I don’t know about you, but I take a while to get used to winter, especially gardening in the chilly fresh morning air. My daylight-saving balmy summer nights have also gone with the turning of the calendar page and so has weeding, watering, and wandering in my garden. What I’d rather be doing is curling up with a good plant book while I acclimatise to winter and save the gardening for the middle part of the day when I can feel my toes and fingers! Here’s a roundup of my favourite plant books and why I love them and maybe you’ll agree with my pick or maybe you will have a few of your own that are well-loved favourites, please let me know.
Cassell’s Popular Gardening
Edited by D.T. Fish
All ancient gardening and plant books are worth having, especially those hiding old newspaper cuttings which share gardening advice, daffodil bulb prices and interesting plant facts that I can’t live without. While the books themselves do sometimes contain chemical-based instructions that are not suitable for the green-hearted, they still overwhelmingly share good down-to-earth wisdom that never goes out of fashion. Leafing through the illustrations is something else again. I want to frame every page.
My edition of Cassell’s Popular Gardening was printed in 1900 and three other gardeners at least have owned. I know because the Reverend Watkins, David Johnston and Grace Lee have all beautifully signed it. This book used to live in Port Stephens I think because there’s a xeroxed typed copy of the Rose Farm care sheet for Proteas tucked inside. I share the challenges of cabbage moth with one of the early book owners because I see they clipped out some good advice from a newspaper in 1941 but I don’t know where to find the suggested Lever’s Dry Soap to spray on my plants.
Cassell’s Popular Gardening is a beautiful old weighty book that is filled with divine etchings of gardening techniques, plants, and horticultural structures. There are whimsical colour plants throughout that hopefully your found copy will still have intact.
The Flower Hunter
The Remarkable Life of Ellis Rowan
Christine & Michael Morton-Evans
If you love art, true stories of daring and innovation and plants, then have I got a book for you. Christine & Michael Morton-Evans have done great justice to the retelling of this woman’s brilliant life. At the age of 70 Ellis went to the New Guinea jungles to search out and document the 72 known species of the Bird of Paradise plant. Easel, paints, sketch book, journals, alone. At 70. Oh, and it was during World War I. Makes your weekend travels for rare houseplants seem not so dedicated, I know. She won the houseplant game decades ago. Seriously, this is a wonderfully inspiring book of plant adventures and the life of a plant lover very well lived. While you will find images of some of Ellis Rowan’s artwork within, go and seek out collections of her work (online or in books) as they are stunning. Often critized for not being botanically correct, Ellis nevertheless had an eye for highlighting the drama of nature and it stirred a great interest in naturalism in her time.
The Little Veggie Patch Co
How to grow food in small spaces
Fabian Capomoilla and Mat Pember
This wonderfully designed food-gardening book was a huge hit when it was released in 2011 and I am still in on the adoration as my copy from that year is falling apart, it is that well-loved. A gardening book written by two friends, peppered with images, advice, recipes and tips from their family and friends, The Little Veggie Patch Co makes it feel as if you are having a conversation with your gardening neighbours. The layout is excellent, starting off with simple, good advice on how to look after and create soil, compost, and garden beds for the very beginner and to remind the more experienced of us of what we need to be doing. Then a large selection of vegetable is presented, each with an in-depth exploration of their gardening needs to ensure you get the very best out of every crop. Flick through for inspiration, fill The Little Veggie Patch Co book with bookmarks and scribble in the margins because this is the one Aussie veggie patch book that everyone needs.
Gardening for the Soil, the Soul and the Suburbs
A relatively new book on the block, this gardening and earth-loving from the beloved host of ABC Tv’s Gardening Australia is for everyone who has even though about plants. I find it an excellent permaculture guide as it is filled with parallel thinking to this form of living and gardening. A warm introduction to gardening, a heart-affirming resource for the more experienced and a book I truly believe should sit in every Aussie home. As a snuggle-down read, it’s filled with delightful illustrations, lots of vinaigrettes of tips and thoughts all rolled together with Costa’s uplifting exuberance and cheerfulness.
late autumn - temperate areas
You can plant the following now: Culinary herbs, artichokes, broad beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbages, cauliflower, cress, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, mustard, onions, peas, shallots, spring onions, silverbeet, spinach, ageratum, alyssum, calendula, candytuft, Canterbury bells, carnation, cineraria, columbine, cornflower, delphinium, dianthus, everlasting daisy, forget-me-not, foxglove, godetia, gypsophila, hollyhock, honesty, larkspur, linaria, lobelia, nigella, pansy, poppy, primula, snapdragon, statice, stock, sweet pea, viola, wallflowe
Cheralyn is a horticulture author and along with Pete Little,
hosts ‘Home with The Gardening Gang’
8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM96.3
contact via: cheralyndarcey.com
She also writes the weekly 'DOWN IN THE GARDEN' page for the Coast News Newspaper and this originally appeared in The Coast News.