In the kitchen, on the very bottom shelf, below the shelves lined with cookbooks, jars of grains and beans, and baskets filled with powders and tonics for dog or human, I have a shelf of garden books. Some are instructional. From planning, preparing the soil, and planting, to dealing with weeds, bugs and other blights, to harvesting, cooking and preserving, there are many lessons to be had. Others books are biographies of gardens or gardeners. And some are simply appreciative essays.
There are several water-spotted volumes that are carried outside with me in the spring, along with hand trowels, seeds and twine. Others get their best use in January, when the cold winds are howling, and I need their encouragement and inspiration. For one reason or another, these are some of my favorite garden books:
- An Island Garden, by Celia Thaxter. First published in 1894, this beautiful facsimile edition was a gift to me, from a dear friend who understood my love of gardening. From the old-fashioned but still so relevant gardening pleasures and problems to the lovely watercolor illustrations, this book is a joy.
- Seasons at Seven Gates Farm, by the editors at Country Living. Also a gift, I received this book from my cousin, Pam. It is filled to the brim with wonderful photographs and inspiration!
- Creating a Cottage Garden, by Sue Phillips. This was one of the first garden books I bought for myself, having found it “remaindered” on the sale table at the book store. It is both practical and beautiful, with glorious images of established cottage gardens.
- Onward and Upward in the Garden, by Katherine S. White. I bought this book because E.B. White is one of my favorite writers. Katherine was his wife, and he wrote the introduction for this volume. It turns out, I enjoy her writing, too. This book of thoughtful essays is a wonderful companion to E.B. White’s writings from and about his saltwater farm in Maine. Like his essays, these can be read and enjoyed over and over.
- Designing the New Kitchen Garden, by Jennifer R. Bartley. Oh, if time were not a consideration and money were no object, the inspiration -found in the beautiful photos in this book – would be my guide!
- Carrots Love Tomatoes, by Louise Riotte. This practical book on companion planting gets more wear than any other book on my shelf. Especially when planting closely, or in raised beds, the influence one plant has on another’s growth is important.
- The No-Work Garden Book, by Ruth Stout. As the years go by, and my aching back and painful joints become a greater factor in my ability to garden, Ruth Stout’s methods seem more important than ever. A free-thinker who was an early supporter of the modern organic gardening movement (and who, I’m told, was known to garden sometimes in the nude), Stout entertains with humor and lots of good advice.
Whatever I need in the way of gardening, whether inspiration, encouragement or instruction, I can usually find it within the pages of these books!