On the Shelf - or your wish list

Plenty of inspiration and joyous material in my Christmas book selection

With Christmas almost upon us, and books very much a suitable gift to give to a gardening friend (or to add to your own wish list), I have assembled a selection of titles to inspire you. All are new releases, or recently published. I have concentrated not just on ‘a good read’ but on the fact that so many visitors to this blog also have an artistic bent, or would like to develop skills in recording in various ways their garden and their visits to gardens.

A book to dip into every month - or every day
Last week, in the Dobies November e-newsletter, I introduced you to ‘The Joy of Allotments – an illustrated diary of Plot 19’ by Caroline Deput (published by Souvenir Press). I showed you the cover, which is a joy in itself, but did not have space for including something from the actual book. Every page brings joyful discoveries of Caroline’s allotment in Richmond (London), all handwritten alongside her exquisite drawings. With every month covered, it should certainly inspire you to start your own sketchbook/diary. Buy yourself a spiral artist’s sketchbook, a waterproof pen and a tiny paintbox or some coloured pencils. Open the page, and start – and if the thought alarms you but you are determined to try, cut and paste magazine images or old Dobies catalogues (collage) and add your own notes. A useful online source of supplies is 'Great Art'.

Did you as a child read and fall in love with the books of Beatrix Potter? Held them in your hands (even learned to read by pouring over the pages) and maybe entered another world where you might, like Peter Rabbit, crawl under the garden gate and encounter a garden full of vegetables? Or Jemima Puddleduck sitting her eggs. I certainly did and, years later realised the significance of Beatrix  Potter, her life in the Lake District and her indomitable spirit. Her story is woven so skilfully into a new book, ‘Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life’ by author Marta McDowell, that you will be beguiled into far more than those Tales. For the book is the first to explore Beatrix Potter’s love of gardening and covers the plants and places that inspired her classic tales through a highly scholarly account that you will find hard to put down until you have read it cover to cover. Published in November 2013 by Timber Press.

‘Just Vegetating, A Memoir’ by Joy Larkcom was published last year by Frances Lincoln and is one of those ‘must-haves’ that hardly ever stays on my shelf, for I dip into it constantly. Read it of course for its content, but if you are a would-be diarist and author, analyse the skill with which it is put together and the chatty way that JL pulls you into her gardening world. I remember the day I first came across Joy’s design for a tiny potager (in the Sunday Telegraph magazine, I think) and the way she combined salads and edible flowers for their look as much as their taste. I was hooked and have read and now own all of her books. They are Gardening Bibles par excellence.  In ‘Just Vegetating’, we are led from 1976, back in the days before supermarkets sold bags of mixed salad leaves, to the time when Joy Larkcom and her husband set off  around Europe with her husband, two children and a caravan in a search for seeds of rare vegetable varieties. The rest is history and much of it is detailed within these pages.

From books that talk about actual gardening and growing to three that will encourage and inspire your attempts to put thoughts, plans and results onto paper. More than analytical lists of what you sow, grow and harvest, your ongoing records can become hand-made artefacts of beauty.

‘Paper to Petal’ by Rebecca Thuss and Patrick Farrell, published earlier this year by Potter Craft (Random House) took me back to time spent with my grandmother during World War Two and just after, when she decorated her house in winter with enormous Oriental Poppies made from luscious crepe paper (not the thin sort all too frequently on offer now). There’s no need to spend hard-earned money on ‘artificial flowers’ for online good quality supplies are available and listed. Detailed instructions, templates and techniques along with magnificent photographs will enable you to make a vast range of individual paper flowers and theatrical displays – perfect for festivals if nothing else.

Photographers may be overwhelmed by ‘A Beautiful Mess’ – if all that you have snapped to date have been gardens or flower and vegetable portraits. Created by sisters Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman and just published by Amphoto Books (distributed in the UK by The Guild of Master Craftsmen), this title is an eye-opener. It’s a photo ideas book for photographing “your friends, your world and yourself” and whilst, from a gardener’s viewpoint, it may appear at first to be far too way-out for the seriously sedate, you’d be surprised at the ideas that will spring into your brain and through the lens. So go ahead, open your eyes and your mind to new creative possibilities, grab your camera, challenge yourself, fall in love with photography and capture your everyday gardening life in beautiful and amazing images.

I have left until last a book that should appeal to anyone who wants to create their own journal rather than work in one bought off the shelf. Indeed ‘Journal Your Way’ is a journal-maker’s bible, or will become so, for it is an amalgamation of two excellent previously published books (‘The Decorated Page’, 2004 and ‘The Decorated Journal’, 2005), but with much additional content. Written and contrived by the marvellous Gwen Diehn, and published in September by Lark Books, you will be led on your own self-directed book-making adventure. Whether you want to record your travels and garden visits or just jot down your daily thoughts, this book will show you how to select, design and create custom-made journals that will enhance the experiences you wish to document – a new and exciting adventure.

Click on any of the links given above to take you to that specific title on the Amazon website – you can actually ‘look inside’ many of the books online. And don’t forget that Dobies have an excellent selection of books to offer in their own booklist. Click HERE to go to the Dobies gardening bookstore website.

Don't forget to  visit the Dobies' website for all your gardening needs and requirements. You may particularly like: vegetable seedsvegetable plants, flower seeds, flower plants, herbs, fruit and equipment. And don't forget their regular mailings and special offers online. Just keep visiting so you don't miss anything special. 

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