If you are like me, the active part of the gardening year is so busy that there is little time left at the end of the day to read all the books and magazines that I have on my pile. Consequently, the time for reading is winter, and then reading becomes one of my ultimate gardening pleasures.
I have chosen eight books for you that I have delved into but can’t wait to read in full. There are a few thoughts on each book, with the reasons why I have included them on my list. I like to read a mixture of how-to books, garden history, travel guides that show gardens that I must visit, and anything that brings a new angle to my gardening thoughts.
The books are in no particular order so make sure that you scroll down to catch them all. Please let me know in the comments if there are other books that you are reading that I should read, and why you like them. Maybe I will review them in another blog.
These gardening books have all been published in 2020, 2021, or 2022. I was going to stick with books from this year, but I feel that some of the books that came out during the pandemic did not get the play that they should have done as authors couldn’t do book tours and signings. Many of these books would make great gifts for the holidays as well as gifts for yourself. I hope that I have included something for everyone on your list.
Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest my new book for you to read this winter. In case you haven’t heard about it – it was my pandemic book. It is called The Ultimate Flower Gardener’s Guide and is published by Timber Press. It came out in July 2022. Each page has at least one photograph (600 photos) and there are plenty of the personal touches that you get on this blog.
Gardening Books to Read this Winter
- Adventures in Eden, Timber Press, 2020, Carolyn Mullet. Get yourself in the mood for garden travels next year! Carolyn Mullet is a garden designer and the owner of a garden tour company who has access to some of the most beautiful private gardens in Europe. In the winter I like to use richly illustrated books like Carolyn’s to plan garden trips in my mind that may turn into a real trip in the future. I have only been to one of the gardens in the book – the first one that is shown on the front cover above with its jewel-toned tulips and lumpy parterre hedges. The garden is called Broughton Grange. Tom Stuart-Smith designed this part of the garden. Many years ago – before this garden existed I used to live in Banbury – 2.5 miles away! I now want to visit all of these gardens. This is a great book to browse through with a cup of tea.
- A Year at Brandywine Cottage, Timber Press, 2020, David L. Culp. Take a gentle journey through the gardening year in Pennsylvania. David Culp is an extraordinary gardener but even more importantly he is an ambassador for gardening. He is a strong advocate for creating a garden that resonates with the owners and fits into the local area’s geography and history. Brandywine Cottage has an amazing sense of place being nestled in a valley in south-eastern Pennsylvania. A Year at Brandywine Cottage takes the reader on a journey through the seasons. David is particularly known for his winter garden with an amazing collection of snowdrops and hellebores that he has bred for many years. The text that is written with Denise Cowie contains his lists of favorite plants and is illustrated with photographs by Rob Cardillo. Subjects that are covered include plants, flower arrangements, chickens, and favorite dishes for each time of year. A treat of a read.
- Black Flora, Bloom Imprint, 2022, Teresa J. Speight. Inspiring stories of black farmers and Florists. Teri Speight introduces us to a wonderful group of talented black floral designers, botanical artists, and flower farmers from across the USA. I love the vibrant photography and the inspirational stories brought to life with Teri’s vibrant writing. She highlights the reasons that each featured person developed their love of flowers and how they made their way to their current business model. If you love flowers and want to get design ideas or inspiration Black Flora, is the book for you or would make a great gift.
- How to Garden Indoors & Grow Your Own Food Year Round, Creative Homeowner, 2022, Kim Roman. Do you want to grow your own food indoors this winter? Get inspired and learn from Kim Roman, an expert vegetable gardener with extensive knowledge and teaching experience. The book is a comprehensive guide to indoor vegetable gardening which begins with ideas from other indoor vegetable growers. Later chapters help you get started, choose the right plants for your conditions, and possible methods to use. If you would like to grow a few herbs on your windowsill, some lettuce on your countertop, or some homegrown microgreens pick up this book. As Kim says in her tagline, ‘confidently grow your own food’.
- Shrubs and Hedges, Cool Springs Press, 2020, Eva Monheim. If you are interested in providing some structure or privacy to your garden or maybe adding flowers or fruit then Eva Monheim’s shrub book is for you. Eva has taught about woody plants for many years and her extensive knowledge shines through in her writing. Shrubs and Hedges is a very useable book that is laid out for ease of use with clear diagrams, helpful lists (six pages of hydrangeas alone), and plenty of supporting photographs. In the book, you can learn how to choose shrubs for different situations including wet areas. The pruning chapter elaborates on the why and how to prune – so helpful. Hedges and hedgerows are explained in their own section. If you are unsure how and when to use shrubby woody plants in your garden this will be a great guide for you.
- The Gardener’s Palette, Jo Thompson. RHS and Timber Press, 2022. As a gardener who is always curious about color, and what other people are thinking about color, it is great pleasure to sit down with a master colorist like Jo Thompson. After a brief introduction, Jo follows with 100 color combinations with photographs of an inspirational garden and then plant lists. There are some plants in The Gardener’s Palette that are not hardy in my zone 6-7 garden, and others that I wouldn’t grow, or can’t obtain. But there are so many plants and so many good ideas that there is something for any garden space. You can always substitute a plant to achieve a similar effect and Jo explains what she is trying to achieve with the combinations. I particularly love number 57, the ‘Sunrise’ grouping of hardy geraniums, geums, Anthriscus ‘Ravenswing’, and Digitalis purpurea ‘Sutton’s Apricot’. This is a color planner’s delight – especially for the winter months.
- The Urban Garden, Quarto Publishing Group, 2022, Kathy Jentz and Teri Speight. Kathy and Teri bring a fresh approach to urban gardening that is not bound by limitations. Their creativity shines through as it teaches the reader how to solve problems of space, time and money in their gardens. Each double-page spread provides a photograph and then a description of the topic. The ideas range from ‘no-fuss perennial plantings’ through to ‘art in the garden’. Those of us with non-urban gardens can find much to learn, such as ‘clever seating areas’, ‘color in the winter garden’, and ‘concealing unkempt areas’. The Urban Garden would make a fabulous gift for any urban gardener and especially someone who wants to improve their existing garden. Lots of fabulous garden ideas!
- Tropical Plants and How to Love Them, Quarto Publishing, 2021, Marianne Wilburn. For those of us who garden in climates with cold winters, this is an especially valuable book. There are many reasons for saving some of your tropical, yet not frost-hardy plants indoors over winter – but how? Marianne Willburn has been gardening with tropicals in her temperate garden for many years. She has figured out how to categorize tropical plants by their life cycles and growing needs. There are five categories including ‘best friend’ for plants that go winter dormant and are easy to care for in the off-season. I was lucky enough to hear Marianne give a lecture this fall on the topic of bringing her tropical plants in for the winter. She has an easy style that makes the whole process seem eminently doable. Her book carries on with that ‘can do’ attitude dosed with a heavy spoonful of realism. Tropical Plants and How to Love Them is a must-read if you want to know more about tropical plant growing in colder climates.
Next month I will talk about winter seed sowing. Start saving your plastic milk bottles, apple cider jugs, or other plastic-handled recyclables for this project. Also, save seed of any perennials – especially native prairie plants that are so easy using this method