Life

Books: The best gardening reads to give this Christmas

Hannah Stephenson leafs through some books to gift the green-fingered person in your life...

Books offer expert advice for all levels of gardening knowledge and garden space
By Hannah Stephenson, PA

ANYONE who loves gardening will love a gardening book, whether it offers aspirational designs, practical tips or just novel ideas for how to perk up your outside space.

Here are just some of the offerings this festive season which will make your loved one want to get into their outside space.

The Gardener’s Almanac by Alan Titchmarsh (Hodder & Stoughton, £14.99)

A perfect gift for those who want a month-by-month mix of timely horticulture and Titchmarsh musings, like his thoughts on a poem, a quotation, a piece of music, or a book to read that month. It’s a seasonal notebook which will be ideal for a gentle gardening read over the festive season and beyond, complete with his observations as each season unfolds and a few hints and tips along the way.

The Modern Gardener by Frances Tophill (Kyle Books, £22)

It’s all about being as eco-friendly as possible right now and in this book, horticulturalist and TV presenter Frances Tophill offers a practical guide to gardening sustainably, creatively and productively.

There’s an emphasis on how we can engage with the land, the plants, animals and insects as well as gardening. Her book not only shows how your garden can be visually stunning and how gardeners can select and grow plants, but also how it can encourage wildlife, reduce our carbon footprint and make our outdoor and indoor space more useful in all areas of our lives.

RHS 50 Ways To Start A Garden: Ideas and Inspiration for Growing Indoors and Out by Simon Akeroyd (Mitchell Beazley, £16.99)

Aimed at first-time gardeners, those in rented accommodation or anyone with limited outdoor space, this book teaches how to take stock of an environment and start a garden. With ideas for gardens, patio spaces, courtyards, balconies and interiors, these 50 easy-to-adopt ideas provide the steps to success for even the most inexperienced gardeners.

Highlights include creating a floral display with bulbs which will last all year, growing pet-friendly plants, vegetables in pots and adding height in flat spaces.

The Indoor Garden: Get Started No Matter How Small Your Space by Jade Murray (Pimpernel Press, £20)

Anyone who receives a houseplant for Christmas or who has not been great at keeping houseplants up untill now should have a copy of this book from the winner of the RHS My Chelsea Garden virtual competition, who shows you how to create your own indoor garden even if space is tight.

It features the most popular houseplants, from maranta and calathea to monstera and Chinese money plants, which are all pretty easy once you know what they like, to a section on ‘diva plants’, which can be high maintenance but with a little patience and some easy-to-follow care instructions, are still possible to grow. All beautifully illustrated with pictures which offer a myriad possible settings, this is a gem of a houseplant book.

Venetian Gardens by Monty Don and Derry Moore (BBC Books, £40)

This sumptuous, visual journey through the gardens of Venice will transport readers to the hidden treasures of gardens away from the tourist trail, many of them with fascinating stories.

Starting in the heart of the city and wending their way out to the Veneto, the authors relate some amazing stories, from public restoration successes to private splendours of the gardens at palaces and famous houses, displaying the heart of family, community and resilience of Venetian culture. It’s a gorgeous giant coffee-table book, perfect for gifting.

The Grove: A Nature Odyssey in 19 ½ Front Gardens by Ben Dark (Mitchell Beazley, £16.99)

Award-winning writer, podcast favourite and head gardener Ben Dark reveals the remarkable secrets of 20 commonly found plants, all observed in the front gardens of a typical London street on daily walks over the course of a year. He leads the reader on a journey through urban nature with a lovely blend of history and personal narrative, displaying the world from a city pavement and exploring why gardens and gardening matter.

Hortus Curious by Michael Perry (DK, £16.99)

The hit podcaster and plant expert, Michael Perry – aka Mr Plant Geek – brings us this quirky offering highlighting the unusual, often peculiar qualities which plants possess. They can be vast, minute, smelly, or spectacularly ugly. Some plants live on their own, or by growing off others; some live by air and water; some plants look remarkably like animals; while others have unusual symbolism; and some have special cultural significance.

This book is ideal for the gardener who just wants to escape the hubbub of Christmas for a few hours, quoting a few ‘Did you know?’ plant facts from time to time, inviting anyone who’ll listen to share the fascinating facts about plants and celebrating them in all their diverse splendour.

The Tree In My Garden by Kate Bradbury (DK, £20)

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now,” says TV gardening expert, award-winning wildlife author and RHS ambassador Kate Bradbury in the foreword to her new book. She has curated a collection of 50 trees packed with information about appearance, care needs, carbon sequestration ability and the wildlife they support. “Combined, our 22 million gardens have the potential to become a wildlife reserve in their own right,” she adds.

She reveals the amazing effect planting a single tree in your garden can have – combining practical gardening advice, scientific research, and accounts of how vital trees are for different forms of wildlife. This book will leave you in no doubt that every garden needs a tree.

What To Sow, Grow And Do by Benjamin Pope (Frances Lincoln, £22)

If your gardening friend or relative is at the planning stages, looking forward to some sowing and growing in 2023, this could be the book for them. It’s an easy-to-follow season-by-season guide advising on projects and ideas to help you plan your time in the garden and inspire your planting.

The guide, which takes you through how-to tasks and checklists, also encourages the gardener to celebrate each season, highlighting wildlife, plants and changes you’ll notice in the garden as the year progresses. Pope also offers practical tips on seasonal jobs, from pruning roses to planting bulbs.

Life