Sunday, 12 December 2010

Dopey me, dopey book

I must be getting old. Not only did I buy this book recently believing it to be a Penguin Handbook - which it isn't, even a superficial examination would have told me that, but I had been reading it for a little while before I realised that the plant on the cover was cannabis.

Since the book dates from the 1970s presumably the idea was the make it attractive to hippy pot heads. It does seem rather incongruous though on a book by someone who'd been writing gardening books since the early 1930s though.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Temps Perdu

Even though they are mostly perfunctory and quite dull (sometimes comically so), personal dedications can be a fascinating part of acquiring a second hand book.

They represent a frozen moment in time, a window onto an event long since passed and perhaps a past we can only guess at.

It may just be me, but they often seem a touch melancholy.

But this one from a copy of Garden Wisdom by Marion Cran seems to me hugely poignant

I haven't been able to work out the date of this book, but Marion seems to have died in 1923, and although she seems to have been incredibly well known in her time has faded from memory.
The book itself does seem to be posthumous, but doesn't carry a date, but does state “This book is produced in complete conformity with the authorised economy standards”, which to those ignorant on these sort of things (i.e. me) points to a 1940s vintage.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Pleasing Perennials: The Curious Gardener

New gardening books come out every month, and all of them are competing for shelf space, attention and sales. I get sent a fair few to review, and most are well-written and informative and of interest to their target audience. Very few, however, have the individuality - the sense of bringing something new to the genre - that guarantees them a space on the shelf for life, and so I thought I would dig out and celebrate the books with which I have an emotional connection. These are the books I would replace if there was a fire (I don't have any books that I would rescue from a fire!).

First up is 'The Curious Gardener', which brings together three of German gardener Jurgen Dahl's works. Jurgen Dahl is (sadly) no longer with us, but I have the hardback edition of this book, which was the first place these three works appeared in English translation. A new paperback edition was published earlier this year.

There aren't that many photographs, and the ones it has are black and white. This is a book for readers - the text itself is what's important here, and it's well worth taking the time to read it.

The first work, "Gardening Virtues and Botanical Surprises", takes us through the four seasons in Dahl's eclectic garden. Dahl grew each and every plant because of a joy in all plants - he wanted to meet each species individually, get to know them and share his fascination. Some grew happily in his garden (in the author photograph he is all but hidden by an enormous gunnera). Others didn't, and Dahl kept a pot of old plant labels in remembrance of plants past.

In "The Stinking Garden" we meet all kinds of scented plants, from the common and pleasant scents of the mint family to plants that mimic body odour, or use their scents to attract prey. The same sense of wonder is present for every plant, fair or foul - Dahl certainly doesn't play favourites.

"How to eat a lily" is more concerned with edible plants, including blue potatoes, edible weeds and blackberries. There is a discussion about the longevity of seeds and notes about the beauty of faded seed heads.

His writing, even in translation, is so inspiring that it makes you want to rush out and check on whether a plant in the garden has started flowering, set seed or simply responded to a change in the weather. Your gardening To Do list will become ever longer as Dahl suggests plants to try and ideas will pop into your head whenever you dip into the book.

Everything is an experiment that can be repeated by the reader. Which is not to say that Dahl writes as a dispassionate, scientific researcher. His opinions are clear, whether he is talking about ground cover plants, weeds, or his hay collection. He obviously loved trying new and unusual plants, and spent a lot of time reading through old horticultural records.

This is not a conventional gardening book, because Dahl was not a conventional gardener. He was a man who had a life-long love affair with plants, and who tried to share some of his wonder and fascination through his writing. The photographs may only be in black and white, but Dahl's plants will shine in your imagination and send you outside to find the magic for yourself.

Book details (by request)
'The Curious Gardener', By Jurgen Dahl.
Paperback edition from Timber Press, Mar 2010, ISBN 978-1604692020
Available from Amazon UK.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Expect the Unexpected

Flange Member Mark Diacono’s new book “A Taste of the Unexpected” was published last Friday.

Those, lucky enough to get their mitts on advance copies, seem wholly enamoured with it as reviews here, here and here attest.

I’ve still to have a fulsome dekko myself , but I was quite amused at the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall quote on the cover “This book will change what you grow, cook and eat forever”. I suspect Mark was too.

But it did raise in my mind the questions “Do garden books change peoples’ lives? And if so which ones? And why?”

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Garden Book Blogs

When I started this blog back in May 2008, I was unaware of any other blogs dedicated to garden books.

Since then two others have started up. One Swiss and one American.

You will find them in a new links section on the RH sidebar.

Let me know if you find any more.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

The Full Christo

In some ways this is a bit of a weak post to start the ball rolling for the “reinvigorated” Flange, but still, I hope, worthwhile.

If you’re like me and are a fan of a particular writer, then you probably like to have everything they’ve written. But sometimes, especially if the author is prolific and has had a long career, it can be difficult to establish all their works. For example, I know I still don’t have a full list of Graham Stuart Thomas’s books.

With that in mind here is a bibliography of the late Christopher Lloyd. I can’t claim any credit for it, because it was compiled by Erica Hunningher and I’ve lifted it from Hortus #77

The Mixed Border - 1957

Amateur Gardening Photo Album of Garden Plants (with A. G. L. Hellyer) - 1961

Shrubs and Trees for Small Gardens - 1965

Hardy Perennials - 1967

Gardening on Chalk and Lime - 1969

The Well-Tempered Garden - 1970

Foliage Plants - 1973

Clematis -1977

The Adventurous Gardener - 1983

Glyndebourne: The Gardens (with Anne Scott-James) - 1983

The Well-Chosen Garden - 1984

The Mixed Border (Wisley handbook) - 1986

The Year at Great Dixter - 1987

The Cottage Garden (with Richard Bird) - 1990

Garden Flowers from Seed (with Graham Rice) -1991

In My Garden - 1993

Planting your Garden (with Ursula Buchan and Fay Sharman) - 1993

Christopher Lloyd’s Flower Garden - 1993

Other People’s Gardens - 1995

Gardener Cook - 1997

Dear Friend and Gardener (with Beth Chatto) - 1998

Christopher Lloyd’s Gardening year - 1999

Christopher Lloyd Garden Flowers: Perennials, Bulbs, Grasses and Ferns - 2000

Colour for Adventurous Gardeners - 2001

Meadows - 2004

Succession Planting for Adventurous Gardeners - 2005

Exotic Planting for Adventurous Gardeners - 2007

Cuttings: A Year in the Garden with Christopher Lloyd - 2007

In My Garden: The Garden Diaries of Great Dixter - 2010

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Turning Over A New Leaf

It has been nearly a full twelve months since I posted anything on this blog, of that I am painfully aware.

From my perspective that is regrettable for several reasons, not least of which is that a number of Flange members have had books published over the last year.

So what’s the answer?

Well, for me to get my finger out, obviously. But I always wanted the Flange to be more than me sticking things up here, the intention was for it to be an inclusive celebration of garden books and

So I have come to the conclusion that the whole thing would be much more interesting if Flange members (old and new) had the requisite blog permissions to allow them write posts directly - subject to a light editorial touch of course.

So what do you think? Interested?