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Books for garden lovers

“A room without books is like a body without a soul”,
said the Roman philosopher Cicero. At Neptune we’re book lovers too, and now that summer is finally on the horizon our thoughts have turned to books about gardens.

For us, they fall into two distinct camps: inspiring, richly illustrated titles that you can display on your coffee table and while away an afternoon with; and practical guides that help you make real improvements to your own outdoor space (however big or small).

Because every home should have a few of both, we’ve put together a list of our favourite horticultural books for you to enjoy. Happy reading.

Coffee table books

The Gardener’s Garden by Madison Cox, Ruth Chivers & Toby Musgrave (Phaidon, £49.95)

We know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but the beautiful tangerine binding of this book is part of its appeal. Inside, over 250 gardens around the world are featured in glorious colour, including Monet’s garden at Giverny, the Arts and Crafts garden at Hidcote in the Cotswolds and La Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech. There are a huge variety of styles on display, from medieval to modern, and wild to urban. Certain to become a favourite in any gardener’s library, this book will most likely inspire a few garden visits too.

The Gardens of Arne Maynard by Arne Maynard (Merrell, £45)

Maynard is one of the most sought-after garden designers working today, and his romantic style will make you dream of transforming your patch of land into something lush and flower filled. The ultimate English country house gardener, he’s landscaped many a stately home. As well as photographs of various projects, this lovely book includes essays on his personal passions, such as growing roses, creating kitchen gardens and using sculpture outdoors.

Landscape of Dreams: The Gardens of Isabel & Julian Bannerman (Pimpernel Press, £50)

The title of this book reflects the magical garden designs of husband-and-wife duo Isabel and Julian Bannerman. They are known for their theatrical style, which embraces follies, grottoes and topiary. Leaf through this book and marvel at the fairytale gardens they’ve cultivated for Waddesdon Manor and Arundel Castle, as well as the Pre-Raphaelite-inspired planting at their own home, Trematon Castle in Cornwall. A real conversation starter, this will delight armchair gardeners as well as real ones.

The New English Garden by Tim Richardson (Frances Lincoln, £40)

Richardson, a leading garden writer, celebrates England’s thriving garden culture in this thought-provoking book, which aims to paint a picture of where landscape design is heading in the 21st century. He surveys 25 gardens that have been created or restored in the past decade, from historic locations such as Great Dixter in East Sussex to recent attractions like London’s Olympic Park. Andrew Lawson’s photographs capture their beauty in vivid detail.

Useful garden guides

New Wild Garden: Natural-Style Planting and Practicalities by Ian Hodgson (Frances Lincoln, £25)

With bee and insect populations in decline, wildflower gardens are more important then ever. You may think you need a large space to grow one, but this book challenges that notion by presenting wild gardens on every scale – from container plots upwards. Advice on propagating more than 50 varieties of wildflower is included, as well as tips on working with your soil type and step-by-step guides to creating your very own patch of meadow.

My Garden is a Car Park and Other Design Dilemmas by Kendra Wilson (Laurence King, £12.99)

New to gardening, and not sure where to begin? This refreshingly down-to-earth book is entertaining as well as practical, offering solutions to everyday problems such as lack of light, tiny plots and even how to overcome a fear of insects (some of which are really good for your garden). Advice is presented in bite-sized chunks that make any challenge seem more approachable, and the author’s reassuring voice reminds us of the most important thing about gardening: it should be fun.

Garden Design Close Up by Emma Reuss (Thames & Hudson, £24.95)

Using 100 gardens around the world as examples, this book demystifies various elements of the garden such as composition, architectural features, colour and planting. Many styles are featured – from Japanese Zen gardens to jungle spaces – and the clear, practical information on why each one works will help even novices feel confident to try new planting ideas.

RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants by Christopher Brickell (Dorling Kindersley, £75)

Learning about plants – their names and their needs – is one of the most daunting tasks any gardener faces. Make light work of it with this definitive reference work, which lists over 15,500 species and tells you how to plant and care for them. It’s big and quite expensive, but it really is the only plant encyclopedia you will ever need and will be treasured for a lifetime.

Look out for our book club pages in each issue of Stories, our seasonal lifestyle book.
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Prices shown are accurate to the date this article was published on 26 May 2017