We use hybrids in the garden without even thinking about them. The successful ones of course, have the best characteristics from both parents and give us a much better plant. Those which don’t tend not to make it past the plant breeders’ selection process and the few that do, usually don’t become best sellers, so naturally fade away with time.
That made me muse a little about hybrid gardening books.
I joined a craft bookclub a while ago and bought Jan Messent’s Knitted Gardens book out of curiosity. It’s most eccentric, offering lots of ways of representing flowers, vegetables and garden structures in a knitted form. For a while I thought that was the only hybrid in my collection. But the addition of Kaffe Fassett’s Country Garden Quilts last Thursday made me look at my garden books with fresh eyes.
I have at least two other hybrids: gardens and cooking are an obvious pairing and I have both Christopher Lloyd’s Gardener Cook (a necessary purchase after reading Dear Friend and Gardener as he a Beth Chatto were always citing recipes which made me extremely hungry) and Monty/Sarah Don’s Fork to Fork.
My other hybrid is Painting Flowers & Gardens in Watercolour and Pastel by Alison Hoblyn, a necessary purchase via Amazon second-hand as I’m struggling with the sketchbook aspects of my gardening course. Having discovered I have several hybrids in my collection, I’m surprised I don’t have more – gardening and photography is an obvious one which springs to mind, but I don’t have a single example, unless you count all the gardening books I have using sumptuous photography as illustration.
Do you have any hybrids in your garden book collection? What’s the most unusual hybrid you’ve seen irrespective of whether or not it’s in your garden book collection? Which ones have the best characteristics of their parents and therefore flourish, and which ones should be left to fade away?
Another of my recent purchases was one of the Penguin Handbook series. As is the way with collecting anything, one starts to gets one’s eye in, with prices, what‘s common, etc. It seems to me that this is one of the rarer gardening titles among the PH’s, and for my money it has, so far, the best cover.
It is PH 42 - Flower Growing For Shows - E R Janes 
These are just a few of the books I've acquired in the last couple of months.
I must confess to have been a little put off posting some things here by Helen's comment that there were rather a lot of old books featured. She was entirely right. It would be too easy for this blog to be just a load of photos of old book covers, which would actually be fine, but I'd like it to be a mix of old and new.
Continuing the nuptial theme, there is perhaps also scope for something on borrowed books, though I can't imagine there are many garden books that are blue in content.
There are a small number of blogs that can be relied upon to have garden book-based posts on a regular basis.
Amongst them are two American ones which, between them, cover two ends of the spectrum. Garden History Girl has items from, as you would expect, the classic history of garden books, whilst my friend Amanda at Kiss My Aster covers more recent, but to me, just as interesting publications. In fact recently she has been having a small flurry of postsaboutloads of them.
Another blogger of regular acquaintance, Mrs Be features Elspeth Thompson's new book on both her blogs.
And on a less familiar note, I recently came across a blog called The Bookish Gardener. Curiously it has little content relating to garden books, except on Henry Mitchell, where there is rather a lot (in itself no bad thing).
Now the nights are drawing in, it’s time to snuggle in front of the fire, have a warm drink or nice tot of something to hand and to really start getting to grips with the vast (in my case) pile of books that’s been growing over the past few months.
If this makes you feel exhausted just thinking about it, then like me you can have a go at National Blog Posting Month – the theme for November is: there is no theme, so you can get away with writing about anything, just do it daily. If that’s too much, then you can have a go at Your Messages, just like our simian friend here.
Or, you could just go back to your fire and get reading. Yet the blogosphere has designs for you in this area too. Where there’s gardening, I believe thoughts of food are never too far away and Joanna on her food blog has winkled out the fun Food Quote Challenge, where there's a copy of The Food Lovers' Treasury up for grabs. All you have to do is recall the finest piece of fictional writing about food you know of and tell the Almond and the Hazelnut blog about it by the 21st November. You'll find full details of what you have to do via the link. However, Joanna's already come up with some rather yummy stiff competition.
Alternatively, how about telling the Flange about your favourite fictional garden in the Comments below? Go to it book fans!
Victoria contacted me earlier this week – would I like to have her review copy of the latest Gardeners’ World book published last week? She suggested it would be a suitable prize for my Open Garden fundraiser, so how could I refuse such an offer? I also rather liked the idea of reviewing the book for Flange readers seeing The Garden Monkey’s rather busy at the moment.
First impressions are favourable. It’s hardback with a rather jolly dustjacket harking back to simpler times in the garden. Even the snail on the cover looks friendly. It’s written by Louise Hampden – Gardeners’ World’s producer and announces itself as ‘Hints, tips and wisdom from TV’s longest running and most popular gardening programme…’ I met Louise very briefly at Gardeners’ World Live in June when we exchanged pleasantries during the filming of Gardeners’ World. She’s worked on the programme for the past 10 years, so knows the programme and the last few crops of presenters inside out. According to the press release that came with the book, it’s a tie-in with a 20 part daytime TV series due to start on 1st December. However, there’s no mention of this fact in the book itself.
It’s divided into 5 chapters – Flower Power, Food, Design, Pots and Gardens. Flower Power is further divided by season and looks at how to ensure year-round floral interest in the garden. Several of the book’s shortcomings quickly become apparent: a lot of the content whilst interesting, isn’t really tips at all – there’s potted histories, quotations from famous gardeners (not necessarily Gardeners’ World presenters) and plant trivia. The ‘Top Tips’ themselves (helpfully boxed, with a different font and background, so you can’t miss them) are often pitched at the pre-beginner level. I suspect most of the gardeners whom I believe this book is aimed at will feel a bit short changed. For a book that’s meant to be culled from 40 years of Gardeners’ World wisdom, it’s strange there’s not more tips to share, nor is there much in the way of anecdotes or content attribution to the presenters. I often found the best ‘Top Tips’ were in the non-boxed sections, for example there’s an organic slug repellent recipe I’d love to try using garlic. And that’s when I met another of the book’s shortcomings – there isn’t an index to find the useful bits at a later date. So if I want to return to the book in the spring to cook up my garlic slug repellent, I’ll have to remember the recipe’s in the Flower Power chapter, in the Summer section and somewhere in the part called Dealing with Slugs and Snails. Hmm.
The chapters on Food, Design and Pots are in a similar vein. I thought the Design chapter was the strongest and most coherent in its content and advice – probably because it’s documenting a journey from start to finish with some clearly signposted ‘things to think about’ along the way. In contrast, the Gardens section was woefully inadequate at just 4 pages. This is the chapter meant to reflect the hundreds of gardens and nurseries Gardeners’ World has visited and should give readers some must-see places to explore later. However, there’s no mention of Kew, nor the National Trust or English Nature. You could argue these are obvious, but if that’s so, then why mention the RHS gardens or the Yellow Book? The NCCPG is mentioned fleetingly, but no contact details are given if anyone wants to find out where to visit a garden with a specific plant collection. There’s two pages of suggested gardens to visit and I liked the way this is divided into places reflecting the other chapters of the book. However at two pages in length and with 10 sub-headings it means many readers won’t have anywhere to go nearby if they want to visit one with for example, Winter interest. Simply doubling the length of this chapter, with a better researched set of websites and contact details would have made it a much more useful resource.
You may think I don’t rate this book from what I’ve said so far. However, much of it is utterly charming. The plentiful line drawings are lovely and much of the information is interesting. I did have quite a few ‘Oh I didn’t know that’ moments which kept me turning the pages. It would have been so much better if the book had tried to be good at one thing instead of two. As a reference book it fails, but as a miscellany to dip into at bedtime, it works.