Gardening Books for Christmas 2017

With Christmas fast approaching, Reckless Gardener takes a look at some of the fantastic books published this year, ideal for the gardener in your life. This year (2017) has been a vintage year for gardening publications and we have reviewed some cracking books. We list below some of our favourites that we feel will make excellent presents or to buy just for yourself – after all we gardeners should treat ourselves once-in-a-while as well.

Head Gardeners: First off, with this excellent book from Ambra Edwards (Photographs by Charlie Hopkinson). Awarded the ‘Inspirational Book of the Year‘ at this year’s Garden Media Guild Awards, the book is about the people I consider are our unsung heroes of the gardening world, the people who make it happen, the head gardeners.

We are taken on a fascinating journey offering a rare insight into what it takes to dedicate one’s life to gardening through the eyes of head gardeners from a variety of backgrounds.

Charlie Hopkinson’s photographs comprise a set of really memorable images both of the gardens and gardeners featured. A brilliant book that will certainly help reverse the misconceived negative images of horticulture as a career. We said: “An entertaining and insightful book, well written and with just the right mix of personal background, historical content and garden description for each subject.” Published by Pimpernel Press Ltd., hardback, priced £35.

The Thoughtful Gardener: This delightful and beautifully illustrated book takes the reader on a journey alongside author and garden designer Jinny Blom as she charts her progression from apprentice to journeyman to master craftsman. Her absorbing writing is indeed thoughtful and in the book Jinny generously shares with the reader the many techniques we should be using to read the land. The photography is superb and includes images from photographers at the top of their profession including Andrew Lawson, Charlie Hopkinson, and Allan Pollok-Morris. The Thoughtful Gardener was a finalist shortlisted in the Garden Media Guild 2017 awards for Inspirational Book of the Year. We said: “Reflecting on Jinny’s highly individual character, The Thoughtful Gardener, features plenty of wit and quirk alongside expert knowledge and will appeal to a wide audience of garden lovers.” Published by Jacqui Small (as an imprint of The Quarto Group), hardback, coffee table size priced at £35.

The Secret Gardeners: A fascinating insight into the gardens of 25 notable creatives from the worlds of art, theatre, philanthropy, music and science by Victoria Summerley with photography by Hugo Rittson Thomas.

Discover how Sting unwinds in his landform labyrinth, how Julian Fellowes designs a new path and vista and how Prue Leith has a preference for dahlias and crocosmia.

We said: “Where I think the book triumphs is the range of creatives that Victoria and Hugo has assembled – from Griff Rhys Jones and Cath Kidston, to Julian Clary and Rupert Everett…”

The Secret Gardeners by Victoria Summerley is published by Frances Lincoln (Quarto Knows) in coffee table size priced £30.

The Japanese Garden: A well-researched and thorough book from Sophie Walker offering fresh insights into the art, culture and aesthetics of the Japanese garden. The writing is thought provoking and the author succeeds in placing the garden in its broader historical context of a rich cultural heritage, while at the same time examining the enduring impact of this beautiful Japanese art.

The book also contains a number of interesting essays from leading artists, architects and cultural experts including Anish Kapoor and Tan Twan Eng. We said: “Clearly the author is passionate about her subject and the reader will find much of interest in her scholarly writing.The Japanese Garden by Sophie Walker, published by Phaidon – is in hardback at £49.95.

The Secret Gardens of East Anglia:  A carefully crafted book by an award-winning team, author Barbara Segall and photographer Marcus Harpur. Barbara’s writing style is fresh and entertaining and brings to the reader 22 gardens selected for their culture, beauty and diversity in the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex. The book provides a lovely insight into each garden – Barbara really is an excellent story-teller – and leaves the reader feeling as though they have visited in person. Sadly, Marcus died shortly before the publication of the book and so it is a fitting tribute that Marcus has been awarded Book Photographer of the Year (2017) by the Garden Media Guild for his brilliant photographic work on this book. We said: “A pleasure to read, a pleasure to browse through and a pleasure to enjoy the wonderful photography perfectly encapsulating each garden’s style and spirit.The Secret Gardens of East Anglia, by Barbara Segall, is published by Frances Lincoln – at £20 in hardback.

RHS Genealogy for Gardeners – Published as part of the bestselling RHS Series, RHS Genealogy for Gardeners – Plant Families Explained and Explored, by Dr Ross Bayton and Simon Maughan, is an informative and easy to follow reference exploring plant families.

This is a very useful book and helps explains a lot of the mysticism of plant genealogy with its wealth of practical information to help the reader identify, select and cultivate plants from over 70 families.

The various plant families are covered and beautifully illustrated, the text clear and concise and it is an easy book to find your way around.

We said: “Whether you are a gardener, horticultural student, budding botanist or plant enthusiast, RHS Genealogy for Gardeners, will help you understand and appreciate the extraordinary diversity and unrivalled splendour of the plant kingdom.” Published in hardback by Mitchell Beazley in association with the Royal Horticultural Society, priced at £14.99.

Joseph Hooker’s Rhododendrons of Sikkim-Himalaya – a timely book celebrating the bicentenary of the birth of Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817-1911) the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, has brought out this new facsimile edition of this famous book. Originally published in three volumes between 1849 and 1851 the new edition has been reproduced from an original held in the Library, Art & Archives at Kew and contains all three parts.

It really is a lovely publication, bringing an insight into the adventures of this renowned plant collector. This new edition has an introduction by Virginia Mills, Cam Sharp Jones who are part of Kew’s Joseph Hooker Correspondence Project and Ed Ikin, who is Head of Wakehurst Landscape and Horticulture.

The original illustrations by Walter Hood Fitch are totally amazing. We said: “If you love Rhododendrons you will definitely treasure this book as a wonderful souvenir and celebration of Joseph Hooker and his work on the rhododendron flora of the Himalayas.” Published as a Facsimile edition, in hardback by Kew Publishing at £25.

Making for Home – a tale of the Scottish Borders: Art historian, Alan Tait’s perceptive and hypnotic book is a pure joy to read. A feel-good book, it’s the fascinating tale of one man’s experiences, obsessions and imaginings of a Scottish valley.

The author weaves the history of the area, its buildings, people and progression through the changing decades of the 20th century into the 21st, at once a memoir, a meditation on the nature of buildings and home and a history of a unique place.

With stunning and evocative photography from Andrea Jones, this personal journey has much to commend it.

We said: “It was a pleasure to immerse myself in the life surrounding Polmoodie and to chart its history, meet its people and discover its architecture through the generations. As the author points out the valley will always move on and give shelter to men and animals and its tale is certainly worth the telling – he tells it very well.”

Making for Home by Alan Tait, photography by Andrea Jones, is Published by Pimpernel Press in hardback at £30.


Natural Selection – A Year in the Garden – Dan Pearson’s book draws on 10 years of his Observer columns to take us through the pleasures and rhythms of a year in the garden.

His writing style is inspiring and extremely knowledgeable. A lovely book – the type of book to curl up by the warm fire with a nice glass of wine and dip in wherever the eye or the mood takes you.

A companion that will sit beside you throughout the gardening year.

We said: “Reading through this book is like sitting with a friend and chatting about the day’s gardening – plant likes and dislikes, reminiscing about plants purchased, lost and found.” Natural Selection – A Year in the Garden – is published by Guardian Books in hardback at £20.


New Nordic Gardens – Scandinavian Landscape Design – Annika Zetterman’s book presents us with the best gardens to have been produced in Scandinavia in the last 10 years.

If you love the beauty of the Scandinavian landscape you will love this book. We said: “If you are a novice to the Nordic way of garden design, then it will provide you with plenty of inspiration and a good introduction to Nordic design principles.” Published by Thames and Hudson, in hardback at £28.

Above books kindly received for review by courtesy of the individual publishers.