Garden book guide

Inspiration is a key component of great gardening - here's our guide of the best

At the time of writing it’s been raining for four days and two more are forecast.  Since I was a cat in a former life (and often wish I still was) I dislike getting wet unless I’m in the ocean, so gardening at the moment is out of the question.

So over the past couple of days I have rediscovered the bookcase – not, sadly, because I have been sitting around reading, but because we’ve been renovating, which has involved unpacking and dismantling the bookcase for a long-overdue rejuvenation.

The fact that I discovered it was propped up at one end with the Great Book of Sports Cars, published in 1970-something, is an indication of how sloppy I have been.

In these shelves we have more than 500 books on landscape design, gardening, organics and the like, and most of them have only been opened once.

I’m ashamed of this rather cavalier disregard for the painstaking efforts of hundreds of garden writers the world over but, in my defence, I would have to say there’s not a lot of incentive to read and re-read 1000 Tiles: Ten Centuries of Decorative Ceramics and A Treasury of Ant Species in the Suburban Garden.

I quickly dipped into a few old favourites, which were propping up the bookcase, to give myself a wee visual feast before getting down to the hard yards of sanding, repainting and then sorting and re-stacking the more than 500 books – although it’s now slightly fewer than that due to the jettisoning of the tile and ant anthologies, along with a few others.

So, here are a few of my top recommended reads, just in case you’re looking for some inspiration for building your dream garden when the weather clears.

**100 Best New Zealand Native Plants for Gardens

**Fiona Eadie (Random House New Zealand, $42.74)

Interestingly, the most wel lthumbed book in our bookcase is far from splendid, flash or glossy.

100 Best New Zealand Native Plants for Gardens has an unexciting soft cover and smells of old chip fat, due to the fact my partner found it in the local takeaway shop while sneakily buying chips for lunch.

I’m not sure how there came to be copies available at the chippie for $5, but it was an irresistible bargain and is worth its weight in corn fritters. It was written by someone

called Fiona Eadie who has a degree in botany, worked for the New Zealand Forest Service for several years and managed a nursery, and her book delivers exactly what the title promises.

For some strange reason, this has never made her a famous gardener and she does not edit a garden magazine or present a TV show on how to grow 100 different kinds of lettuce on the balcony of your inner-city apartment.

**The Dry Garden

**Jane Taylor (Godwit Press, $37.97)

Also well fingered is The Dry Garden by Jane Taylor.

This is one of the first garden books I ever bought and, like Designing with Roses, shows you can build a structural design around plants, rather than the other way around.

It also proves you can make a stunning garden with plants you may not particularly admire, such as succulents, with the added bonus that it won’t turn up its toes at the first sign of a long, hot summer.

You may be surprised that, once youstart, you find there are some succulents and other dry garden plants that you do like and what started out as a necessity becomes a pleasure.

Designing with Roses

Tony Lord (Trafalgar Square Publishing, $28.87)

I prefer big, hard-covered coffee table books on garden design, which have amazing photography and plenty of it, and the sort of accessible, straightforward text that doesn’t tax my short attention span.

So I was surprised to find myself cross-legged on the floor with Designing with Roses,

ploughing my way through its contrived and pretentious text trying to figure out how to do exactly that – design a garden around roses and, conversely, design a garden in which roses are not the star attraction.

I was gratified that my efforts were rewarded and I began to see how it could be done.

**Inspirational Gardens of New Zealand

**Kristin Lammerting (Penguin, $82)

A new addition to the bookshelf that is being opened regularly is Inspirational Gardens of New Zealand by Kristin Lammerting.

Kristin doesn’t present a TV gardening programme either, but, like Fiona Eadie, she has heaps of hands-on experience and she certainly knows how to select gardens that excite and inspire.

Ferdinand Graf von Luckner’s photography is extraordinary, but it maintains an accessibility which has you saying, “Yes, I could do that,” on every page.

The Visual Encyclopaedia of Garden Plants

Andrew Mikolaski (Lorenz Books, $30.87)

A birthday gift that I really love is The Visual Encyclopaedia of Garden Plants by Andrew Mikolajski (as hard to pronounce as many of the plant names the book contains).

Its function in life is to open my eyes to plants I’ve never thought of using and ways I never thought of using them.

The moral of the story is: when you think you’ve been there, done that and inspiration is a bit thin on the ground, looking at a little-read book in a new light can bring fresh inspiration.

And if you don’t have a beautifully refurbished bookshelf with close to 500 garden books on it, try that dear, old-fashioned thing called the library.

It’s a great way to spend a rainy afternoon and somehow, dare I say it, is more conducive to both creativity and relaxation than the internet.

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