The best gardening books for 2023
Discover the 14 best gardening books to read in 2023, recommended by a range of horticultural experts for Gardens Illustrated
Throughout 2022, we asked leading garden writers, garden designers and horticulturists to review recently published books for garden and plant lovers. Here are 14 books that our reviewers especially loved, making them our Books of the Year.
Why not treat yourself, or gift a book to someone else? For more gifts for gardeners, take a look at our gift guide.
The best gardening books to read in 2023
RHS How to Garden when you Rent by Matthew Pottage, Dorling Kindersley Ltd, £14.99, ISBN 978-0241459744
One of the biggest barriers to growing in rented properties is the feeling that you are only there temporarily and a garden is, surely, a more permanent investment in time, money and emotion. Author Matthew Pottage, who has rented the same flat in London for more than seven years (which is shown throughout the book) convincingly buries this assumption with useful guidance and step-by-step projects for instant results.
Reviewer Jack Wallington is a garden designer and author.
Read our full review of How to Garden When You Rent
Wild: The Naturalistic Garden by Noel Kingsbury, photographs by Claire Takacs, Phaidon, £39.95 ISBN 978-1838661052
This book showcases gardens across the globe that, when viewed together, form an inspirational picture of ‘wild’, ecologically informed gardening. What’s special
about this compilation is that there is consistency in vision and voice. Each location has its own take on the wild gardening aesthetic, thanks to the photographer, Claire Takacs, and insightful descriptions from writer Noel Kingsbury.
Reviewer Sarah Price is an award-winning garden designer.
Read our full review of Wild: The Naturalistic Garden
A Greener Life by Jack Wallington , Laurence King Publishing, £19.99, ISBN 978-0857828934
This packed book covers creating a garden from scratch; growing herbs, edibles and house plants; and the final chapter discusses how to connect with the environment beyond the garden gate. Practical know-how is explained in an approachable way, which makes it a good introduction for those new to gardening. I liked that Wallington doesn’t subscribe to the idea of sticking to a limited planting palette. Instead he includes tips on how to combine a wide range of plants in a naturalistic style.
Reviewer Louise Curley is a freelance garden and nature writer.
Read our full review of A Greener Life
The Plant Rescuer by Sarah Gerrard-Jones, Bloomsbury Publishing, £16.99, ISBN 978-1526638137
A refreshingly different approach to house plant care. Individual plant profiles are organised not according to plant names, but by their light requirements – the defining factor for success or failure when gardening indoors. There are ‘decision tree’ diagrams that take typical problems, such as yellowing leaves or mouldy soil, and allow you to work your way through the questions to diagnose what’s gone wrong. From watering to air layering, there is clear advice for beginners and more experienced growers.
Reviewer Jane Perrone is a houseplant expert.
Read our full review of The Plant Rescuer.
The Modern Gardener by Frances Tophill, Octopus Publishing Group, £22, ISBN 978-0857839435
A valiant attempt by gardener and presenter Frances Tophill to explore what a modern gardener should aspire to be. Passionate, environmental debate runs through the book, especially when stressing our collective need to discard a historic over-reliance on chemicals. The argument is countered with positive, sustainable approaches applicable to all gardens, irrespective of size. A personal, energised book filled with thought-provoking ideas.
Reviewer Tom Attwood is a nursery owner.
Read our full review of The Modern Gardener
RHS Roses by Michael Marriott, Dorling Kindersley, £24.99, ISBN 978-0241543894
Michael Marriott, one of the world’s leading rosarians, has produced a practical guide for gardeners. It’s a far cry from traditional rose encyclopaedias where roses are catalogued according to their parentage or classification. Instead we have comprehensive information on how roses might best be used in the garden, such as at the front of the border, in containers, tight spaces and wild areas, plus roses for cutting. It’s beautifully illustrated throughout, well presented, and is written in an easy-to-follow style.
Reviewer Mat Reese is head gardener at Malverleys.
Read our full review of RHS Roses
Cut Flowers by Celestina Robertson, Frances Lincoln, £12.99, ISBN 978-0711269958
Cut Flowers is an almost pocket-sized title that contains a surprising amount of hard-working information. It begins by setting the context for why we should grow our own cut flowers, spotlighting the mass-market flower industry. Beyond the ethics, it delivers advice on how to prepare the ground, sow seed, nurture, harvest and fill your vases. There is guidance on growing for floral design, then there is the nitty-gritty of planning your space. There is much to know and cut flower grower Celestina Robertson packs it in.
Reviewer Rae Spencer-Jones is a garden writer.
Read our full review of Cut Flowers
English Garden Eccentrics by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, Yale University Press, £30, ISBN 978-1913107260
To whom would you bequeath your gold pheasants and ‘other feathered prisoners’? A dilemma faced by Lady Reade whose ‘avian zeal’ and remarkable garden made her a reluctant celebrity. Longstaffe-Gowan introduces us to a cast of unconventional characters and their passions and obsessions. The stories are amusing, at times tinged with sadness, but always informative and very entertaining. I loved this book; I want to invite them all to take tea with me. Reviewer Advolly Richmond is a researcher in garden history.
Read our full review of English Garden Eccentrics
Flowers Forever by Bex Partridge , Hardie Grant Books, £20, ISBN 978-1784884345
My sister once threw out a vase of dried flowers I’d grown, dried and artfully arranged, declaring categorically that they were dead. In this book, Partridge argues convincingly that most flowers, ornamental grasses, foliage and seedheads can, and should, have a life beyond the freshly picked, and many of them develop a deeper character when they are dried and displayed with imagination. There are clear What, When and How to Dry sections on everything from traditional flowers for drying, to wild grasses.
Reviewer Caroline Beck is a writer and flower farmer.
Read our full review of Flowers Forever
Unearthed by Claire Ratinon, Chatto & Windus (Vintage), £16.99, ISBN 978-1784744472
This book documents the twists and turns in Ratinon’s life that led her to find an identity through gardening as a Black woman. Her lyrical descriptions of nature and the pleasures of growing vegetables are a joyous counterbalance to her hard-hitting personal experiences of racism and the troubling colonial history of her homeland, Mauritius. This is an outstanding work of storytelling and nature writing. It’s also a hard-hitting and educational read.
Reviewer Matthew Biggs is a plant expert, writer and broadcaster.
The Magic of Mushrooms by Sandra Lawrence, Welbeck, £14.99, ISBN 978-1787399068
This is such a fun book about a fascinating topic. Lawrence approaches every new chapter as a storyteller addressing a rapt audience. The vast amount of research that must have gone into the writing is apparent on every page, but it never feels dense or inaccessible. It is a real feast for the eyes, crammed with examples of the way mushrooms have been depicted in art, but it is the writing that really makes the book shine. Fungi are fascinating, and Lawrence really enjoys reminding us of that fact.
Reviewer Lia Leendertz is the author of The Almanac: a Seasonal Guide.
Read our full review of The Magic of Mushrooms
No Dig by Charles Dowding, Dorling Kindersley, £30, ISBN 978-0241541814
This is described as the no-dig guru Charles Dowding's ultimate no-dig bible. The first third of the book gives a practical overview of how to get started on your no-dig vegetable-growing journey, while the remainder focuses on the cultivation of individual crops. It’s a comprehensive handbook for someone at the start of their growing journey or for those who have been growing for a while but who want to transition to a no-dig, ecological approach.
Reviewer Alison Jenkins is a designer specialising in edible gardens.
Read our full review of No Dig
Gardening in a Changing World by Darryl Moore, Pimpernel Press, £20, ISBN 978-1910258286
If there were a prize for ‘most timely publication’ of the year, this would be a contender. Having experienced the highest-ever recorded temperatures and drought in the UK this summer, is this our wake-up call? Moore explores how we have reached this position and suggests how we might find a way, through designing and gardening more sustainably, to improve the situation. This must-read book is divided into digestible sections that are jam-packed with vital information.
Reviewer Annie Guilfoyle is a garden designer and lecturer.
Read our full review of Gardening in a Changing World.
Wild Edens by Toby Musgrave and Chris Gardner, Octopus Books, £40, ISBN 978-1914239250
The authors of this valuable addition to the ‘armchair travel’ genre are two high-profile plant geeks well-versed in leading and documenting specialist botanical exploration. They have written a carefully crafted book that skilfully weaves together historical horticultural details, memoir and botanical overview. Nine chapters explore biodiversity hotspots; for each region there is a summary of the prolific genera as well as best locations and times to visit.
Hannah Gardner is a horticultural consultant and botanical writer.
Read our full review of Wild Edens
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