December 6th, 2010
Five Books: Essential Reads for Gardeners


Genevieve at North Coast Gardening wants to know what five books do we think are a must for every gardener. Creating a book list was one of the first things I did when began this blog almost a decade ago. I’ve read hundreds of gardening books since then and yet these few are always at the top of my list.

Karel Capek: The Gardener’s Year

Find out if your favorite gardener has this book, and if not, make a present of it. This has to be the funniest book ever written on gardening, more so because it is all true. To give examples, I’d have to quote long passages. Don’t give this book to a beginning gardener, though. The reader should have gardened through at least one year to really appreciate Karel Capek’s observations.
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The Elements of Organic Gardening

What can you learn from a prince about growing veggies? Quite a lot, actually, even if your suburban lot is nothing like his castles. This looks like it might be just another gorgeous coffee table book (and it is beautiful) but it is also full of information, written intelligently, clearly and compellingly. This is my favorite gardening book of the last couple of years.

Down to Earth: Practical Thoughts for Passionate Gardeners

People have told me that I should write a book. After reading Margot Rochester’s Down to Earth, I don’t feel the need to. I turned page after page and thought, “Hey, that’s exactly what I’m always saying.” I knew I’d found a true kindred spirit. And she’s written my book for me. Of course, the title clued me in. I’m both passionate and practical, a combination which confuses those who think every choice is an either/or choice.
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Passalong Plants

Offbeat, wacky, outrageous…words not normally associated with gardening books. I love these guys! I’m also pretty sure that my Bouldin Creek neighbors take landscape design advice from these two southern plantsmen. An antidote to English gardening books from a couple of good ole boys who garden in the south and understand our weather and our ways. Descriptions of each plant run about a page, accompanied with a memory, and a color photo.
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Tottering in My Garden

If Midge Ellis Keeble lived now, she would have been a garden blogger. She writes delightfully the various gardens she had over her life and the lessons she learned from each. The focus is foremost on the stories: the thrill and the trials that face all gardeners. But like talking with any experienced gardener, there is so much to learn. When I reread it years later, I was amazed to discover that many things I’d done and learned in my own garden were from seeds planted in my mind from this lovely little book.

by M Sinclair Stevens

6 Responses to post “Five Books: Essential Reads for Gardeners”

  1. From Dorothy/Gardening with Nature:

    Wonderful list! I’m putting the ones I don’t already have on my Christmas wish list now.

  2. From Taylor Trade Publishing:

    Thank you for including Margot’s book in your list!

  3. From Mr. McGregor's Daughter:

    Five garden books I haven’t read yet – I’m too excited! Winter is the perfect time for garden book reading here in the frozen North.

  4. From Genevieve:

    What exciting reads! It seems like most of your favorites are less about how to garden and more about the experience and the joy of gardening. Thanks for sharing your favorites. They’re all, shockingly, new to me and ones I’ll be reading soon!

    I do have a lot of “how to” books and some of them are very good. But I enjoy stories about personal experiences most whether the topic is gardening, or travelling, or living abroad. I think that’s why blogs appeal to me, too. It’s sad to see so many blogs turn into content generators for the ad machines. — mss

  5. From Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings:

    I’ve read the last two and find the other intriguing. Passalong Plants saved my garden many times by emphasizing the easier things to grow in my hot sultry climate. I got to meet him this year, and he is as funny and irreverent as his writing. Got to meet Steve too. They are very good friends.~~Dee

    I fell in love with Passalong Plants because it reflected the plants and aesthetic sensibility of my old Austin neighborhood. Especially when it came out, there just weren’t that many good gardening books for us Southerners. I’m amazed you’ve read Tottering in My Garden. I’ve never met anyone else who has heard of it. — mss

  6. From LeLo:

    I love The Gardener’s Year. I’ve been reading it month by month and it is funny, sweet, and timeless, really. I’ll have to check out your other recommendations!