Gardening: The book worm

Banish mid-year frustrations and head indoors for inspiration.

By Lee Ann Bramwell
books on gardening

Garden columnists should be excused from writing columns in July. It’s an undeniably crappy month in our garden, and probably in most gardens around the country.

The only recourse is a cup of tea, a warm fire and a well-stocked bookcase. If you can’t do it, you can at least read about it.

We have several-hundred books on plants, flowers, vegetables, trees, landscaping – anything remotely associated with growing things. Most, I’m ashamed to admit, have hardly drawn a second glance.

In defence of this cavalier disregard for the painstaking efforts of garden writers the world over, how many times would you open 1000 Tiles: Ten Centuries of Decorative Ceramics or Anthology of Earthworm Species in the Suburban Garden?

I’m a bit of a blonde when it comes to garden books. I like big, hard-cover volumes with amazing photography that inspire me to deconstruct, reconstruct, renovate or reinvent whatever space is not making me happy that day.

The Partner has been caught trying to hide such books in an effort to get himself off the hook, and replace them on the coffee table with his own selection. He found what is now his all-time favourite, 100 Best New Zealand Native Plants for Gardens, for sale at the local takeaway shop for $5. It was written by Fiona Eadie. Although not well-known at the time, she is now, at least among garden enthusiasts, as the head gardener at Dunedin’s Larnach Castle. She talks wonderfully well about her role, and plants in general, on Tony Murrell’s Radio Live garden show.

The Partner uses her book so often, we never refer to it by name. It’s just “look it up in the book”. He also favours an ancient Readers’ Digest book of garden projects, the actual name of which has worn off the cover, and another tatty tome called The Complete Backyard Book, which is invaluable if you want to make a jetty, a set of stairs, a deck or a henhouse.

My favourite is a book I bought a decade or so ago, called Secret Gardens of Santa Fe, which can be blamed for the fact that we live in an adobe house surrounded by paved courtyards and terraces, freestanding adobe walls and lots of large urns, pots and olive jars. Luckily, I still love the Santa Fe look and I still love the book. And when you’re suffering a chilly New Zealand winter, what better place to be – even if only in your imagination – than Santa Fe?

read more from