I am a book lover and a garden lover, so it is perhaps no surprise that my garden library has kept pace with my growing garden.
Here are a few of the books I most appreciated in the early years of my gardening:
- The Garden Primer, by Barbara Damrosch: Once, I read this book to learn about the kinds of plants I might want to grow. Now, I refer back to it when I need reminders like how shallow to plant a bare-root peony.
- The New Victory Garden by Bob Thomson: I picked this one up years and years ago at the home of my in-laws. In many ways it is out of date (even then I knew that I didn’t want to use the chemical fertilizers Bob recommends), but his enthusiasm for every kind of vegetable was so inspiring. I thumbed through this book so many times, my in-laws finally gave it to me.
- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver: This one is more memoir than how-to, and I found it enormously inspiring. Kingsolver is an incredible writer, and her personal stories are compelling and educational.
As my experience with plants has increased, I find myself seeking out books that are less plant-focused and more design-focused. I’m beginning to learn what so many have learned before me: it’s one thing to know how to grow a beautiful flower, but it’s another task entirely to cultivate a beautiful garden. Here are a few I’ve recently appreciated:
- The Artful Garden by James van Sweden: I feel sure that I would not have appreciated this book in my early years as a gardener. Back then I simply wanted to learn about plants and how to grow them. Van Sweden’s book is a call to integrate our appreciation for one art (say, painting or sculpture or music) into our garden design. I am only a very new designer, but I appreciate this reminder to pay attention to my own creativity and find inspiration in all the arts.
- Planting: A New Perspective by Piet Oudolf: I’m a big admirer of Oudolf’s naturalistic garden designs (like the Lurie in Chicago and the High Line in New York City) and found this book very helpful for considering how I might bring some of that naturalistic style to my own space.