As a gardener, it was never really guides and how-to books that made me want to grow plants. (I always found them too intimidating.) It was books that made me realise how amazing plants were, and how much I wanted to grow them for myself.
So in the spirit of gardening bookworms everywhere, here are five books that have inspired me to pick up a trowel and get gardening. Keep them on your Amazon wishlist or give them to someone you love.
This was my favourite book when I was a kid, bar none. Just look at the beautiful illustrations! It’s the story of Miss Rumphius, an adventurous traveller who settles down in a seaside town , entertaining the local children with her tales of adventure and sprucing up the countryside by scattering lupine seeds. Miss Rumphius is the original guerilla gardener, and I still want to grow up to be like her. If you have a kid in your life, this is the perfect book for them.
When I was growing up in Singapore, I asked my mum why the palm tree in our back garden never dropped a coconut on my pet dog (or me). She looked at me very seriously and said, “Trees have eyes.” I believed her till I was ten.
I still haven’t stopped thinking of trees as being magical, strange beings – and it’s a delight that somebody like Colin Tudge feels the same way. This book is an incredibly illuminating and fascinating look at the plants that we often take for granted.
Caveat: I may be slightly biased towards Rob MacFarlane. I was a student at Emmanuel College, where he teaches English. He supervised many of my closest friends (sadly, I was not among them). He is one of the loveliest and most intelligent academics I’ve known, and this book is a reflection of that inquisitive, sensitive mind. We might not think of Britain as a particularly ‘wild’ place, but here our little island is laid bare in all its poetic beauty.
I don’t usually like books about depression – too bleak and dismal for me, thank you very much. But while Nature Cure is ostensibly billed as one man’s journey through depression, it’s actually more about leading naturist Richard Mabey’s inner relationship with nature. Mabey talks about his depression with disarming honesty, then just as quickly turns to exquisitely written meditations about his encounters with nature. You know when you read a book where the author has a such a sharp, observational way of saying things just so? Mabey is the master of that.
Okay, so I may have lied a little. There is a gardening guide on this list. But this isn’t any gardening guide – it was the one that convinced me gardening wasn’t just something my mother did on the weekends. It could be cool, fun, and most of all, easy. (For someone as lazy as me, this is very important.) Gayla Trail runs the popular blog You Grow Girl and this book distills the best parts of her great site, complete with easy DIY projects and lovely pictures.
By Zing Tsjeng