The best gardening books

Perfect your planting scheme, plan a year of bumper crops, or travel to far-flung lands without leaving your armchair, all thanks to our pick of the best gardening books

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It goes without saying that a whole lot of what goes into making a beautiful garden is good old-fashioned graft, but adding in some careful planning, a little theory, and a lot of lovely pictures for inspiration (but of course) can really help matters too. That’s where the best gardening books come in, and to get you started on your journey to planting perfection, we’ve put together a list of the most highly-rated and regarded titles from the biggest names in gardening, past and present. 

In gardening, planning is key. If you’re looking to get organised, do it with Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, whose Planting: A New Perspective shows you how to build the most harmonious and beautiful beds; with Monty Don, whose jobs for the weekend extend to the whole year in Down to Earth; or with John Harrison in the ultimate guide to growing your own, Vegetable Growing Month by Month. For inspiration, there’s travel writing with a focus on the botanical courtesy of Roy Lancaster’s My Life with Plants and a peek through the keyhole into A-list gardens in The Secret Gardeners. There’s something for all moods, and all spaces, so dig in.

The best gardening book

1. Piet Oudolf & Noel Kingsbury Planting: A New Perspective

Perfect the art of beautiful borders with this ultimate guide from two world-renowned plantsmen

Best for: Planners
Release: 2013
Pages: 280
Publisher: Timber Press
Reasons to buy
+ Get the bigger picture on planting relationships and techniques

Long-time collaborators Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury combine their considerable experience in the world of garden design into this volume, arguably the ultimate book on planting. It’s a process that Oudolf calls 'a complicated layering of seasonality, energy, endurance and reward', which is a valuable insight into the on going nature of gardening, and invites the reader to consider the bigger picture: harmonious borders with plants that thrive in each other’s company, as well as looking good together. 

Joyce Russell Build a Better Vegetable Garden

2. Joyce Russell Build a Better Vegetable Garden

DIY your way to edible success with these fun and practical garden projects

Best for: DIYers
Release: 2016
Pages: 192
Publisher: White Lion Publishing
Reasons to buy
+ Loads of practical ways to improve your veg gardening 

If you don’t have a dug-in patch or fully-equipped allotment ready to go, it can feel like there are a lot of hurdles to get over before you start vegetable gardening in earnest, but this DIY-focused book by Joyce Russell features lots of practical kitchen garden projects that can help you get there, or simply make your existing patch more productive and secure. From bean supports to fruit cages, propagators to poly cloches, it’s got all the guidance you need for a successful (and attractive) kitchen garden. 

Monty Don Down to Earth

3. Monty Don Down to Earth

With characteristic encouragement and cheeriness, this volume sees you through a whole year in the garden

Best for: Great writing
Release: 2017
Pages: 272
Publisher: DK
Reasons to buy
+ Evocative, knowledgeable writing 

For those who can’t get enough of Monty’s gardening wisdom in that solitary hour of Friday evening's Gardeners' World, there’s good news. Down to Earth is described as 'the distillation of 50 years of gardening experience', bringing insights from Longmeadow and beyond into a single volume for convenient referencing across your own garden journey. Written in the Monty’s signature style, it contains tips, month-by-month garden jobs, and musings on everything from the seasons to container gardening, featured alongside little-seen pictures of his own garden. 

Matthew Biggs & Thane Prince RHS Great British Village Show

4. Matthew Biggs & Thane Prince RHS Great British Village Show

This official book spills the beans on how to please the judges

Best for: Competitive growers
Release: 2017
Pages: 224
Publisher: DK
Reasons to buy
+ Learn the secrets to village show success 

Thinking about getting competitive in the grow-your-own arena? That most English of institutions, the village show, is discussed at length in this official RHS book by Thane Price and Matthew Biggs, where the co-authors bring together something of a mark scheme for award-winning fruit, veg and flowers using RHS guidelines to show how judges come to a decision for who gets the ribbon. With staging tips, prize-winning recipes, expert insight and more, it’s packed with secrets on how to successfully wow the powers that be, or even just make a thoroughly good jam.

Roy Lancaster My Life with Plants

5. Roy Lancaster My Life with Plants

The famous plantsman shares stories of his fascinating life

Best for: Autobiography
Release: 2017
Pages: 304
Publisher: Filbert Press
Reasons to buy
+ Inspiring travel and botanical writing in one 

Less a volume of gardening advice and more a tale of botanical adventure, this autobiographical book follows the life of plantsman Roy Lancaster from beginnings in Bolton to national service in Singapore, and on to China, Japan, Brazil and beyond. A continent-crossing meditation on the author’s good fortune to have spent his life in the company of plants, and what he’s learnt along the way, reviewers say this book is a wonderful read for any aspiring plant-hunter, and they loved the included photographs and useful index. 

Victoria Summerley The Secret Gardeners

6. Victoria Summerley The Secret Gardeners

An over-the-garden-gate look at some famous spaces

Best for: Coffee table book
Release: 2017
Pages: 272
Publisher: White Lion Publishing
Reasons to buy
+ Beautiful combination of images and writing 

Boasting a combination of detailed essays and gorgeously glossy images, The Secret Gardeners is a coffee table book par excellence for aesthetically-influenced gardeners, or simply anyone who would like a peek over the garden walls of some famous faces. Whether you want to delve into the finer details behind each beautifully realised plot, or simply admire the photographs, this is one to keep on hand for those leisurely afternoons, with inspirational spaces from Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Branson, Sting, Jeremy Irons, Prue Leith, Kirstie Allsopp and many more.

John Harrison Vegetable Growing Month by Month

7. John Harrison Vegetable Growing Month by Month

From planting to pest control, this vegetable growing guide is a capable companion

Best for: Vegetable gardening
Release: 2008
Pages: 256
Publisher: Little Brown Book Group
Reasons to buy
+ The complete guide to veg growing 

As a reference for vegetable gardening, whether you’re on your first crop or your umpteenth, this book by John Harrison may prove invaluable. If you’ve ever struggled to remember what’s in season when, the right time to sow indoors or out, or any other element of the art of growing your own, it makes an esteemed companion, giving advice on everything from how to choose the veg that’ll thrive in your soil to making your own compost and fertiliser. Most importantly, with month-by-month guidance, you can make the perfect plan for delicious, year-round, home-grown veg. 

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