Thinking of what to get someone you love for Christmas? Here is a round-up of my favourite garden books of 2020, starting with the latest publication first. And keep checking as I’ll be adding more books to the list before the year is out.
ORCHARD A Year in England’s Eden by Benedict Macdonald & Nicholas Gates
Harper Collins | 20th August, 2020 | £20.00
“Orchards are so rich in biodiversity, they eclipse most recognised conservation areas. Spend a year in one orchard, and celebrate this imperilled, overlooked abundance of life.
As rotting windfall apples and frost lie thick on the ground, and the oldest of fruit trees bend under the weight of mistletoe, the orchard begins a new year.
A chattering blanket of starlings descend on the bounty of last year’s fruit, joining bramblings, blackbirds, angry-faced waxwings and intoxicated fieldfares who, drunk on fermented berries, fight one another over their rotting real estate. Even in winter, the orchard is a place of bounty, competition and continuous surprise, most of whose secrets lie hidden deep below the surface.
As the seasons turn, a wealth of animals and plants are revealed: Bumble and solitary bees apartment-hunting in April; spotted flycatchers migrating in May; redstarts, hedgehogs and owls nesting in June; an explosion of life in the summer and the harvest and homespun cider-making in the autumn. And all throughout the year, the orchard’s human and animal inhabitants work together, creating one of the richest ecosystems left in Britain.
Their ancient tradition of collaboration between people and nature makes orchards a source of hope for the future. If we can bring new life to England’s orchards – favouring organic methods and harvesting with a balanced ecosystem in mind – not only wildlife but people will have a far richer England to profit from in the centuries to come.”
Benedict Macdonald is a conservation writer, producer in wildlife television and naturalist. He has worked on various projects for the BBC and ITV including Sir David Attenborough’s Our Planet for Netflix.
Nick Gates is also a naturalist, producer, vlogger and writer based in Bristol. He has a passion for conservation and rewilding.
HYDRANGEAS by Naomi Slade with photographs by Georgianna Lane
Pavilion Books | 9th July 2020 | £25.00
Another great publication by Pavilion Books. The work celebrates the history of the hydrangea from its origins in the East to its popularity in gardens all over the world.
There’s helpful advice and tips on how to grow hydrangeas in containers and in the garden. With stunning photographs of the most beautiful varieties including Annabelle and Glam Rock.
Naomi Slade is a well-known figure in the gardening world and contributes regularly to a range of publications including The Telegraph, The English Garden, and House and Garden.
Georgianna Lane‘s work has been widely published and has featured in Gardens Illustrated, Gardener’s World and Romantic Homes.
WRITING WILD by Kathryn Aalto
Timber Press | 3rd June, 2020 | £18.99
A wonderful celebration of twenty-five women, both historical and current, whose writing has deepened our connection to the natural world. Some of your favourite authors might not be included but as Kathryn says, this is only through lack of space. She continues: ‘Think of these pages as a glance backward and a look forward, as well as a celebration of women who bring a different dimension to natuare writing, rather than a compendium of every woman who ever wrote about the natural world.’ Here are some of the writers included: Dorothy Wordsworth, Susan Fenimore Cooper, Gene Stratton-Porter, Vita Sackville-West, Gretel Ehrlich, Diane Ackerman, Helen Macdonald and Elizabeth Rush.
Aalto walks these paths with us as she discusses the lives and cultural history of these extraordinary writers. Let’s hope this work inspires a new generation of women to start ‘writing wild’.
What a joy to travel these paths alongside Kathryn Aalto and such fierce, trailblazing, and perceptive women. —Sarah L. Kaufman, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post critic and author of The Art of Grace
This fine and thoughtful book puts these remarkable women writers, past and present, right smack bang into focus where they belong — as key shapers of how we see the natural world. A book everyone who loves nature writing would benefit from reading. It is chock full of my heroes, and some others I learnt for the first time.—James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd’s Life and English Pastoral
An impassioned and illuminating anthology that serves as an act of recovery and discovery, a personal celebration, and a timely reminder of the wealth and sheer power of women’s voices. —Rob Cowen, author of Common Ground
“This book is a wonderful jumping-off point for anyone who loves the outdoors and wants to know more about the many talented female writers who have made it their work’s focus.” —BookPage
“an array of global voices, past and present, fuelling the biodiversity of our reading. Amongst these, Kathryn draws attention to Dorothy Wordsworth as a ‘mountaineer, diarist, poet’, identifies Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Rural Hours importance four years prior to Thoreau’s Walden, and advocates across genres in the contemporary, exploring ‘cli-fi’ writer Saci Lloyd, poet Kathleen Jamie and life-writer Amy Liptrot.” — Will Smith, Cumbria Life
“Exciting, inspiring, intimidating, and bold.” —San Francisco Book Review
“A heartening book, granting attention to women who dared to write and ramble wild.” —BBC Countryfile
Kathryn Aalto is a writer, designer, lecturer and historian – we studied together at the University of Bristol. For the past twenty-five years, her focus has been on places where nature and culture intersect: teaching literature of nature and place, designing gardens, and writing about the natural world. Her work explores historic and horticultural themes with a contemporary twist. She is the author of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood (2015) and Nature and Human Intervention (2011).
Cottage Gardens by Claire Masset
Pavilion Books | 2nd April, 2020 | £14.99
The words ‘Cottage Garden’ conjure up a vision of a thatched cottage with roses around the door and an informal jumble of flowers, herbs and fruit growing in the front garden. This work celebrates this uniquely British garden style.
The book includes many National Trust cottage gardens from the famous to the more obscure. There’s the cottage gardens at Sissinghurst in Kent, Cotehele in Cornwall and the Clergy House at Alfriston in East Sussex. But Claire has also included some cottage gardens that are not owned by the National Trust including William Morris’s house Kelmscott in Gloucestershire and Dove Cottage in the Lake District, home of William and Dorothy Wordsworth.
There’s also practical advice on how to create your own cottage garden with tips on flowers that must be included.
With beautiful illustrations of hollyhocks, honeysuckle and roses, this is a perfect book for garden lovers.
Claire Masset is an editor and writer, and is currently running the National Trust’s gardening books list. She has written for a range of publications including Gardens Illustrated, Period Living, Historic Gardens Review and Garden Design Journal.
100 20TH-CENTURY GARDENS & LANDSCAPES
Pavilion Books |Twentieth Century Society | March, 2020 | £25.00
A wonderful book illustrating some of Britain’s most beautiful gardens and landscapes from the Arts and Crafts movement to the present day.
Essays written by architectural, landscape and garden historians discuss influential twentieth century gardens like Sissinghurst and Great Dixter as well as pioneers of new plants and planting styles such as Beth Chatto and Piet Oudolf. The book outlines the move from the intimate Arts and Crafts style through the landscapes created for new towns to the contemporary fashion for community and wildlife gardens. Other designers included are Charles Jencks, Piet Oudolf, Geoffrey Jellicoe, Gertrude Jekyll, Edward White and Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd.
The book is beautifully illustrated by photographs and garden plans and has Derek Jarman’s garden at Dungeness on the cover; let’s hope by the end of March, enough money has been raised through the Art Fund to save the house and garden for the Nation.
UPDATE: And the wonderful news is that the house and garden has been saved by the Nation – all thanks to those who contributed.
Diary of a MODERN COUNTRY GARDENER by Tamsin Westhorpe
Orphans Publishing | Hardcover | £20.00
A personal diary of a horticulturist whose garden is at the centre of a working farm in Herefordshire. Tamsin Westhorpe promises ‘tips, tricks and secrets for every season, straight from the potting bench’ of Stockton Bury Gardens.
‘This congenial and delightfully presented gardening companion has already put a spring in my step’
Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller
‘A compelling read, packed with useful tips from a gardener who truly has their fingers in the soil.’ Toby Buckland, Garden designer and broadcaster
‘An enchanting escape in the company of a passionate and endearingly imperfect gardener. One to savour whatever the season.’ Jules Hudson, presenter of Escape to the Country
‘I honestly can’t remember the last time I read a garden book with such generosity, character and warmth.’ Ann-Marie Powell, RHS Chelsea Gold medalist
Tamsin Westhorpe is a horticultural journalist, gardener, RHS Chelsea Flower Show Judge and co-Chair of The Garden Media Guild.
Claire Austin’s Book Of PERENNIALS
White Hopton Publications | February 2020 | £19.00
Celebrated plantswoman and RHS Chelsea Gold medallist, Claire Austin has published a new edition of her book ‘Claire Austin’s Book of Perennials’.
The work is beautifully illustrated with photographs of Claire’s garden in Powys and has sections on gardening for wildlife, choosing perennials for containers, cutting and urban gardens as well as ‘Practical Stuff’ and an excellent ‘Perennial Directory’. This is a book for both expert and beginner gardener alike and is just the inspiration we need at present.
The first edition of ‘Claire Austin’s Book of Perennials’ published in 2015, received outstanding reviews and was named ‘Reference Book of the Year’ by the Garden Media Guild.
‘Claire Austin has horticulture running through her veins and this book is a distillation of all she has learned through hands-on experience over 30 years of perennial plant growing’. Paula McWaters, Garden Illustrated
‘This book will be a great addition for anybody who loves plants and will no doubt become a gardening classic’. Claudia de Yong
The book can be bought online for £19.00 including p&p from https://www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk