I have something to confess. I have an addiction to gardening books. Well, books and magazines. My bookshelf is even arranged by genre.
I have an inspiration/design section, purist reference section, individual plant genre section, fictional garden and garden history sections so, depending what mood I’m in, I’ll reach for this or that.
With the internet exploding with information it’s easy for the average home gardener to look up anything but who knows what’s accurate, especially with so many websites based overseas the content often is not applicable to Australian conditions.
I look for gardening books by Australian authors as sometimes text is simply revised in part from American or English titles and they don’t always get it right. Part of the success of gardening is being prepared and knowing what plants to put where, or how big they’ll get, so it’s handy to have a few good reference books on the shelf to refer to, or sometimes it’s just good to look at wonderful gardens and plants and be inspired by their beauty to get outdoors and have a go at creating your own piece of paradise. Here are some gardening books that will make great gifts for garden lovers, even if that’s you.
This Australian icon among garden books has sold 7 million copies over a staggering 115 years. It has a bit of everything so if you only have one gardening book on the shelf this should be it. There are quick reference sow-and-grow tables, pest identifications, a bit of garden history and even some basics of design and layout. There are also anecdotes and advice from our best gardeners around the country with tried and tested advice. (RRP$39.95, Yates.)
This ‘Illustrated A-Z of over 10,000 garden plants and how to cultivate them’ is written by a collaboration of experts in the field and is a 3kg tome of information on common and not-so common plants with good colour photographs of many of them for easy identification. A great reference book. (RRP$98, Ullmann Publishing, available online at www.dpi.nsw.gov.au.)
Written by Murray Bail, this is my favourite fiction about a rather protective old man of the land who gets frustrated with suitors trying to win his pretty daughter, so he decides to offer her as a prize for the man who can name every species of eucalypt on his property – and there are hundreds! The text is botanically correct and I really got a kick out of the interesting facts along the way. (RRP$23.95, Text Publishing.)
This is a revised edition of a trusted favourite that I was introduced to way back when I was studying to be a gardener at TAFE. Knowing what’s eating a plant or why foliage is discoloured is essential to treating the problem correctly and this gardening book has fantastic coloured photos so you can correctly identify what’s going on with your plant. It also offers solutions, both organic or chemical. It includes information about insects, deficiencies and plant diseases so there will be less trips to the nursery with your affected foliage. (By Judy McMaugh, RRP$49.95, New Holland.)
Authors Fabian Capomolla and Mat Pembler share information passed down by their Italian ancestors and from years of helping clients become self-sufficient in the smallest of spaces. There are tips from the soil up, starting with basics like composting, worm farms, seed saving and watering in confined spaces. Includes information on more than 40 fruit and vegetable crops with companion planting, and there are even weekend projects for the kids like ‘How to build a scarecrow’. A great resource on how to grow food in small spaces for city living. (RRP$45, Pan Macmillan.)
Flower: Photographer Andrew Zuckerman has previously turned his lens on famous people in Wisdom and captured animals in a studio in Creature. Now he shows the exquisite nature of flowers in close-up (right) in his latest book, Flower. (RRP$75, Hachette).
500 Plants: ABC regular Angus Stewart chronicles his top 500 Australian plants, tried and tested, popular cultivars (and hardy ones too) in a fully illustrated compendium. (RRP$35, Allen and Unwin.)
The Thrifty Gardener: From beehives to outdoor showers, or an edible cubby house to a climber frame from bedsprings, gardening broadcaster, horticulturist and blogger Millie Ross has some nifty weekend projects in her book and offers tips on design styles, planting in raised garden beds and pots and more. (RRP$35, HarperCollins.)
The Garden Cook: As a former MasterChef contestant and primary school teacher Fiona Inglis is passionate about food, whether she’s growing, cooking or eating it, and about sharing her skills with children. This is a book the whole family can enjoy and learn from. (RRP$29.99, Murdoch Books.)
Jody Rigby is a director of Jody Rigby Horticultural Services.