Gardening Book Recommendations

Work in progress - adding perennials and herbs to the potager
There's something about August and - for those with children - the school holiday period, that has one thinking of changed directions. Such a good time to learn something different, or catch up on those books piled in the bookshelf that you hoped to read when you had a spare moment. Spare moments rarely come for gardeners; there's always more to be done outside. I've just spent the morning expanding the potager; adding more herbs and planting some of the perennial plugs bought earlier that will attract welcome insects throughout the autumn and next spring and summer.

As for book recommendations; here's an eclectic mix - not perhaps usually to be found on a gardener's bookshelf, but worthy of checking, depending on your interests.

'A-Z of Flower Portraits' by Billy Showell (published 2010 by Search Press) is an illustrated guide to painting 40 watercolour flower portraits, in a traditional botanical style, but with a contemporary feel. Perfect for anyone who would like to illustrate a garden journal, Billy offers extensive advice on materials and equipment, useful step-by-step techniques; and, for each chosen flower, a colour palette so you can follow her skilled tutorials.

'Gourds + Fiber' might at first appear to be just a bit of fun, but is a highly imaginative book for the 'crafty' gardener who would like to discover how to turn gourds into decorative objects by embellishing them with basketry, weaving, stitching, macrame and more. Written by Ginger Summit and Jim Widess and just published by Lark Crafts, you'll soon be planning what gourds to sow and grow next year. An age-old craft in cultures around the world, the authors lead you step-by-step through numerous techniques.

Here's one that your children can enjoy with you: 'Don't throw it, Grow it!' is a light-hearted guide to growing 68 windowsill plants from kitchen scraps - kitchen experiments in the wonders of botany. Written by Deborah Peterson and published by Storey, it will introduce you some fascinating techniques and snippets of information; you'll soon be wanting to experiment with far more than watching feathery leaves emerge from a carrot-top on a saucer.

'The Historic Gardens of Wales' has fascinated me ever since I discovered it in a bookshop in Carmarthen. Perfect for lovers of history, it will introduce you to the parks and gardens significant in the history of Wales, from Roman and medieval beginnings to the Edwardian era and beyond. First published in 1982 by CADW: Welsh Historic Monuments (HMSO), it contains numerous reproductions of contemporary maps and also includes a list of locations regularly open to the public. Don't go on holiday without a copy.

'Growing Older' is sub-titled a Chronicle of Death, Life and Vegetables - one of those books that you wonder why you bought but find you cannot put down. Author and farmer, Joan Dye Gussow (now in her eighties) writes with humour in this memoir of life after the death of her husband; she continued to grow her year-round diet even under changed circumstances; scattered throughout are urgent suggestions about what growing older on a changing planet will call on all of us to do: learn self-reliance. Published 2011 by Chelsea Green.

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