Book Reviews

  • The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom


    The Thoughtful Gardener by Jinny Blom, hardback published by Jacqui Small. ISBN 9781910254592, price 35 gbp available in the U.K. through

    Rarely do I find a garden book with such a command of all the elements of garden design, brought together with a master's hand. Behind Jinny's undoubted and well-deserved success lies a philosophy, intuition and know-how that guide her every step. Engaging with the garden on every level, Jinny conducts a now well-rehearsed strategy like a conversation with turns and twists to embrace every possibility and permutation. This beautifully illustrated book shows her skills to advantage with lush gardens that would even beckon the self-confessed non-gardener. Beautiful to look at, this tome goes beyond coffee-table and delves into the potential of garden space. With Jinny, we take the journey to plan and plot, to make the 'landscape' beautiful by striving for its essential character, past connections and how the current owner will connect to the land. She takes us through each essential part of garden design - history, structure, plants, layout etc, revealing the importance of each aspect accompanied by drawings and photos of sites. We gain an understanding of how each key ingredient works. The planning and execution of a garden is like a tapestry of many elements that harmonise perfectly. This is a book that will make you think about your garden space anew. Excellent text and photography. Destined to be a classic of garden design that inspires us all to greater things.

  • The Community Gardening Handbook by Ben Raskin


    The Community Gardening Handbook by Ben Raskin, softback published by Leaping Hare Press. ISBN 9781782404491, price 9.99 available from

    A growing revolution is just what our cities need to bring back a sense of community with a purpose. Neglected plots are being transformed into flourishing growing space that provides fresh food and connections in urban spaces. This book shares Ben's expertise regarding self-sufficiency. It looks at the background of community gardening and acts as a practical guide for running a successful site. Find useful insights into skills sharing, setting up a community garden, looking after it, seed sowing and more. In chapter one the book highlights community gardens around the world. Chapter two looks at planning your own community garden. Chapter three is all about planning and planting your site with useful basic information and seasonal task lists. Chapter Four is a basic plant directory of use to beginner gardeners. What better way to bring communities together than through growing?

  • The Irish Garden by Jane Powers


    The Irish Garden by Jane Powers, hardback published by Frances Lincoln. ISBN 9780711232228, price 40 gbp available from

    A huge tome with evocative photographs and a text worth reading. You might need weight lifting training before handling the book, but the pages are definitely worth turning. Contents include Grand Big Gardens, Romantic Interludes, Taming The Wilderness, Painting With Plants, A Lovely Day For A Walk, A Few Follies and Fancies, Fields Of Dreams, Paradise Reinvented, Good Enough To Eat, garden contact details and further reading. It's enough to make you want to pack your bags and do a garden tour or three of Ireland, from north to south. Every kind of garden, big and small, 60 in total. The climate is discussed in the introduction with a few 'surprise' plants, that one might not expect in Ireland. Influences are also discussed here. Each chapter has an overview and then an in detail look at each garden. The first chapter deals with the big estates of the Anglo-Irish gentry, "showy, proud and formidable" - "the grandest of the grand". You'll perhaps know some of the names in this section such as Powerscourt and Mount Stewart. Over 50 pages are dedicated to this chapter. One could argue that the whole of Ireland is romantic, but in the second chapter the most romantic gardens have been selected. The description of Altamount starts with a revealing fact about dodgy drains! There are only 2 gardens described. Chapter three is all about the emergence of gardens from the wilderness, the rugged and wild, tamed and cultivated into a garden haven. Whilst Chapter Four concerns itself with those gardens owned by passionate plants people and it will come as no surprise to find Helen Dillon's garden in this chapter. Next we are taken on a ramble - gardens that offer a good stroll with views. Take a turn around a lake or stroll the Noble Fir Walk. Follies and Fancies feature next and I do have a fondness for them, so do many garden creators thankfully. The word 'dream' is often associated with gardening and in the following chapter, Jane takes a look at privately owned gardens, conceived as personal space but open to the public, where gardeners have created their dream. These spaces often have the most appeal because they are closer in size to the one we possess and planted in a way we can visualise our own garden. We then come to the Chapter on old gardens that have been reawoken and saved from oblivion. Finally to productive gardens growing food and flowers or keeping bees or poultry.

    This is an incredible garden journey in a book. You can delve in and out, enjoy each garden, gaze with longing at the superb photography by Jonathan Hession and enjoy the images conjured up with Jane's descriptions. This is Frances Lincoln's best book in terms of text and images, far superlative to the others in this series.

    Words copyright Karen Platt 2017

  • The Book of Orchids by Mark Chase et al


    The Book of Orchids by Mark Chase et al, hardback published by Ivy Press. ISBN 9781782404033, price 30 gbp available from

    Ask most gardeners and non-gardeners alike for their favourite flowers and orchids will usually be in the top ten. They get their fair share of oohs and aahs. This book is for the serious lover of orchids. It includes orchid evolution, pollination, symbiotic relationships, threats to wild orchids and orchidelirium (first time I have come across that but it aptly describes orchidmania). The orchids are then divided into Apostasioideae, Vanilloideae, Cypripedioideae, Orchidoideae and Epidendroideae taking up the bulk of the book with 162 pages dedicated to exploring these fascinating plants, plus appendices, which include a glossary, classification, resources, index of common and scientific names and acknowledgements. This book provides a stunning guide to no less than 600 incredible species out of the vast over 26,000 orchid species that exist, photographed in detail. Whilst the photographs are entertaining, there is enough scientific knowledge to interest the avid orchidophile, whilst remaining informative and readable by anyone who holds these remarkable plants in awe. Some of the smaller images could have done with the brightness turning up a notch. There are full-page plates at the beginning of each chapter. Orchid flowers are shown actual size, which is a bonus. The descriptions are fantastic, allowing the reader to become familiar with the plant in a uniform format giving all essential details. The information includes distribution, habitat, flowering time and size. I love the Dracula species, Dendrobium, Cypripedium, Paphiopedilum, Zygopetalum, Vanda and Brassia, they are all covered in this book with a few examples. The problem is that with such vast numbers of each available, so few have been covered and this just feels like the tip of the iceberg. I hope that in future, we can see more comprehensive books in this series, dealing with each type of orchid. For now, this is an excellent introduction to the world of orchids, no matter what your preferences for individual species. I am sure it will become a standard classic and deservedly so.

  • Healing The Vegan Way by Mark Reinfeld


    Healing The Vegan Way by Mark Reinfeld, softback published by Da Capo Press. ISBN 9780738217772, price 15.99 in the UK, available from

    The health benefits of vegetarianism and veganism are often brought into question. In this book, subtitled "plant-based eating for optimal health & wellness', the author fully describes and shows the health benefits of eating a plant-based diet. You'll find expert testimonials, research, essential information and mouth-watering recipes. There are 200 recipes to get you going on the right track. We really are what we eat and eating the right foods can have a beneficial effect on our well-being. This book offers a way forward through the myriad of confusing claims and counter-claims and provides a straightforward basis for optimal health. This is a practical guide to eating vegan and all the benefits it can bring. Part One is all about healing - the challenges, theories, nutrients, benefits and practicalities; in Part Two you will find all the recipes including preparation, breakfasts, drinks, appetizers, sides, dressings, soups, mains and desserts. Try a digestive tea or a healing broth when you are unwell or to keep you in tip-top condition, eat raw for energy. There's so much in this book that can help you make the most of your health.

  • Naturally Lean by Allyson Kramer

    51vmfqJVHZL._SS300_Naturally Lean by Allyson Kramer, softback published by Da Capo Press in the USA. ISBN 9780738218564, price 15.99 in the U.K. available from

    Don't grab the wrong snack or fill up on saturated fats and high sugar meals. Make everything you eat count towards good health. Get off the diet yo-yo and join the ranks of the lean. Allyson provides 125 gluten-free, plant based recipes under 300 calories. The book is divided into an Introduction - all about lean, healthy and good for you, followed by 6 chapters: Greens & Crucifers; Hearty Grains; Fabulous Fruits; Nuts & Seeds; Legumes; Squash, Roots & Mushrooms; at the end there are suggestions for pairings and metric conversions. The recipes cover everything from breakfasts and smoothies to dips and salads, snacks, cake and desserts or treats, soup, lunches and toasts. Some of the sweet recipes use agave syrup, which is a sugar even though the blurb on the back says no added sugars. Note to publisher - more photos please.

  • Eat It Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton


    Eat It Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton, softback published by Lifelong Books, Da Capo in the USA. ISBN 9780738218182, price 12.99 in the UK, available from

    Are you throwing away too much food? Find 150 unusual recipes to make the most of all the parts of the food you buy or grow. Use those carrot toppings, cauliflowers leaves and asparagus trimmings. This book is a great reminder of how wasteful we can be. Cut down on the waste and eat it up. New tricks turn food waste into recipes. Simple, practical steps and interesting recipes could cut your food expenditure. Milk going out of date - make cheese, watermelon rind - pickle it, carrot tops - create pesto. No frills recipes with straight text and drawings, no colour pics but easy to follow and use. As a young girl, my mother always bought cauliflower with the leaves and cooked them as greens, now we cannot even usually buy them with the greens. Wake up to the waste in your trash and transform your menu.

  • Botanical Style by Selina Lake


    Botanical Style by Selina Lake, hardback published by Ryland Peters. ISBN 9781849757133, price 19.99 available from

    Decorate with style - botanical style. If plants and flowers are your passion, indulge in all things botanical from cushions to wall hangings, plates, chairs, tablecloths and dressing gowns to rugs. Surround yourself with calming green or exotic flowers.Tropicals, ferns and flowers can adorn accessories in your home or you can create botanical 'corners' to connect with the natural world. This book is all about bringing the outdoors indoors and creating a botanical haven. The book is split into chapters: Botanical Inspirations - Vintage, Boho, Industrial, Tropical and Natural. The book features how to display houseplants and how to decorate your home with a love of all things floral and green. It is filled with style ideas. There are projects to make too such as floral wreaths or a botanical pinboard. The book is lavishly illustrated throughout.

  • Raw Food Detox by Anya Ladra


    Raw Food Detox by Anya Ladra, hardback published by Ryland Peters. ISBN 9781849757287, price 12.99 available from

    This very reasonably priced book contains more than 70 recipes for low-calorie, raw food. As spring comes along our minds turn to warmer days. We cast off winter clothes that hide a multitude of sins and realise we have put on weight. Healthy raw foods not only mean less calories, they mean a slimmer you. A you full of energy. This book presents detox programmes including a 5-day cleansing detox, 5-day glow detox and a 3-day juice detox. It also includes advice on continuing the cleansing programme. The recipes are easy to prepare and a joy to eat or drink. Smoothies for breakfast, light but energising lunches including great salads and dressings, raw food mains, snacks and desserts. It's got everything covered. Adopted as a lifestyle, your skin will glow, your body will feel lighter as if a weight has been lifted and you will have increased energy. This book has fabulous photography that really makes you want to try each and every recipe. Find out all about the benefits of eating raw that have been propounded by many. Find powerhouse ingredients and learn techniques of preparation. Please note 9 of the recipes require a dehydrator and some dessert recipes use sugar or sugar substitutes. An excellent raw food recipe book.

  • Heirloom Plants by L. Harrison & R. Warner


    Heirloom Plants by Lorraine Harrison & Ray Warner, hardback published by Ivy Press. ISBN 9781782403173, price 18.99 available from

    Heirloom seeds are dear to my heart and that's why I featured them in my book the Seed Search. In fact Ray Warner's seed company, Thomas Etty Esq, was featured in it. This book is based on their seed lists of heirloom plants, giving information, detailed profiles and cultivation for many heirlooms. Growing heirlooms contributes to biodiversity. Although there are laws governing the registration of vegetable seed, many heirlooms are not registered because they are not deemed to be commercially viable - in other words, they would not sell enough packets of seed. Gardeners are therefore presented with a limited variety of unusual veg. With heirlooms you can enjoy something different. These varieties have often been passed down through seed saving from generation to generation. This book is full of heritage vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. It also has good historical notes. Grow something interesting today.

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