I must admit that I’ve got more gardening books than you could shake a garden fork at. Some of the books are an excellent resource and get used time and time again, these are the ones with slightly damaged spines and the well thumbed pages. Others though rarely get touched, if ever.
Now we are at the beginning of a new gardening year, my advice would be to always have a good reference book to hand, something that you can refer to whatever the gardening matter is or the specific plant you wish to find more about. It may not initially be a cheap investment but will certainly pay for itself many times over through the years.
However, I also have some other gems of books that go beyond the boundaries of being a plant reference or gardening guide. These are the books written by people who have created or looked after gardens and have written them in an easy-to-read and everyday style, and where plant knowledge and first-hand experience is invaluable. For instance I have a copy of a fascinating plant book where Aruncus diocus is described as being ‘..a plant that survives neglect by a succession of uninterested garden owners’ and of Bergenia: ‘If their leaves turn the colour of chilblains, in winter, that is one of their greatest attractions’. These sorts of comments and references to plant characters add much more depth than any reference book can. Of course if a reference book describes a climber as growing perhaps a maximum of twenty feet and another joyfully describes it as ‘rapidly bounding forth and covering a house wall in three years’ then the balance of both gives a very good indication of the plants potential!
When it comes to the mechanics of gardening, that is the digging, weeding, pruning and planting, it can be sometimes useful to have a specific book to refer to in times of assistance, that perhaps delves a little deeper into a specific garden subject, such as the lawn or pond perhaps. There are a couple of great (and well known) book ranges that cover lots of subjects in depth. If you are wanting to vastly improve an area of the garden such as the lawn or improve the potential of the greenhouse and it’s growing possibilities then a book such as these could be very worthwhile.
All of the book types I have mentioned have one thing in common; that is they have all been written by a person with that first-hand knowledge. Compiled with care and attention to detail, and of course it shows in abundance. Other books on my shelf which rarely see the light of my desk are perhaps a little sketchy with their details and lack the spark and imagination which brings a subject to life. After all if we are going to do a garden task then we need to feel at least a little inspired to do it!
Arming oneself with a few well-written and detailed gardening books is probably one of the best things to do, where excellent knowledge and that inspiration is merely a page-turn away.