The Shortlist 2019

The Shortlist 2019

It is the end of the year, Christmas is approaching, and it is a time for gardeners to treat themselves and to be treated and few treats are better than a good book. Here is my selection from books published this past year, a top five which, I believe, will not fail to appeal and a few more which are also certainly worth a read.

My first choice is most certainly selected with a certain bias, a certain sharing in the joy of seeing a book from Jimi Blake, a wish to tell everybody of a book by an Irish gardener about an Irish garden and a strong hope that the book is an outstanding success – for it so very much deserves to be just that.

A Beautiful Obsession: In his seventeen years at Huntingbrook Garden, Jimi Blake has cut a dash through the traditional herbaceous border, the shrub border, the woodland garden and is leading the way in Irish horticulture with his innovative approach to gardening, with his new plant trials and introductions but, most of all, in the manner in which he has made gardening such fun and such a joy. Read the full review:

A Beautiful Obsession
A Beautiful Obsession, Jimi Blake with Noel Kingsbury, Photography from Richard Murphy and Bernard van Gieesen, Filbert Press, 2019, Hardback, 224 pages, £25, ISBN: 978-1-9997345-2-7


The History of Landscape Design in 100 Gardens: This was the most interesting, enjoyable and informative book I’ve read in ages! At its very simplest, this book acts as a guide to 100 of the most significant gardens of the world with insights into their backgrounds, their cultural influences and place within the history of landscape design. However, the selection is arranged in an historic sequence so that the gardens illustrate how the prevailing culture of the day influenced their designs so that the reader is given an overview of the development of garden/landscape design over the centuries. Read the full review:

The history of landscape design
The History of Landscape Design in 100 Gardens, Linda A. Chisholm, Photography by Michael D. Garber, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2018, Hardback, 535 pages, $50, ISBN: 9781604698671


Cherry Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms: Some books give more than they have promised. Some books promise much and give even more and these books are to be treasured for they are rare things, giving testimony, insight and understanding to the deeper matters of our world and our lives. “Cherry Ingram” by Naoko Abe is such a book. Read the full review:

Cherry Ingrim cover
Cherry Ingram: The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms, Naoko Abe, Chatto & Windus, London, 2019, Hardback, 380 pages, £18.99, ISBN: 9781784742027


Beth Chatto, A Life with Plants: Beth Chatto has been one of the most influential British gardeners and plants women of the past hundred years. Her garden has charmed us and her books have informed us – The Dry Garden, The Damp Garden, Beth Chatto’s Shade Garden – there were eight in total. She went to the Chelsea Flower Show, winning ten Gold Medals and later pioneered the development of dry gardens, those which did not require any irrigation, and her planting philosophy “Right plant – right place” is both simple and profound and will continue to influence how we garden for some considerable time. Read the full review:

Beth Chatto Book Cover
Beth Chatto: A Life with Plants, Catherine Horwood, Pimpernel Press, 2019, Hardback, 288 pages, £30, ISBN: 978-1-910258-82-8


Gardenlust – A Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens: This is a book which will gladden the heart of any gardener as we read of the vibrancy, enthusiasm, creativity and beauty of gardens worldwide. In the face of climate change, urbanisation, species loss, deforestation etc, garden creators around the world respond with positivity, a get up and go, a let’s do something about it attitude and that with energy and drive gardens and gardeners can show the world that there is much of great value in our natural world that we must strive to save and – this is the most important lesson to take from this book – that we can do it! Read the full review:

Gardenlust cover
Gardenlust – A Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens, Christopher Woods, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2018, Hardback, 415 pages, US$40, ISBN: 978-1-60469-797-1


KIftsgate Court Gardens – Three Generations of Women Gardeners: The story of these beautiful gardens created by three generations of women gardeners. An interesting story, an excellent book. Read the full review:

Kiftsgate Court Gardens – Three Generations of Women Gardeners, Vanessa Berridge, with photography by Sabine Ruber, Merrell Publishers, London, 2019, Hardback, 192 pages, £40, ISBN: 978-1-8589-4669-6


Naturalistic Planting Design: The Essential Guide: A most insightful and wonderful account of Nigel Dunnett’s approach to his garden design and planting. Very open, honest and with great depth. An excellent read. Read the full review.

Nigel Dunnett (1)
Naturalistic Planting Design: The Essential Guide, Nigel Dunnett, Filbert Press, 2019, Hardback, 239 pages, £35, ISBN: 978-0-9933892-6-9


The Artist’s Garden: The Secret Places that Inspired Great Art: Artists and their gardens, their gardening and the inspiration they derived from them. A wonderful insight into the dynamic of garden and artist. Read the full review:

The Artist's Garden Book Cover
The Artist’s Garden – The secret places that inspired great art, Jackie Bennett, White Lion, London, 2019, Hardback, 224 pages, £30, ISBN: 978 1 78131 874 4


Great Gardens of London: This will make any upcoming garden visit to London all the more informed and enjoyable. An enjoyable read and an excellent resource.  Read the full review:

Great Gardens of London, Victoria Summerley with photographs by Marianne Majerus and Hugo Rittson Thomas, White Lion (an imprint of the Quarto Group), London, 2019, Hardback, 208 pages, £20, ISBN: 978-0-7112-4409-2


Scent Magic – Notes from a Gardener:  The neglected aspect of gardening – scent, fragrance – dealt with in a wonderfully personal and insightful style by Isabel Bannerman. Read the full review:

Scent Magic – Notes from a Gardener, Isabel Bannerman, Pimpernel Press Ltd., London, 2019, Hardback, 256 pages, £30, ISBN: 978-1-910258-49-1


The Dry Gardening Handbook – Plants and Practices for a Changing Climate: With climate change this is likely to become the new gardening bible. It certainly makes very interesting and inspiring reading: Read the full review:

The Dry Gardening Handbook (1)
The Dry Gardening Handbook – Plants and Practices for a Changing Climate, Olivier Filippi, Filbert Press, 2019, Hardback, 208 pages, £40, ISBN: 978-1-999-73455-8


Planting the Oudold Garden at Hauser & Wirth, Somerset: A very different account of the work of one of the most famous of modern garden designers as it tells of the development of the garden after the designer had left. Read the full review:

Planting the Oudolf Garden at Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Rory Dusoir, Foreword by Piet Oudolf, Photography by Jason Ingram, The Filbert Press in association with Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2019, Hardback, 208 pages, £30, ISBN: 978-1-9997345-3-4


The Hidden Horticulturalists – The Untold Story of the Men who shaped Britain’s Gardens:  A window into a period of gardening history though the lives of, largely, unknown gardeners. Read the full review:


The Hidden Horticulturists SMALL JPEG
The Hidden Horticulturists – The Untold Story of the Men who shaped Britain’s Gardens, Fiona Davison, Atlantic Books, London, 2019, Hardback, 352 pages, ISBN: 978-1-78649-507-5, £25