Thursday, 8 September 2016

An Invitation to Visit a Member's Garden

On Sunday May 22nd, the Club was very kindly extended an invitation to visit the garden of Janet and Chris Pearman, in Peter Avenue.  Janet and Chris are newer members of the Club, and this was therefore a garden that most of the membership were unlikely to have visited before.  We were also offered tea and cakes in the garden (as well as -hic- wine - Ed).  The Committee would like to extend their thanks to Janet and Chris for this opportunity, which was much appreciated by all who attended, and to them and to their grandson who provided wonderful guided tours!

The top section of the garden under which lies many loads
of soil and builder's hardcore to level out the original drop.
The weather on the afternoon of the visit was fine and reasonably sunny, which was a relief given all the rain that we had been having through the weeks before, and made for a relaxing typically British afternoon, without even a neighbourly bonfire or mower to see, smell or hear!  Thanks also go to everyone who provided cakes for the visit.

The Dell - the lower section of the garden
ilustrating how much the level was originally raised.
Janet and Chris' garden is definitely a site of two halves.   Originally on a steep slope, when they moved in Janet and Chris imported many lorry loads of hardcore and soil in order to create a flat top section of the garden, now laid mainly to lawn and formal borders, and housing a new greenhouse for Janet's tomatoes (with a bed of elephant garlic outside, which was a new idea for many of the visitors more
familiar with the smaller cousin).

Candelabra Primulas happy in their habitat -
the original plant is on the left.
The design of the garden that had members talking most, however, is the way that the garden then drops into an unusual "dell" area, planted as a woodland and with a natural stream, and which is populated by a stunning display of shuttlecock ferns.  At the time of our visit, the area was also filled with a fine exhibition of candelabra primulas (which we hope to see displayed at the next Spring show - Ed), and which all originate from a single plant bought a number of years ago; the small stream that runs through the area increases significantly in flow through the winter, and has naturally distributed the seeds from the original plant over the Dell  The great part of this process is that the resulting "planting" looks entirely natural, as that is what it essentially is.  This area is also
extremely popular with the Janet and Chris' grandchildren who use it for building camps and generally getting away from the adults.

More of the Primulas downstream, showing how a happy
plant will thrive given the right conditions,
The lower Dell area is also home to a vegetable patch, which needs to be fenced in.  When asked why, Chris pointed out that this is to mitigate the effects of a regular invasion by local deer, which was something of a surprise to the author, given that Peter Avenue is on the "town" side of the A22 - I was not aware until this visit that there were any deer in this vicinity, and that they were normally restricted to the Chart.

Shuttlecock Ferns are a striking feature of the area,
standing up to four feet high
As well as reiterating our thanks to Janet and Chris for a lovely afternoon, the Committee would also like to hear from any other members with gardens that they would be prepared to open for Club members in the future.  We would like to make a Garden Party an annual event for the Club, and it would be great to have other members be as generous as The Pearmans and to allow us to see their patches - in whatever state they happen to be, as we don't expect show gardens...

The vegetable area needs to have deer protection.
Woodland camps - a plus for younger members of the family!
And finally ... what Sunday afternoon garden visit
would be complete without cakes?

Monday, 29 August 2016

In Memoriam: Shirley Istead

Shirley Istead, as Chair of the Club, with
Lesley Forehead, then the Show Secretary.
It is with very great sadness that we report the passing of Shirley Istead, who left us on 28th July 2016.  Shirley was a driving force for Hurst Green Gardening Club for a great many years, being involved in running the shows for twenty-five years before taking over as Chair in 2001.  Shirley was foremost in encouraging the change in name of the Club from Holland and District Horticultural Society to Hurst Green Gardening Club, feeling that the latter name was more appealing to most of the gardeners in the area, and highlighting the more friendly and approachable nature of our Club as a whole.

Istead Stores in Mill Lane
Most members will remember that Shirley and her husband Bill ran their shop, Istead Stores in Mill Lane, for many years; most of us probably shopped there at one time or another.  They had a large L-shaped garden behind the stores, and her husband grew many vegetables, supplying the local pubs as well as the shop itself.  She was a great jam, marmalade and chutney maker, which was a great "home building" hobby for their family of three sons, and in time their sons' own families too. 

When running the shows, Shirley and the Committee used to auction off the spare vegetables at the end of the day, raising funds for the Club, which also used to be great fun.  She also encouraged her own family - and especially her grandchildren - to participate in entering, which we would also heartily endorse current members to do to keep the shows running into the future.

Shirley - organising and Barbeque-ing!
Longer serving members of the Club will also remember Shirley (and Bill) organising and running the Summer Social for many years, which in those days used to take the form of a Barbeque.  We all owe her a huge debt of gratitude for her role in molding the Club that we know and support today.

Our condolences go to her family.  She was fondly admired, and will be greatly missed.

Shirley, and vegetables, in younger days ...

... and with her family...

... and finally, casting her eye over the Autumn show.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Patience is a Virtue ... or Slow Down, And Smell the Roses!

Wisteria Floribunda Alba
Over 10 years in the waiting!
In our last post documenting our May meeting on Lancelot "Capability" Brown, (read it by clicking here) we made much mention of the fact that many of his designs would not have matured in his (or the owner's) own lifetime.  As gardeners, we also face this problem, even if on a more limited scale.  Many of our plantings will take a few years to come to fruition, and if you get it wrong, and have to start again (says the disappointed voice of experience - Ed), the wait will become even longer before results are seen.  If you want a good, well-planned garden, there really are no short cuts to the waiting, even if some television programmes may suggest that immediate gratification is possible.  It might be to a degree - but it probably won't last very long when poorly thought out combinations and positionings of plants mean that they die after the first year, or come back spindly, if at all.  Alternatively, that plant which filled a space so well in its first year turns out to be a monstrous thug in the second, slaughtering everything around it and becoming a complete eyesore.

Long racemes of white flowers mark this plant.
A pain to prune, but the flowers will be replaced with foliage for shade.
For us gardeners, therefore, the old adage "Patience is a Virtue" has real meaning.  It does however also have some positive benefits, as enforced patience in the garden alleviates the hectic life that is all around us, forcing us to slow down a bit and to - quite literally - smell the roses instead.  In addition, very little will beat that sense of accomplishment when a long-term project finally reaches its original aim, and the beauty of the design at last becomes apparent. For your authors - and the reason that this article has been written - this has just occurred, and we thought that we would share it with you in order to give hope and anticipation now that the spring has arrived and everything is growing so well, while encouraging you all to slow down a little and enjoy what is around you, rather than rushing past it (and to allow a bit of bragging, perhaps? - Ed).

About 10 years ago - give or take a few - we constructed a pergola over our raised patio, with the intention of growing some climbers over the top to give shade from the sun.  We had visions of lovely dappled shade coming through a leafy cover, rather than suffering more years wilting under direct sunlight, and squinting unattractively at each other while we ate.  We also had - and still have - an issue with height in the garden as years of removing unchecked and unsuitable growth inherited with the house has left us with a garden that needs a bit more in it that goes upwards, rather than outwards.  Despite the slow growth, we chose to plant a wisteria over the pergola, knowing that it would take years to cover the space.  We chose the white form of the plant, Wisteria Floribunda Alba (at least we think it is floribunda rather than sinensis as the racemes are long, and there are plenty of them).  Incidentally, this is a version that is not well known, as many people do not know that a white form is available - we spoke to a coachload of Americans last year at Sissinghurst, who were bowled over as none had ever seen the white flowered type before, and were completely unaware of its existence.

From underneath, the flowers just clear our heads and
carry a fantastic vanilla fragrance to boot.
And finally,after a decade of training and pruning, this is the year that the plant at last reached the end of the pergola!  It is in the middle of the blooming period, and we have discovered that it has a fantastic vanilla scent as well, making it a delight to sit under the pergola when it is in bloom.  It has been a decade of waiting for the effect to finally be achieved, and we can honestly say that the wait has been worth it.  For a number of years, we have been able to see the framework develop, and we have been able to see that the effect we wanted was coming together, but finally - finally - we are there, and cannot be more pleased.  There is a tremendous sense of peace (and pride) at a job well done.

So, for all of you gardeners just starting, remember that patience is necessary, but that the rewards will come - and they they are all the sweeter for having waited, and for having done the job properly in the first place.  And, as we sit under the blooms and enjoy them as we meant them to be, remember that you need to take the time from everything that is around you - including the drudgery of weeding and actual gardening - to enjoy the garden that you have, and just to have a moment's peace and quiet in it.

Monday, 23 May 2016

May Meeting 2016 - The Capable Mr Brown

Lancelot "Capability" Brown.
Portrait held at the York Museums Trust.
Mr Russell Bowes presented a talk entitled "The Capable Mr. Brown" at our May meeting, focusing on the man himself and illustrating his talk with the gardens that he created.

"Capability" Brown - as gardeners, who hasn't heard of him, but how many could effortlessly state that his given name was Lancelot, or that he lived from 1716-1783?  We all know that he created great landscapes of lawns, trees and lakes for rich landowners to see from their houses, but how much does his work matter now, and what can we learn from it?  Lancelot "Capability" Brown captured the feelings of a time that was turning away from the rigid controls of life in Europe and in society as a whole, replacing formal and controlled parterres and plantings with a more laid back and natural style which we now take for granted.   In doing so, he essentially defined the view that we regard as quintessentially British, partly because he worked with plants that were familiar to him, and to the British Isles, long before the explosion of trees and shrubs from far-flung locations abroad.

Stowe Gardens - one of
the great "Capers" gardens
One of the great lessons of "Capability" Brown is that of the "long game", which we as gardeners or garden designers know so well, even if we operate on a somewhat smaller scale.  We are used to having to wait for our plantings to grow, and to have the patience and long-term satisfaction rather than the instant gratification that is becoming more normal for our age, but even we do not - and cannot - operate on the same scale as Lancelot Brown.  It took decades for his visions of the landscape to mature; often it was not the landowner, but the landowner's sons or grandsons (and presumably daughters and granddaughters, even if they couldn't inherit the estate - Ed) who were perhaps the first to share the reality of his ideas.  We must count ourselves fortunate that we are able to enjoy the consequences of a life devoted to creation, in a way that the designer knew he could not, as they would not be properly established in his own lifetime.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Competition 2016 - Heaviest Tomato

Ovi's Romanian Giant
Photo courtesy of Sea Spring Seeds.
Just a quick post to announce our competition for 2016.  This is for the single heaviest tomato grown from our "competition batch" of seedlings.  These will be available at the May meeting.  We charge 50p each seedling to cover pots and compost, and also the provision of a (tiny, tiny - Ed) prize.  Simply buy one or more seedlings (after all 50p is a small price to pay for a tomato), grow them on and bring your heaviest fruit along to the October meeting for judging.  Please - in this case - not the whole plant!

Do remember therefore to bring some 50p coins with you for this meeting.  If you are not going to be at the meeting, we can bring one round to you afterwards - just email us on or use the contact form on the right, and we will do the necessary.

The variety chosen is Ovi's Romanian Giant.  We give no other hints on growing it as that is up to you.  It is a beefsteak variety, which can produce fruits often over 1kg each.

Incidentally, you will get a second change (and possibly a third) to win a prize.  The September show has a category for "heaviest truss of tomatoes", and the suppliers of the seeds - - is running a national competition for the heaviest fruit.  Look at their web site (click on the link above) for details.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Spring Challenge Competition 2016 - or "We're Really, Really Sorry, Teddy"

Daffodils Galore!
Our tables were groaning under the number of entries.
Our April meeting saw our annual Spring Challenge Competition, against our friends at Godstone Gardeners'.  The venue of this event alternates each year between The White Hart Barn in Godstone, and St Agatha's in Hurst Green.  This year it was our turn to host the event in what we knew would be a hard fought competition, as we were defending a run of two consecutive wins, and Godstone wanted to deny us a hat-trick.  At stake was the Challenge prize, Teddy.

Avid followers of the blog may have noticed that last year, when we won, a congratulatory post was put up within a single day, but that this year three weeks (or more - Ed) have passed.  Although this was in fact due to our tardiness in posting last month's meeting (and we couldn't get the articles out of sync), and not due to any reluctance in publishing the result, I can confirm the suspicions of those who were not present; we did in fact lose this year, and poor old Teddy has had to pack his bags.  However, the competition was very closely fought, with the final score coming in at 67 to Godstone, and 61 to Hurst Green - a respectable result all round.  We do have to say that Godstone thoroughly deserved their win (Ouch!  That hurt! - Ed)

Pots of daffodils
However, the loss was not as painful as expected, as this was - at least in show terms - a terrific, terrific success.  While we knew that the Dictator - sorry Chair - of Godstone, Sylvia Pocock, was determined to win in this, her last year in charge, and while we knew that she would be massing her troops for the offensive, we were still very surprised (and gratified) at the turnout from both clubs.  Normally, being on home ground would be a distinct advantage, but it soon became clear that Godstone were arriving en masse.  Rumours that Sylvia "had a little list" and that anyone not turning up and exhibiting would be dragged at dawn from their house and shot on Godstone Green were denied - but possibly only the punishment, not the existence of the list!

Miniature Daffs - the shot glasses are on probation.  Comments welcome!
Anyway, as we have said many times, any competition or show such as this can only be as good as its exhibitors, and in this case you all did us proud, regardless of the Club that you came from.  I think it fair to say that we have not seen a Spring Competition like it for many years - one advantage of the turnout was that there was a commensurate increase in the number of exhibits, all of which were of good quality - including the daffodils.  There had been much concern that the daffodils would all be over and that there would be little to exhibit, to the degree that one club member asked whether the event was likely to be cancelled; as you can see from the photographs, this was not the case at all.  In fact, owing to the unfortunate fact that we could not use the normal show tables (as you may remember, the tablecloths were scoffed by rats in the store last year), and we had to rely on the limited number of tables in the main building, the displays were actually overcrowded, with the Show Secretary and Stewards having to resort to putting larger pots under the tables in order to bring them out during judging - there was a point of near panic as we fretted over how more space could be made.  This does not normally happen at shows any more, anywhere in the country, and it is a pleasure for the Committee to organise a show that was so honestly spectacular. I think that we can all agree that this was a special evening, regardless of who actually won or lost.  Our thanks also to Brian Knight and Paul Grimmer, our judges, who were faced with a daunting task with so many entries to choose from!

Tulip pots - exploding from the space, there may
be an argument for resricting the size next year, if only to
reduce the chance of a hernia!
As well as being a formal show and competition, this evening is also a great social occasion, with a chance to meet and chat to gardeners from another club that you often would never have a chance to talk to otherwise.  As it was our turn to host, it was also our turn to supply food and nibbles for the occasion.  Thank you to everyone who contributed to the food table, and also to the raffle (which seemed to go on interminably, there were so many prizes on offer - I know, I had to call out the numbers - Ed).  We also provided an apple punch which seemed to be popular - many members asked for the recipe, and it is simply 1 litre of apple juice (fresh, not longlife, which is horrible in a punch), 1 litre of ginger ale (not beer), a squirt of lemon juice and a splash of grenadine for a touch of colour (the alcoholic version of grenadine is also fine, but we used the kiddie non-alcoholic version so that you didn't crash on the way home).

Flowering spring pots.
We can thank you little more than to say that we have received a number of lovely letters from Godstone Gardeners thanking us for the hospitality, and commenting on how memorable and wonderful a show it was.  So "Thank You" to all, Godstone and Hurst Green alike, who came along, showed their blooms, and contributed to the atmosphere and the pleasure of it all.

All that remains is to say a hearty farewell to Teddy, who begged us not to send him to live in Sylvia's house for a whole year, but had to pack his bags and leave anyway, no doubt sobbing his little heart out all the way.  We're so, so sorry, Teddy, for making you move; after so long away from Godstone, we have heard that there may even be ... cuddles! May we see you back with us again, very, very soon!

Baskets on the theme of "Spring Flowers".  Note to all for
next year - there is in fact a size restriction, although the judges
and show secretary decided not to declare any entries
"Not According To Schedule".  The winner (and many others)
was gorgeous, but very, very oversize!
And finally, vases of spring flowers.  Just look at those tables -
exhibitors, thank you and stand up proud!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

March Meeting 2016 - Fuchsias My Way

Fuchsia My Stacey - bred by our speaker
Derek Dexter and named for his daughter.
Photo courtesy of the New Forest Fuchsia Society.
In March, in a talk entitled "Fuchsias - My Way" we were treated to a talk and practical demonstration that was even more entertaining than a concert by Ole Blue Eyes himself, from Derek Dexter.  Derek regaled us with tales of his fuchsia growing triumphs (of which there were many), as well as his disasters (fortunately, far fewer!).

Originally, Derek was a vegetable grower on his allotment, but the demands of a young family forced him to turn his horticultural attention to a site closer to home, and he started to grow fuchsias.  He uses a large greenhouse in his rear garden, but gave us a useful tip to reduce costs - he erects a small 7' by 5' polythene greenhouse inside the larger one (small? That's basically the size of my whole greenhouse - Ed), and it is this smaller greenhouse which is heated and controlled by a thermostat to overwinter the less hardy varieties in his collection.  As well as being cheaper to heat than the larger building, the polythene "insert" is well insulated by the larger greenhouse and suffers much less heat loss.

Fuchsia Gillian Anthea.
Photo courtesy of
Derek begins the fuchsia year in January (What?  It's far too cold outside for me, I'm in front of a fire until March; dedication has its limits - Ed) by pruning the roots, re-potting them in fresh compost and spraying them with tepid water to encourage them to shoot.  Once this happens, he takes lots of small cuttings composed of just the top bud and a leaf or two.  These root very quickly with or without rooting powder.  After approximately three weeks, he stops the growing tips to produce bushy plants.  After this, it takes about 60 days for a single fuchsia to flower, 70 for semi-doubles, and 80 days for a double variety.  This seems to be a technique that is common to many "proper" exhibitors, rather than just us ordinary gardeners at our own show, as you may remember that Ted Riches uses a similar process for his dahlias, exhibiting only the new cuttings and not using the mother plant from year to year.  He has also bred a fuchsia called My Stacey, after his daughter (available on the internet), and particularly recommended the fuchsia Gillian Althea.

Another image of Fuchsia Gall Mite, not to
be confused with leaf curl.

Fuchsia Gall Mite - closeup.
As well as regaling us with tales (I particularly liked the time his wife flooded the greenhouse - Ed), he provided us with lots of general as well as specific tips; his views on compost from the local recycling depot was particularly illuminating.  Apparently, we are now beginning to struggle with a bug called Fuchsia Gall Mite (no, I hadn't heard of it either - maybe it isn't quite in our part of the South East yet? - Ed), which thrives in hot environments, meaning that it is not killed of in the heat of even a large council compost heap.  Therefore, any council-sourced compost could potentially spread this nasty  bug.  Although this is of less concern to us as our Green Waste system in Surrey does not sell the resulting compost, using it instead for council facilities instead, it will be interesting to see if the local municipal fuchsias start to suffer. (Incidentally, I think that the other localish green waste site in Sundridge - technically in Kent - does sell compost from the green waste, so beware.  Mind you, I tend not to buy it as, frankly, I know what I've put in it, and I don't want it back! I'm a bad, bad person - Ed).  The Gall Mite can devastate areas of fuchsias, with symptoms that can be mistaken for leaf curl, and at the moment can be controlled only through total destruction of the affected plants.  It is thought that a chicken mite spray might also be effective, but there is as yet no conclusive evidence to verify this.  If you have any concerns, the British Fuchsia Society have a leaflet that may be downloaded by clicking here.  Fortunately, this is no longer a notifiable pest if found in a private garden.  (I did wonder about my much-loved diatomaceous earth which seems to be helping with mealy bug in a conservatory - more about this in a later post - Ed). 

Using a 2 litre lemonade bottle as a cheap propagator.
Derek also showed us a tip for plant labels; the large ones so beloved by garden centres (and by us myopic gardeners), can block out large amounts of sun reaching the plant if they are positioned carelessly; he suggested sticking the plant label on the pot itself rather than in the soil.  Hanging basket filler was another useful tip; Derek is a big fan of sphagnum moss, which I have used mainly to grow sarracenias; we will be carrying out a trial this year to see if it stops the baskets drying out as much.  He then showed us a trick with an old lemonade bottle to grow cuttings, in which you leave the cap on the bottle and then cut a section from the side to make a "lid" - put a small cuttings tray inside, complete with cuttings, and then replace the lid section, to make a cheap and easy propagator.  Finally, he very kindly gave us an example cuttings bottle to raffle, as well as some other plants.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

February Meeting - New plants; the future for your garden

Helleborus Walburton's Rosemary
At our February meeting, we were treated to a presentation on the introduction of new plants for gardeners by Graham Spencer.  Graham was brought up by parents who ran a nursery, and rather than go into the same business, he now runs a plant agency which promotes new plants introduced by breeders.  The talk covered a wide variety of topics, ranging from the "whys" of introducing new plants, to a discussion of some new plants and their advantages in the garden.

During the evening, we discovered that one of the major sources of income in garden centers is the tearoom, and that many purchases are spur-of-the-moment impulse buys from well-crafted displays on the walk to and from the coffee shop!  We were also introduced to the concept of "competitive purchasing" from two nominal retirees named Doris and Mabel, who turn up to the garden center for tea; Doris sees a plant that she likes, and Mabel decides that she must have one as well, adding another plant from the display to out-do Doris.  Although this seems rather cynical (and possibly a little sexist - Ed!), the discussion during this part of the evening was very informative on the techniques that are used to manipulate purchasers (supermarkets use much the same techniques) - who knew that yellow flowered plants are usually only purchased in the spring, and not later in the year, or that white flowered plants are the least popular if measured by sales? Although this might not seem correct to us as gardeners, you have to remember that the bulk of sales in garden centers or nurseries are to occasional "instant" gardeners, and not fully committed stalwarts like us (who, me? I'm off for a teacake - Ed)

We also found out more practical information, such as the fact that much of the introduction process is about small annual changes that build up to larger improvements over time. In Gardener's World, one of the presenters complained about the plethora of new varieties in bedding each year, and the fact that the differences were marginal, hankering after the varieties that he had bought a year or two before (I admit to having said much the same myself, though I am a little bit of a Grump, according to my wife - Ed); Graham firmly told us that you have to look at the improvements over a number of years rather than taking the more restrictive view.

Graham also discussed the reasons for breeding particular habits in plants, and for reinforcing their existing traits.  Although we all understand the concept of breeding a disease resistant variety, say  a mildew-resistant sweet pea, which benefits the gardener, we also learned that some of the improvements are aimed at benefiting the nurseryman.  As an example, some types of plant do not do well in pots, and these can start to look dejected at the garden centre; a variety that is more suited to pots will benefit the grower as they are more likely to be sold if they look happier for longer (and they require less specialist care).  Also, the major cost of supplying plants nowadays is in the cost of fuel, and in particular the cost of transport.  If you have ever noticed that many of the plants in the garden centres that do not grow their own tend to be short, mound-like plants rather than the taller versions, look no further than the fact that, if you have short plants, you can fit more shelves in the truck and move more plants for the same cost - apparently, they also look better on the display stands to attract Doris and Mabel!

Brachyglottis Silver Dormouse
Lest you become cynical about the breeding programs, Graham also spent a great deal of time discussing some of the new varieties that he manages and promotes.  In particular, your author was taken by the description of Helleborus Walburton's Rosemary, which is a new introduction that starts to flower well before Christmas, and will continue for many months after.  This variety has a current annual production of about 7,500 plants, against a projected annual sale very much higher (as hellebores are notoriously difficult to propagate by division, the supply is limited), and I was even more pleased to find one the next day in the garden department of Waitrose (according to Graham, currently the fastest growing plant vendor in the country). Another plant that was discussed was Brachyglottis Silver Dormouse, which tends to keep its foliage all the way to the base, unlike many other varieties - this is a variety which appeals as a result to both the nursery and the end gardener as it looks good at the point of sale for longer, while providing a positive improvement to the purchaser.  The variety also has much more silvery leaves than others.

Graham runs Plants For Europe, and many of the plants that he discussed many be found on his website,, by following the link marked "PFE's Portfolio of Plants").  Clicking on each of the plants will bring up an illustrated flyer for that plant, with illustrations.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

World Book Day 2016

As it is World Book Day, we asked members to nominate their favourite garden-themed books, in the hope that their choices would give inspiration to others.  Nominations could be for any type of book, be it fiction, non-fiction, instruction manual, history, or otherwise, and we also asked for a brief description of why you found it worthy of recommendation.  Thank you to all the members who responded, whose comments and choices are listed below.

All the books are currently available at Amazon - and thanks also to them for the photographs of the covers.


The Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett


“This is a children's classic, although read more by adults. It explores a number of themes including the symbolic healing qualities of a garden.”


Garden Cities of Tomorrow

Ebeneezer Howard

“A pioneering work by Howard (1902) who saw the potential of new settlements with homes with gardens and plenty of open space. It inspired the New Towns movement of the 1950s and 1960s and its associated formal Green Belt, itself London's 'back garden'.”


The Selfish Giant

Oscar Wilde


“In my opinion this is the perfect garden book for adults and children.  The elegant simplicity of style and language used to tell this beautiful story of the need for us all to share our gardens, never fails to enchant readers of all ages. I have yet to meet the person not moved to tears by this classic tale.”


A Year at Kew

Rupert Smith


“…as it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and reading monthly reviews of what is to come is of interest and a joy!”


The Language of Flowers

Vanessa Diffenbaugh


“It is the story of Victoria, who had a very unhappy childhood growing up in care, but for whom flowers became her salvation.  She started making a small flowerbed in a park where she was living rough after leaving care and was noticed by a florist who recognised her potential and gave her a job. Her love of flowers and her understanding of their meanings enriched not only her life but those for whom she made bouquets, helping them with their problems and ultimately helping her to mend herself.”


A Gentle Plea  for Chaos

Mirabel Osler



“A book I re-read now and again.   I love her wit and greatly enjoy reading about the mistakes she made when developing her garden in Shropshire.  My son bought me a paper back copy when he was a student for Mothering Sunday.  He knew my style of gardening!”


The Garden of
Evening Mists

By Tan Twan Eng


“A beautifully-written story of the building of a Japanese garden in 1950s Malaya coupled with a return to the garden in the 1980s. The backdrop is the fighting between the Chinese and the Malays in the 1950s; through it all the garden remains, serene and beautiful.”


The Well-Tempered Garden

Christopher Lloyd


“This is described as a ‘timeless gardening classic’, which it certainly is.  It doesn't have any pictures but they are not needed. He describes the picture for you with informative, intelligent and witty comments.  You can read it from cover to cover or dip in and out for reference.”


Gardening in Pyjamas
Helen Yemm


“Written by the Daily Telegraph’s columnist (Thorny Problems on a Saturday), this is a book that you can dip in and out of.  Descriptions of gardening basics and not-so-basics, solutions for many problems you were too embarrassed to ask about, all presented in small humorous chunks so that you can learn while enjoying yourself.”


The Revenge of
Samuel Stokes

By Penelope Lively


“What should any self-respecting dead garden designer do when he discovers that his beloved landscaped garden has been replaced by a new housing estate? Haunt it, of course! A fun children’s book that adults would also enjoy.”


RHS Pruning
and Training:
A Fully Illustrated
Plant-by-Plant Manual

Christopher Brickell
and David Joyce


“Simply the best guide I have ever come across, ideal when you have no idea what to do with a plant.  Hundreds of plants listed (800 apparently), with step by step pictures of the techniques needed, understandable even to the layman.  Cut-down versions of the book exist (and there is now a new version of this one), but this larger original is still the one I reach for every year.”


Plants for Shade

BBC Gardeners’ World
Pocket Plant Series

“This is an old (1997) BBC Gardeners’ World pocket book about plants for shade. It is brilliant!  I have a book shelf groaning with lots of gardening publications, each one telling you about a plant, but often not what you need to know.  This little gem describes each plant (only 75) in a simple manner, and tells you what to do with it.”


The Curious Gardener

Anna Pavord


“Amusing and down to earth series of articles about what to do in your garden each month. Good fun and not too preachy.”


The Jewel Garden
Monty and Sarah Don


"It is the only 'gardening' book I have read from cover to cover (at least twice!). I find it totally inspiring, it has beautiful photography and tells the story of the highs and lows they suffered in the fashion industry, being homeless, buying a derelict farmhouse and taking you through to the creation of their wonderful garden. An interesting and informative read!”

Stop Press!  We also have a late entry which did not make it to the initial list.  This has been reissued, and is now called the "New Encyclopaedia.." but there are still a number of used copies of the older version available on Amazon!

Encyclopaedia of Garden Plants and Flowers
The Reader's Digest
“…purchased in 1978 when Reader's Digest marketing knew no bounds and householders were bombarded with invitations to purchase ‘The Reader's Digest Book of …….This, That and The Other’ - you name it, RD had a ‘not to be missed’ book about it. Not to mention the endless boxed sets of LPs!  Their strategy worked and several books/LPs graced my home of the time (and those since).  Gardening books  came and went but this grand tome, in  its splendid black and gold dust cover, remains my gardening "Bible", my favourite and my ‘go to’ reference point. Happy gardening everyone!”