Vicarious Gardening


Gardening offers up pleasures far beyond the limits of our own raised bed or fence-line.

When we tire of our own space or feel overwhelmed by weeds or hot weather, we can recharge our gardening batteries by enjoying the fruit of someone else’s labor.

Here are three ways to do just that:

  • Monty Don! Monty Don is possibly the UK’s most visible and most popular gardener. He is a writer and television host, and I am always encouraged by his endless enthusiasm. Many of his television programs can be found on various streaming services. He hosts the BBC television show Gardener’s World every week spring through fall, but I especially appreciate his longer travel programs like Monty Don’s American Gardens, Around the World in 80 Gardens, Monty Don’s Italian Gardens, and Monty Don’s French Gardens.


  • Classic Gardening Books: I especially enjoy reading about gardening when it’s either too hot or too cold to be outside. The classic garden memoirs of Beverley Nichols are sweet and fun. He writes about house and garden with wit and whimsy.


  • Garden Visits: I often share my appreciation for the many fine public gardens here in the Philadelphia area. I could spend every day wandering the grounds of Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, and Chanticleer, to mention just a few. If you are lucky enough to live within driving distance of a public garden, I encourage you to prioritize a visit. Public gardens and botanical gardens also frequently offer educational programs. It is also possible to fill your Instagram feed with virtual garden tours. I especially recommend following he famous British garden Great Dixter here on Instagram.

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A Few Favorite Websites


One of the main reasons for this Garden Library is to offer you a friendly guide through the firehose of gardening information it is possible to find online.

There are many scientific, government, and general knowledge websites, but my taste in online garden inspiration runs toward the personal and unique just like my taste in gardens. So, while you will probably still want to bookmark the website for your local cooperative extension or a plant database like the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, I especially recommend these quirky, personal sources with their very particular points of view.

Here are some of the websites I turn to when I’m looking for answers or inspiration:

This pretty and stylish blog offers inspiring garden tours, growing tips, and recommendations for unique and well-designed garden tools and furniture.

This online garden community offers the chance to chat or pose your questions to other gardeners. The extensive plant database is also very useful.

The website for garden writer and podcaster, Margaret Roach. I also recommend her book and podcast by the same names.

Even if you live outside the delivery area for this innovative tree seller, their beautiful website offers a treasure trove of tree stories and descriptions. Browse here to choose the right tree for that spot in your yard, choose a tree to commemorate a special event, or simply browse to learn more about gardening with trees.

A beauty of a blog focused especially on growing roses.

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Kitchen Garden Revival (a Book Review)


Kitchen Garden Revival is a brand new book from Nicole Johnsey Burke, a garden coach and designer.

First, it’s a beautiful book: hard cover, lovely photographs by Eric Kelley, clearly written, and both practical and inspirational subject matter. The subtitle says it all: A Modern Guide to Creating a Stylish Small-Scale, Low-Maintenance Edible Garden.

What’s it about?

Burke’s book has a fairly narrow focus: how to create your own stylish, beautiful kitchen garden. According to Burke, a kitchen garden is an artistic and productive space that elevates your home’s landscaping while providing fresh produce for your kitchen. Her kitchen gardens are less productive and harvest-focused than a traditional vegetable patch but much prettier to look at.

Who is it for?

This one is perfect for beginners as Burke gives detailed instructions on everything from building raised beds to sowing seeds, but even experienced gardeners will find inspiration in the photographs, at least. I recently created my own small kitchen garden with four square raised beds near my kitchen door, and I studied these photographs carefully for ideas on how to keep the mix of plants in my beds pleasing to look at it.

Borrow or buy?

Anyone who loves beautiful garden books will appreciate this one, but if you’re on the fence about making a purchase, keep in mind that those new to growing their own produce will probably get the most out of this book, while those who really want to build a kitchen garden–either on their own or with the help of a landscaper–will receive the most.

Final Thoughts:

Burke’s kitchen garden designs are not, perhaps, for the most frugal gardeners. But for those willing to spend money on their home’s landscaping, her designs prove that spaces for growing more of our own food–even just a few herbs–can and should be integrated into even the most elegant settings. While some rule-driven Home Owner’s Associations might baulk at someone turning their front yard into something resembling a farmer’s field, it’s hard to imagine anyone objecting to these gorgeous kitchen gardens.

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There Are So Many Ways to Garden


Margaret Roach is one of my favorite garden writers (she hosts a wonderful podcast, too), and I love the title of her recently updated book: A Way to Garden.

I love it because, while she has so much garden knowledge and wisdom to offer, she is always careful to acknowledge that her way of gardening is not the only way of gardening. And I find that enormously freeing. Gardening becomes more fun and less burdensome if we can shed the “shoulds” and simply get busy creating the garden we want to make.

Another favorite garden writer of mine is Monty Don.

His books are excellent, but he is best known for hosting the weekly British gardening television show Gardener’s World. For those of us who don’t live in the UK, we can often find old episodes on YouTube, but I watch new episodes on the subscription television channel called Britbox (available through Amazon Prime).

Recently, Monty and Gardener’s World have been constrained–as we all have–by the realities and limitations of the global corona virus pandemic. This means that they are not free to visit gardens to film, and the show has had to adapt.

Whereas the show used to be beautifully and professionally filmed and produced from start to finish, now the show incorporates short homemade videos submitted by home gardeners across the UK. The films are unpolished and quirky, and the gardens and gardening practices they showcase are the same.

I miss the old beauty and polish, but I am also newly encouraged by the reminder that there are so very many ways to garden. As inspiring as the old Gardener’s World always was, it did set a very high–and you might even say impossible–standard. Finishing an episode, I often felt inspired and discouraged in equal measure.

But now? Now I remember that there is no one way to garden.

And my way matters. Perhaps not to anyone else. But it matters to me. And it matters to the place I’ve been given.


Your way and your place matter, too.

Vintage Roses (for your garden library)


I love adding books to my gardening library that are both beautiful and informative.

With that object in mind, I’ve learned to seek out the books with photographs by Georgianna Lane.

Vintage Roses: Beautiful Varieties for Home and Garden is one of my favorites. It will inspire you to add new roses to your collection, and it will look simply stunning on your coffee table.

Other books with Georgianna’s signature photographs? Peonies: Beautiful Varieties for Home and Garden and Dahlias: Beautiful Varieties for Home and Garden.

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