Three very different garden books

May 13 2013 0 Comments Tags: book, garden, permaculture, review

I have a backlog of books to review, and three of them are garden books, I thought they made an interesting contrast to each other, so I may as well review them all together.  I read a lot of books, most of them related to farming and gardening.  Even though many of them repeat the same themes I always learn at least one or two new things from each book, and these books were no different.

Clueless in the Garden

The first book was one of a few that I requested from Wakefield Press.  Its called "Clueless in the Garden - a guide of the horticulturally hopeless", by Yvonne Cunnington.  I usually only read about vegetable gardens, so I was surprised to find that most of this book was about all kinds of garden.  Its published in Canada, so you just have to remember to turn around the north and south references, but at least the temperatures are in celsius.  The references to deer and snow are not so relevant to my garden, but I kind of enjoy reading about them anyway.  The best thing about this book was the chapter on horticultural nomenclature, finally I now understand the difference between a species, a cultivar and a variety.  This book has some really useful general information on topics such as pruning, soil assessment and lots of chapters about non-edible trees, shrubs and lawns that don't interest me now, but will no doubt be useful in the future.  This is a good all-round garden book, that really does cover some basic information for very new gardeners, I think it lives up to its title.

So if the first book was a beginner's guide, the next book, "Gaia's Garden - a guide to home-scale permaculture", by Toby Hemenway, is more of an advanced gardening manual.  I bought this book as part of a kind of an internet book club permaculture discussion, which I really enjoyed, although not many of the group stayed to the end of the book.  This book focuses on edible gardens, with chapters on soil, water and design.  I got really excited when I got to the chapters on plant combinations.  In permaculture, these are known as guilds.  I've never quite understood guilds until I read this book.  It has three chapters on guilds, and that was enough for me to finally figure out what they are and how I might use them in our food forest.  If you're interested in permaculture for a garden or small property, this book is a good start and written in accessible language to make quite complex permaculture concepts easy to understand.  If you're curious about guilds now, this is also a good reference.


The third book is The Wilderness Garden, by Australian author Jackie French. The guilds described in Gaia's Garden were all north American and I wasn't exactly sure how to apply the concept in Australian conditions, so I thought that this book might give me an Australian perspective   Jackie French never mentions permaculture, but I think her gardening (and chicken) philosophy is very close to permaculture, even if she doesn't call it that.  She begins the book with the words "This is a book about ideas - about how to set up a garden that will look after itself", which is of course the aim of a permaculture design too.  This book doesn't actually talk about guilds as such, but it has so many other good ideas for choosing plants, it didn't really matter.  I particularly enjoyed the discussion on fire-resistant plants, given the amount of trees on our property, our house is rather vulnerable and Jackie gives plenty of ideas for fire-proofing the house yard.  Towards the end of the book she also lists vegetables that she grows in her garden and includes some unusual ones that you might not see elsewhere.

What's your most useful garden book?



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