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Cornucopia - My Three Favourite Gardening Books

My Three Favourite Gardening Books
Dorothy Harriman

Creative Propagation by Peter Thompson (now publ. Timber Press)
This paperback is my most well-thumbed book and because I frequently take it into the garden and greenhouse with me its pages are well marked with soil.
The author, who was formerly at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, gives tips on the many practical ways to raise plants by seed, cuttings, layering and every other way imaginable. Its chapters present detailed information on annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs, conifers and heathers, alpines and bulbs. A comprehensive table summarises propagation methods for more than 600 plant genera. If, like me, you love propagating plants and also growing from seed, you will find this essential, for he not only covers how to propagate, but also how to care for your new plants afterwards. For instance, when should certain seeds be sown, should they be surface sown or covered, how soon should seedlings be potted on, what is the best time to propagate a certain plant, when should one begin feeding newly propagated plants, how should one harden plants off before planting out etc.
This is definitely a ‘dip into as needed’ sort of book but one that I would not be without.

The Explorer’s Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials by Daniel J Hinkley – foreword by Roy Lancaster (publ. Timber Press)
I just love this book. It presents the author’s choice of some of the most interesting perennials that he has found in the wilds (and he goes on dozens of expeditions to Asia, North America and elsewhere) or that friends have introduced him to. In the author’s own words “for the most part, I am including plants that I have grown in my own garden, observed in the wild, and/or propagated in our nursery. I am uncertain how one can possibly know enough about a plant to discuss it in writing if he does not first tend it.” He has a tremendous enthusiasm for these plants that makes me wonder why I never tried to grow them myself.
Although a wealth of information is enclosed within its chapters, the book is very readable – I began by ‘dipping’ into it, but ended up reading it cover to cover – twice! It is illustrated (mostly by the author) with sumptuous photographs.

Perfect Plant, Perfect Place by Roy Lancaster (publ. Dorling Kindersley)
I have many books which I use for reference purposes about plants and their habitats, but my favourite has to be this one.
Roy Lancaster’s personal plant selection gives recommendations for every situation, both indoors and outdoors. There are sections covering perennials, bulbs, grasses, large ornamentals, shrubs, conifers, trees, bamboos, ferns and house plants. Each section suggests plants for different soils and aspects in the garden; it suggests plants with silver foliage, golden foliage, blue foliage, rabbit-proof plants, plants for cutting, plants which will attract birds and insects, plants which put on their show at different times of year, to name just a few of the very many sections in this book. Each plant is photographed beautifully and, of course, Roy Lancaster’s knowledge is second-to-none.
Using this book as a reference, placing plants in the wrong situation should be a thing of the past.

First published in the South Pennine Group Newsletter, Spring 2011
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 29.
© Copyright for this article: Dorothy Harriman

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2012. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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