and glimpses into Martha’s personal gardening journals. The bulk of the book, however, is a season-to-season guide to practical gardening, beautifully rendered and showcased.


GARDENS: PERSONAL AND PRIVATE by Nancy D'Oench and Bonny Martin

No comments:

Post a Comment