If you’re still planning what to grow in your garden this year, there’s a plethora of new books out in the spring to provide inspiration and guidance. HANNAH STEPHENSON leafs through some of the best
IF you’re still scratching your head as to what to do with your garden this year, whether trying veg in pots for the first time, creating a wildflower meadow or completely re-landscaping your outdoor space, there are new books coming out which should provide you with plenty of ideas.
Here are just a few of the many gardening titles on offer this year:
:: The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart (Timber Press, £14.99, May 2): This intoxicating and eclectic new book on the hidden botany behind your favourite booze would make a fabulous gift for gardeners who enjoy a tipple. The quirky guide explains the chemistry and botanical history of more than 150 species, showing how they form the bases of our favourite cocktails and also offers 50 drink recipes.
:: Christine Walkden’s No-Nonsense Container Gardening (Simon & Schuster, £20, February 28): She may now be a regular on The One Show and Radio 4’s Question Time, but Christine Walkden is a gardener first and a presenter second. In her typical down-to-earth style, she shows you how to recycle tin cans, fruit crates and baskets and turn them into portable growing containers, grow your own lunch in a tub with dwarf varieties and cultivate abundant flowers for cutting and fragrance. Well illustrated and with tips from personal experience, this book will suit the fairly new gardener looking for new ideas.
:: Royal Horticultural Society Grow Your Own Crops In Pots by Kay Maguire (Mitchell Beazley, £16.99, available now): As growing your own fruit and veg continues to gain popularity, this book is one for people who perhaps don’t have room for a vegetable plot or who simply want to have a go at growing produce in pots on the patio, close to the kitchen. Featuring everything from bags of potatoes to grapes on the vine, and delicious combinations such as tomato with basil, the book guides the reader through techniques and tips, as well as sound advice for growing each type of fruit and veg.
:: A Book Of Garden Wisdom by Jenny Hendy (Lorenz Books, £5.99, May 31): If you like to hark to days gone by and restore some traditional methods of gardening on your plot, this delightful book of folklore, organic gardening, hints and tips featuring traditional techniques for sowing, planting and harvesting, as well as age-old methods for controlling pests and diseases, feeding the soil and caring for tools, should fit the bill.
:: RHS Chelsea Flower Show: A Centenary Celebration by Brent Elliott (Frances Lincoln, £25, April 4): Chelsea Flower Show’s centenary couldn’t go without a commemorative book and this offering, by the RHS historian Brent Elliott, explores how the show evolved, how it has formed part of the social calendar and how it has reflected and shaped tastes in garden design and planting over the years. There are short pieces by significant nurserymen and nurserywomen, designers, organisers, visitors and patrons describing what Chelsea means to them, with chapters on the early shows, shows between the wars and decade by decade to the present day. It’s illustrated with images mainly drawn from the RHS Lindley Library archives, many of which are published here for the first time.
:: Abundance: How To Store And Preserve Your Garden Produce by Alys Fowler (Kyle Books, £16.99, June 1): If you’re growing fruit and veg then you may want to learn how to preserve it. Look no further than this guide from the former Gardeners’ World presenter, who covers everything from drying and pickling to cold stores and fermenting.
:: Wild Flowers by Carol Klein (BBC Books, £20, February 28): Master plantswoman and Gardeners’ World presenter Carol Klein celebrates the most exquisite flora growing wild in our woodlands, hedgerows, meadows and moors in this book and then returns to her own garden to see their cultivated cousins. This tie-in book sees Klein delving into the story of more than 30 of her favourite wild flowers, and sharing her practical expertise and suggestions on how to help their cultivated equivalents thrive.
:: The Rurbanite by Alex Mitchell (Kyle Books, £16.99, March 1): Do you live in the city but dream of keeping chickens? Do you look at derelict patches of ground on your way to work and see their potential as vegetable patches? If so, you’re a rurbanite. You have a passion for the countryside but no intention of leaving the city. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. You’re part of a growing band of people who want the best of both worlds. The author shares her passion, practical projects and incredible stories from seed bombers, rooftop beekeepers, guerrilla gardeners and urban farmers to inspire you to be in touch with your green side and change the cityscape for the better.
:: Gardening In Pyjamas: Horticultural Enlightenment For Obsessive Dawn Raiders by Helen Yemm (Simon & Schuster, £12.99, April 11): If you find yourself padding about your plot in your nightclothes without really knowing what to do, this book will provide you with all the essential facts to nurture your growing passion. The Daily Telegraph’s much-loved columnist Helen Yemm strikes a happy balance between giving you enough information to get you going but not so much that it scares you or puts you off entirely. She dispenses invaluable advice, minus the mumbo jumbo, with refreshing humour and a clear understanding of her theme.
BEST OF THE BUNCH - Sempervivum (houseleek)
If you’ve covered these pretty rock garden stalwarts during the wettest weather to stop them rotting, then by early spring they should be the shining stars of the alpine bed, their sculptured rosettes making a shapely background for later-flowering miniature species.
They are excellent for growing in pots to create winter displays in an unheated greenhouse. These drought-tolerant succulents can be planted into a sandy soil mix to ensure sharp drainage. They’re very collectable, coming in green, red and purple. Some have red-tipped leaves, or are covered with hairs.
The cobwebbed houseleek, S. arachnoideum, is the best known, but ‘Commander Hay’ is a more impressive purplish-red show-stopper.
The flowers look like fat turrets which grow to 30cm (12in) tall and push up through the rosettes. They make perfect plants for the front of a hot, sunny rockery or in a sink garden or in pots. New plants grow easily from offsets.
WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK
:: Enrich soil with compost where beans are going to be grown.
:: Be careful not to damage any emerging bulbs when forking over border soil.
:: Place forcing jars over clumps of rhubarb.
:: Take cuttings from greenhouse chrysanthemums.
:: Continue to dig over borders and vegetable plots to prepare ground for planting.
:: Improve drainage on heavy soil by mixing in plenty of gravel or sharp grit.