The 8 Books Every Garden Creator Should Own

December 27, 2012 | Books + Magazines

bookshelves garden glasshouse

I read this post over at Apartment Therapy yesterday with such interest that I surprised myself.  The moment I saw the title I clicked on it so fast my own head spun.  When this happens I am forced to pay attention…why am I so interested (surely I don’t need MORE books). A little bit I wanted to know how many of the recommendations already existed on my own bookshelves.  Not needing, but always wanting more books and generally being book obsessed, had something to do with it too. But I think mostly, the content of the post got me thinking.   What kinds of books would I put on a similar list for Garden Creators?   So, here they are:

The 8 Books That Every Garden Creator Should Own:

A Book about Gardening in your Region

When I was growing up in the west, the Sunset regional books were my parent’s garden bibles and I think that for western gardneners they still have a rightful place.  I put alot of trust in them today, but now that I am in New England, I have found some writers that have a better handle on this region of the country.  The best way to find what is a good guide for your area is to visit a good garden center and ask someone with dirty hands.

A Book about Growing Food

There are some real classics in the category. Square Foot Gardening has been around for ages and is continues to be relevant and one of my favorites is How to Grow More Vegetables and Fruits (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine.   I also own they more recently released The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow-More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden, by Ivette Soler….it is a great resource for mixing vegetables into your more ornamental garden.

A Book about Color

I love the British version of  the Garden Color Book (it’s called the Conran Octopus Garden Colour Palette in the UK).  Even though I can’t find half the plants in the book, I can use the flip book format to inspire myself with texture and combos that are exciting and interesting.

A Book about Design

I have to put a plug in for two great books — both that I helped to create.   And let me assure you….I make no $$ off of this, I just really think that if you are looking for good solid basics about Garden Design you can’t go wrong with The Garden Maker’s Manual
and The Essential Garden Design Workbook: Second Edition. Others on my shelves get a lot more technical — if you are interested in what those are leave me a comment I can email you more of those favorites.

A Book about Bugs, Pests & Diseases

There are many to choose from here — I keep my library simple here….(I find that buying lots of books about this part of gardening has a tendency to ruin all my optimism — it is a little like reading web MD when you have a sore throat…next thing you know you are convinced you have a brain tumor).  My simple Choice — Good Bug Bad Bug: Who’s Who, What They Do, and How to Manage Them Organically (All you need to know about the insects in your garden)
….beyond that I take a sample to the garden center for a diagnosis.

A Plant Encyclopedia (or two)

I have a tired and very well used copy of the Rhs A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants (DK RHS Encyclopedias).  It is indispensable.  I wish I had a copy of Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs— I know I would find it similarly valuable.

A Smattering of Inspiration books

This is where my personal library gets out of hand. My favorites are from my favorite designers (Arabella Lenox-Boyd, Diarmuid Gavin, Peter Fudge) and photographers (Clive Nichols and Allan Pollok-Morris).  I love The Modern Japanese Garden
and A Child’s Garden: 60 Ideas to Make Any Garden Come Alive for Children I also find that books that discuss gardens of specific regions, or design periods are often a great resource. Find what appeals to you and what you individual tastes are and buy a couple books that have pictures that you love (BTW — my favorites are almost universally purchased at used book stores…quirky finds and rock bottom prices)

A few Speciality books on Things that Really get You Going.

What is drawing you to gardening — Grasses? (that is one of my favorite reasons to get in the garden — best book: Gardening with Grasses) Or maybe it is outdoor cooking, or maybe your space is small and you have only a balcony to work with, or you are into sheds? Rocks? Retro Design? Agaves, ….what ever your passion — there is a book for you — buy a couple and let your imagination go wild!

These are my recommendations, but I am curious, what is your favorite garden book?

Blog Comments

My favorite garden book is Taylor’s Guide to Gardening in the South.
I love it because every plant suggestion is a true solution to the
climate and soil ( I mean hard red clay! ) variations in Georgia.
It is just basic, very hardy plant material.

My 2 go-to’s are ridiculously regional:
Lauren Springer’s ‘The Undaunted Garden” and the Denver Water / American Water Works Assn’s “Xeriscape Plant Guide.” Plus they are personal, Laurens old place is just up the road and I worked for AWWA years ago.
With that in mind, my copy of the Sunset WGB has it’s cover held on with packing tape and has more sticky-tabs hanging out of it than a residents PDR.
I’ve also got an ancient copy of a publication by Pawnee Butes Seed with descriptions and diagrammes of every grass you can imagine. It’s in my truck when i go grass hunting for transplants.

The game-changing American Meadow Garden (John Greenlee) is so good I had to put it away for awhile because it was the only thing I looked at. Rick Darke’s Encyclopedia of Grasses for a Livable Landscape also a favorite. Anything by Piet Oudolf. Lauren Springer rocks.

Excellent post! I need to think of the Florist’s version of this now. 😉

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