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8 Books That Dig Deep into Gardening

From historical mysteries to poetic memoirs, these books will delight green thumbs looking for design inspiration, gardening advice and philosophical musings / BY Athena McKenzie / July 30th, 2021


From a historical mystery to poetic memoirs, these books will delight green thumbs looking for design inspiration, gardening advice and philosophical musings

Obsessive Book Buyers: Zoomer editors have carefully curated our book coverage to ensure you find the perfect read. We may earn a commission on books you buy by clicking on the cover image. 

1Fresh Water for Flowers Valérie Perrin

“I planted them in 1997, the year we arrived. They’ve grown a lot and make my cemetery look splendid. Maintaining it is all about caring for the dead who lie within it. It’s about respecting them. And if they weren’t respected in life, at least they are in death.”

This French author’s compelling novel about Violette Toussaint – the charming caretaker of a small-town cemetery in Burgundy, France – was the “lockdown novel” in Europe. Violette spends her days tending her flower and vegetable gardens, and welcoming mourners, gravediggers and a priest with cups of coffee in her lodge. When the police chief shows up with his mother’s ashes to fulfill her request to be scattered on the tomb of a man he has never heard of, it soon becomes clear that Violette’s complicated history is entwined in this strange endeavour.


2Philosophy of GardeningEdited by Blanka Stolz, translated by Karen Caruana

“Working in the garden seems to induce a sense of meditative calm, a mindset that’s been described as desirable by philosophers from Epicurus to Hume.”

In these lyrical personal essays, philosophers, designers and master gardeners muse on the purpose and delights of the garden. Translator Karen Caruana began the project at the beginning of the first lockdown, and without seeds to start her own garden, found that she could garden vicariously through these essays, which prompted her to look at her own relationship with gardening.


3Cultivated Christin Geall

“Flowers shape my years now. They are both calendar and clock, an all-consuming love I bow to as graciously as I can.”

Based in Victoria, B.C., Christin Geall is a gardener, floral designer, photographer and writer, and all her skills are on full display in this verdant coffee-table book cum useful guide. Her stories and lessons cover growing plants, working with and photographing flowers, as well as deep dives into colour theory and art history, accompanied by her lush photographs that are reminiscent of classic paintings.


4The Heirloom Garden Viola Shipman

“The daisies remind you to be happy. The hydrangeas remind you to be colorful. The lilacs remind us to breathe deeply. The pansies reflect our own images back at us. The hollyhocks remind us to stand tall in this world. And the roses – oh, the roses! – they remind us that beauty is always present even amongst the thorns.”

In this novel from bestselling U.S. author Wade Rouse, who writes under the pen name Viola Shipman – a tribute to his grandmother – we meet Iris, who lost her husband in the Second World War and her daughter to polio. She finds solace from her grief in her large walled garden, and pours her life into creating floral masterpieces. When a young family moves in next door – one with its own tragedies – Iris is drawn out of her solitary life, finding connection through a shared passion for flowers.

 


5The Last Garden in England Julia Kelly

“Creating a fantasy of nature is part of the gardener’s role.”

Three interweaving timelines are connected by one garden the latest book of historical fiction from the London-based author. In the present, Emma Lovett is restoring the gardens of the famed Highbury House estate, designed in 1907 by her hero, Venetia Smith. The garden begins to reveal secrets from Venetia’s past, as well as those of Beth Pedley, one of the so-called land girls hired  during the Second World War to work on farms and country estates.

 


6Under Western SkiesJennifer Jewell

“Most gardens are a three-part alchemy between the riches and constraints of the natural and/or cultural history of the place, the individual creativity and personality of the gardener, and the gardening culture in which both the garden and the gardener exist.”

U.S. gardener and writer Jennifer Jewell explores the intersection between gardens and natural spaces in the belief that intentional gardens can address wide-ranging challenges such as climate change, habitat loss, social justice, and health and well-being. Together with Caitlin Atkinson’s dynamic photographs, the book focuses on the natural beauty and potential for unique gardens from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Coast.

 


7The Story of GardeningPenelope Hobhouse

“We can picture the garden-owner gradually beginning to derive pride, status and pleasure from the plot that it was within his power to make fertile and beautiful.”

On this grand visual tour of gardening history that covers Ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome, England, China and Japan, we learn how gardening is an age-old struggle to appreciate and amplify nature’s beauty while trying to impose order. Revered British garden designer Penelope Hobhouse, now in her 90s, wrote the original edition, which was published in 2002. Here, Ambra Edwards, a gardening historian and columnist from Dorset, brings her voice to this timely update.

 


8Uprooted Paige Dickey

“When all the daffodils have finished blooming in the orchard, the meadow grasses are high enough to conceal their decaying leaves. And by the summer solstice, black-eyed Susans, ox-eyed daisies, and fleabane are flowering, peppering the soft grasses with yellow and white.”

When popular garden writer Page Dickey sold her Duck Hill Farm property in North Salem, N.Y., and with it, the three-acre garden she had been working on for more than 30 years, one might have assumed she wanted to downsize. But she traded up to 17 acres in rural Connecticut, taking on the challenge of starting over in her 70s. While sad to leave her beloved Duck Hill, in this memoir Dickey rediscovers the joys of gardening and embraces the wilder, larger landscape. Accompanying her poetic prose are engaging photographs that make this a read to linger over.

 


THE SCROLL

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Queen Elizabeth II’s Aide Reveals Details of Life in Royal Pandemic Lockdown in New Addition to BookAngela Kelly, who's worked for the Queen for 20 years, discusses everything from cutting the Queen's hair to "the light and laughter that was shared ... even in the darkest moments."


New Leonard Cohen Story Collection, ‘A Ballet of Lepers,’ Set for October ReleaseThe collection features a novel, short stories and a radio play written between 1956 and 1961.


Archived Letters Reveal How Toni Morrison Helped MacKenzie Scott Meet Future Husband Jeff BezosBezos hired Scott at the hedge fund where he worked after receiving a recommendation from Morrison. Shortly thereafter, the pair married and Scott helped Bezos launch Amazon.


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European Jewish Congress Asks Publisher to Pull Anne Frank BookThe Congress says 'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' has "deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust."


Canadian Author Details Anne Frank Cold-Case Investigation That Named Surprise Suspect in Her Family’s Betrayal in New BookAhead of the 75th anniversary of the publication of Frank's 'The Diary of a Young Girl' in June, a team that included a retired FBI agent and around 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists identified a relatively unknown figure as a leading suspect in revealing her family's hideout.


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Hollywood Legend Betty White Has a Last Laugh in New Biographic Comic BookThe creators of the biographical comic book have released similar books about Hollywood legends like Carrie Fisher, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and Elizabeth Taylor.


Barack Obama Reveals His List of Books That Left “A Lasting Impression” in 2021Obama's favourite 2021 reads include two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead's 'Harlem Shuffle' and 'Klara and the Sun,' by Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro


“Interview With the Vampire” Author Anne Rice Dies at 80 — Tributes Pour in From Stuart Townsend and OthersThe author, who was best known for her work in gothic fiction, died on Saturday evening as a result of complications from a stroke.


Norma Dunning wins $25,000 Governor General’s English fiction prize for ‘Tainna’The Edmonton-based Inuk writer explores themes of displacement, loneliness and spirituality in six short stories


Omar El Akkad wins $100,000 Giller prize for “What Strange Paradise”The former Globe and Mail reporter, who published "American War" to acclaim in 2017, tackles the global migrant refugee crisis in his second novel


South African Author Damon Galgut Wins the Booker Prize For ‘The Promise’Galgut received nominations for his 2003 and 2010 works before finally taking home the prize this year. 


Hollywood Legend Paul Newman Discusses Life, Acting and Aging Gracefully in Newly Discovered MemoirPublishers of the newly discovered memoir say the Hollywood legend wrote the book in the 1980s in response to the relentless media attention he received during that time.


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Prince Harry Will Publish a Memoir in Late 2022Harry says he's writing the book "not as the prince I was born but as the man I have become."


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