While these times may be unprecedented, they also present an opportunity to get in your garden and deal with the issues you haven’t found time for previously.
If this describes you, then you’ll probably want to prepare a little first. As Abraham Lincoln once said:
Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe
The same philosophy can be applied to gardening. And the best way to apply this particular philosophy is to grab some books for inspiration.
Figuring out which books to buy in a market where there are seemingly endless options can be tricky, so we’ve done some of the hard yards for you.
Below you’ll find a list of books that we’ve vetted and thoroughly approve of. Run through the list yourself and you’re guaranteed to find something that tickles your particular fancy.
So here are the best books for gardening enthusiasts in no particular order…
How to Raise a Plant – Morgan Doane & Erin Harding
The idea of a “plant parent” started out as a bit of a joke by people belonging to a generation who are having kids later and later, but eventually turned into a movement of its own. If you’d like to consider yourself among this group but are worried you’d end up killing your “plant child”, then this is a book for you.
In How to Raise a Plant, you’ll learn everything you need to know about selecting the right plants for your space, keeping them alive, how to use plants inside and out and much more. Whether you’re an old hand at plants but want to know more or a complete beginner, you’ll get a lot out of this book.
Gardenista – Michella Slatalla
If you’ve ever wanted to create an outdoor space that’s as inviting as an indoor one, then this is a book for you. That was the aim of Michella Slatalla when she set out to write this book.
As you go through the book you’ll be introduced to a variety of gardens from all around the world, each with different styles. These aren’t gardens that can be imitated by anyone; they do tend towards the higher end of things, but if that’s what you like to look at then you will love Gardenista.
Gardenlust – Christopher Woods
Christopher Woods is a horticulturalist and public garden administrator with several decades of experience. Beginning his career at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and then in several famous public gardens across the United States, he is well placed to teach you about the best gardens in the world.
And his book, Gardenlust, does just that. It takes you across every continent on Earth (except Antarctica) to show you some of the best gardens on offer. While the photos tell part of the story, Woods takes the time to explain how these gardens work and what makes them exceptional. Highly recommended if you want to see a variety of gardens from all corners of the globe.
Visit site: https://urbanehorticulture.org/
The New Plant Parent – Darryl Cheng
This is another book aimed at the newer generation of plant parents. Toronto based Cheng might be an engineer and business analyst, but his Instagram account (with almost 500,000 followers) has been an inspiration for indoor gardeners across the world.
In The New Plant Parent, Cheng will teach you all you need to know about growing (and just as importantly, not killing) house plants. There’s information on light, water and nutrition, making this book perfect for those who aren’t just after inspiration but education as well.
Visit site: https://www.houseplantjournal.com/
How to Make a Plant Love You – Summer Rayne Oakes
Known as the world’s first “eco-model” and for growing over 1,000 plants in her apartment, Summer Rayne Oakes is also the author of four books, with How to Make a Plant Love You being her latest.
In it, you’ll learn how to turn your home into a green space, but the book touches on more than just this; it’s also part memoir and part guide on surviving modern life. If that appeals to you then you’ll love How to Make a Plant Love You.
Visit site: http://www.summerrayne.net/
Urban Jungle – Igor Josifovic & Judith de Graaff
Igor Josifovic is a busy guy; when he’s not running his blog, he’s designing interiors, taking care of plants and travelling the globe. Or writing books. His first book Urban Jungle (co-authored by Judith de Graaff), is a book for people who want to bring more green into their lives.
We’ve written about the benefits of this on our blog before, but this book actually goes into the details of how to do so, while providing plenty of inspiration for your own space. His second book Plant Tribe is also worth a look if you want to turn your home into a green space.
Visit site: https://happyinteriorblog.com/
Wild at Home – Hilton Carter
Hilton Carter is a Baltimore based interior stylist and to say that he’s passionate about plants would be an understatement; he has well over 300 in his home!
If you’re interested in seeing what a home with 300 plants looks like, then you’ll love Wild at Home. In this book, Carter takes you on a tour of his home (as well as other green spaces) and on the way teaches you about creating a space of your own (even if you don’t want to have 300 plants in yours). Even if you’re a complete beginner there’s enough information here to have you creating your own space in no time.
Visit site: https://thingsbyhc.com/
The Art of Outdoor Living – Scott Shrader
Scott Shrader is a California based landscape designer known for his work across the United States and has even created gardens for celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres.
His book, The Art of Outdoor Living, is his design philosophy distilled down into a book that can help you create your own outdoor spaces. In the book, you’ll be taken through a dozen properties and shown how to create landscapes that exist as extensions of the homes they surround. If his style tickles your fancy then this book is a must-have.
Visit site: www.shraderdesign.com
The Secret Gardeners – Victoria Summerley
Victoria Summerley is a journalist based in the UK and a former editor of the Independent newspaper. The Secret Gardeners has been given the subtitle of Britain’s Creatives Reveal Their Private Sanctuaries so it’s not surprising to learn that this book takes you through the gardens of some of Britain’s more well-known people.
From Richard Branson, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Russian oligarchs and rock icons, this book is a must-have for fans of English gardens, as well as people who are interested in the lives of the rich and famous.
Garden Inspirations – Charlotte Moss
Charlotte Moss is an interior designer and author based in the US. In her book, Garden Inspirations, Moss looks to bring the outside in; looking at ways that gardens can be used for interior design.
The inspiration is drawn, in part, from Moss’ travels around the world in places such as France, Italy and Russia. The book also has a section towards the end that teaches the reader about some of the gardens of the more well-known women of the US, such as Lady Bird Johnson and Bunny Mellon.
Visit site: https://charlottemoss.com/
In Bloom – Ngoc Minh Ngo
Ngoc Minh Ngo is a freelance photographer and author of three books. Her second book, In Bloom, was published in 2016 and is aimed at connecting people with flowers in everyday life.
What makes this book a little different is that it’s not focused on her own gardens and plants. Instead, Ngo has focused on the interiors of artists and designers, so there is a wide variety of designs to look at. This is great for people who are after inspiration and lots of different ideas for designing their own spaces.
Visit site: http://www.ngocminhngo.com/
The Gardens of Bunny Mellon – Linda Jane Holden
Linda Jane Holden is a garden historian and author of three books, but it’s the two most recent ones we want to mention here. While working at the White House, Holden began to learn about the contributions of Bunny Mellon to gardening and landscape design.
Bunny Mellon was the second wife to one of America’s wealthiest men, and as such had homes across the country. The Gardens of Bunny Mellon takes you through the gardens that she designed at these residences and the text comes from interviews Holden had with Mellon before her death in 2014.
If you like this book that takes a look at her gardens, you’ll love the upcoming Garden Secrets of Bunny Mellon, which is the story of Bunny Mellon and a more detailed look at her gardening philosophy and standards. It will be published in September 2020.
Visit site: www.lindajaneholden.com
The Less is More Garden – Susan Morrison
Susan Morrison is a landscape designer from Northern California specialising in small-space garden design and has shared her philosophy on the PBS series Growing a Greener World.
In The Less is More Garden, Morrison helps people with smaller spaces design the garden that’s right for them. With spaces getting smaller and smaller, there are going to be more people than ever for whom this book will be perfect.
There’s plenty of guidance on how to use various design elements, how to pick the right plants and, of course, how to get the most out of whatever space you have. Perfect for people who don’t have huge backyards.
Visit site: https://garden-chick.typepad.com/about.html
The Layered Garden – David L. Culp
David Culp is a gardener and author from Pennsylvania and is best known for creating the gardens at Brandywine Cottage in Downington. These gardens are known for their masterful display of layering, which involves planting several species together, so that as one plant declines in attractiveness, another takes over.
In The Layered Garden, shows you how to follow in his footsteps and create a garden of your own that uses the principle of layering to full effect. You’ll first learn the fundamentals of layering and how to choose the right plants so that you get the timing right. To further illustrate the lesson, Culp walks you through his own gardens so you can learn by example.
Visit site: https://www.davidlculp.com/
The Magical World of Moss Gardening – Annie Martin
Annie Martin (also known as Mossin’ Annie), is a moss enthusiast and gardener who specialises in moss gardens.
So it won’t come as a surprise to learn that her book is titled The Magical World of Moss Gardening. The book does exactly what it says it will do; it teaches you all about moss and how to use it in your garden.
From identifying basic species of moss to growing moss yourself to designing and maintaining your own moss garden. If you are a moss enthusiast too (or would like to be), then this is a great book for you.
Visit site: https://www.mountainmoss.com/
Terrariums – Maria Colletti
Maria Colletti is a travelling workshop instructor and author. She has also been described as a “terrarium savant”.
Although she has written a couple of books, the one we wanted to feature here is Terrariums: Gardens under Glass. If you’ve ever wanted to create a terrarium of your own, but want to delve a bit deeper than an online guide, then this is a great book for you.
You’ll get a good primer on the basics of terrarium creation and you’ll also be walked through plenty of examples for inspiration. Whatever the terrarium that you want to create, you’ll be able to find all you need in this book.
Visit site: https://green-terrariums.company.site/
Landscaping for Privacy – Marty Wingate
Marty Wingate is unique in this list in that she’s now an author of mystery novels. However, she’s also a gardening expert, having written three books on the topic. All of which are worthy of a mention here, but the one we’re featuring is Landscaping for Privacy.
This book is perfect for those who wish to be insulated from the outside world a little bit. If you’re bothered by sights or sounds from your environment and would like to make your garden more of a private sanctuary, then this book is for you.
Visit site: http://martywingate.com/
Small Garden Style – Isa Hendry Eaton & Jennifer Blaise Kramer
Isa Hendry Eaton is a landscape designer from California who specialises in helping clients create gardens that are not only lush, but water-wise. Something we can appreciate in Australia.
Her book Small Garden Style is a book designed to help people create lush gardens regardless of the space available. One of our favourite features is the quiz that helps you determine your personal style so that you can have an easier time of figuring out how to plant the garden that’s right for you.
Visit site: http://www.isabird.com/
Planting the Natural Garden – Piet Oudolf
Piet Oudolf is one of the Netherlands most well known garden designers, as well as being a nursery man and author. He likes to work with perennials and is behind the design of well over a dozen public gardens across Europe and North America.
He has also written eight books on gardening, but the one we decided to feature here is Planting the Natural Garden. If you want to better understand his philosophy on using perennials in gardening then this is the book to get.
Visit site: https://oudolf.com/
The Tree Book – Michael Dirr
Michael Dirr is a professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia. He has published over 300 scientific papers and written seven books. If you want to know about trees, then this is the guy you want to talk to. We could have featured a number of his books here, but the one we chose was The Tree Book.
This is a whopping 940-page book covering more than 2000 different sorts of trees. If you want to use trees in your gardens then you can’t find a more authoritative source than this. In addition to lots of great photos, there is also a huge amount of information covering which climates the trees flourish in, where to best plant them and how to take care of them.
The History of Landscape Design in 100 Gardens – Linda A. Chisholm
Linda Chisholm is a historian and teaches the history of landscape design at the New York Botanical Garden. So it won’t come as a surprise to learn that she’s also the author of The History of Landscape Design in 100 Gardens.
This book is a little different from the others we’ve featured in this post as it’s not really a book on gardening per se, but a look at how modern landscape design came around. In the book, Chisholm effectively takes you by the hand and leads you through some of the most important gardens historically and explains the context in which they were created.
Private Edens – Jack Staub
Jack Staub was a gardener, lecturer and considered by many to be a leading expert in the area of edible gardening.
In Private Edens Staub takes you on a journey along the East Coast of the USA to take a look at some beautiful, yet rarely seen, gardens. There are a wide variety of gardens featured, but the one thing they all have in common is that they’ll leave you wanting to see more.
In & Out of Paris – Zahid Sardar & Marion Brenner
Zahid Sardar is the design editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and has written about global architecture, interiors and design for over 20 years.
In & Out of Paris does exactly what it says it does on the cover. You may not be able to travel to Paris right now to look at the gardens, but this book will make a pretty good substitute. From celebrated artists to Japanese architects, the 30 gardens featured here will be enjoyed by any gardening enthusiast.
Walled Gardens – Jules Hudson
A broadcaster, writer, archaeologist, historian and army officer; Jules Hudson is a man who wears many hats. While in Australia he is best known for his show Escape to the Country, in this post we’d like to introduce you to his first book; Walled Gardens.
Not commonly seen in Australia, a walled garden is one that is surrounded by a wall for horticultural purposes rather than for security. In this book, Jules walks you through a number of his favourite walled gardens and uses his experience as an archeologist to explain their significance.
Fans of Escape to the Country will also be pleased to hear that Jules has recently published a second book; The Escape to the Country Handbook. If you’ve ever dreamt of leaving the city for greener pastures then this is the book for you. Drawing on years of experience hosting the show, you’ll be walked through the process of moving to the country and you’ll learn just about everything you could possibly want to know; from renovating old properties to creating deer-proof gardens.
Visit site: https://www.juleshudson.com/
Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America – Kendall H. Brown
Kendall Brown is a Professor of Asian Art History at California State University and the author of several books. The one that we want to bring to your attention today is Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America.
Japanese gardens have long captivated the imaginations of westerners and unsurprisingly the focus of most books on Japanese gardens have been gardens in Japan. What makes this book different is that it looks at Japanese gardens within the United States. If you are a fan of Japanese gardens and want to see how they have been interpreted overseas, then this is the book for you.
Home Outside – Julie Moir Messervy
Author and landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy wrote Home Outside for people who want to make their outdoor living spaces a functional extension of their home.
Drawing on years of experience as a landscape designer, Messervy introduces you to some big picture concepts that are necessary to understand her style of design, as well as helping you understand the finer points of design while walking you through the seven concepts that govern the gardens she designs for clients.
Visit site: https://jmmds.com/
Zen Gardens – Mira Locher
Mira Locher is an educator, writer and architect based in Utah, but who also practices in Japan. Her book Zen Gardens is a look at the designs of who many consider to be Japan’s leading garden designer; Shunmyo Masuno.
As well as providing plenty of beautiful photos that are a joy to look at, Locher also spends time helping you understand what makes the garden really tick. This is important when it comes to zen gardens as the meaning and thought behind the design isn’t always obvious.
If you like the idea of this book, you’ll also love Locher’s most recent book Zen Garden Design. This newer book takes a deeper dive into Masuno’s design process and ideas, so if you’re after something that’s instructional as well as inspirational then this is another option for you.
Visit site: http://www.kajikaarchitecture.com/
Nature into Art – Thomas Christopher & Ngoc Minh Ngo
Wave Hill is a very well known public garden in the Bronx, New York City. In Nature into Art, author Thomas Christopher walks you through the garden and gives you an understanding of the elements that make the various sections work so well.
With outstanding photography by Ngoc Minh Ngo (who has already been mentioned in this list), if you’re a fan of Wave Hill then this is a must-read.
Outstanding American Gardens – Page Dickey & Marion Brenner
Page Dickey is a gardener and writer with eight books under her belt. Her book Outstanding American Gardens was put together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Garden Conservancy; an American non-profit whose aim is to preserve exceptional gardens.
In this book, Dickey walks you through eight of the gardens that the organisation has helped preserve, as well as 43 other gardens that they have opened to the public through their open days. A must-have for fans of American gardens. The photographs by Marion Brenner really help bring these gardens to life.
Visit author’s site: https://pagedickey.com/
Visit photographer’s site: http://www.marionbrenner.com/
The Scentual Garden – Ken Druse & Ellen Hoverkamp
Ken Druse is a photographer and author of over 20 gardening books. The American Horticultural Society called his first large book The Natural Garden “among the best books of all time”, however, the book we’ve decided to feature here is The Scentual Garden.
This is a book written for people who want to better use scents in their garden. There are lots of examples of plants and flowers that can be used, as well as examples of gardens that provide great examples of scentual gardens that you can use as inspiration for your own gardens.
Visit site: https://kendruse.com/
That’s all we have for you when it comes to the best gardening books. We’re confident that no matter your tastes or style that you’ll find something that really tickles your fancy.
If not, feel free to suggest in the comments section below another book that should be on the list.
Or leave a comment and tell us which book above you’d like to buy first.