The Tired Gardener

Healing Through Growing

Books - Plants, Gardens and Gardeners

Welcome to my virtual library of books that I have found inspiring or helpful.

I have many more to share with you as we go on, but here are some fascinating reads about plants, botanists, gardens and gardeners to get started with …

Use these links to find the reviews below.
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Susan Campbell,
A History of Kitchen Gardening
ISBN-10: 1910065919

When wandering through a guided meditation in a place that makes me happy, I often find myself in an old-fashioned walled kitchen garden, clothed in cordons of apples, pears and plums and with a deep, cool, rushy pool at its heart. I am alone with the birds and bees.

Susan Campbell’s A History of Kitchen Gardening is a delight, crammed with insights into this lost world of beauty, order, horticultural skill and super-abundance. Her descriptions bring alive the way in which these gardens were not simply beautiful productive green spaces but an incredible blend of cutting-edge science and technology and the natural world. Gardeners’ knowledge, skill and hard labour enabled the super-rich to display home-grown pineapples and grapes on their winter banqueting tables, to eat ice-creams made with their own peaches and nectarines, long before the advent of electric propagators, freezers, whisks and ice-cream makers.

Campbell’s stories of the people who ran these horticultural factories bring alive the human reality behind the ideal. There are young boys, employed to raise and lower blinds as the clouds passed by in order to shield precious glasshouse fruit from the harsh sun, who shovelled coke through the night, feeding the boilers that circulated heat through hollow garden walls. There are top-hatted head gardeners strutting around Chelsea with their masters, while journeymen mix chemical controls that are worthy of our age of toxins. There are gardeners whose boots explode in flames before the fire, after a day spent fighting pests and diseases with flammable sprays …

These word pictures are enhanced by a liberal sprinkling of intricate line drawings, from a simple lettuce to detailed representations of the mechanical workings of glasshouses and boilers.

I have savoured this book over the past few months, alternately revelling in the gardens it describes and learning to appreciate that my fantasy walled-garden is best kept that way. I could never summon the time or energy to make it a reality.


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Richard Mabey,
The Cabaret of Plants: botany and the imagination
ISBN-10: 1861979584

Cabaret sums this book up completely. Every chapter is different and offered a new Wow! Moment. It is a collection of absorbing and amazing essays about the incredible characters within the plant world and the humans whose lives have been shaped by them. From trees that are thousands of years old, to giant water lilies that can support a small child and inspired the engineers who built Crystal Palace. I loved every amazing minute of this book.


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Jeremy Naydler,
Gardening as a Sacred Art
ISBN-13: 978-0863158346

My garden is a place I retreat to, a natural source of solace and peace, but also of burden and frustration at my inability to ‘keep on top’ of its demands. Unlike the beauty of the wilderness, there can be no garden without a gardener, creating a constant need for intervention, creativity and at times, sheer hard work.

Jeremy Naydler explores how our attitudes towards nature, gardens and our activity as gardeners have changed from the times of the earliest recorded gardens 5,000 or more years ago to the present day. He traces this path through ancient gardens, created as spaces within which the gods could walk, through the religious metaphors contained within Christian medieval gardens, to the domination of nature represented by formal Enlightenment gardens like Versailles. He finishes with the glorious expression of human creativity through gardens as art, seen in the work of Monet and Gertrude Jekyll.

This is a deeply thought-provoking and inspiring book for anyone who has felt the call of the divine in a garden.


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Botany for Gardeners: the art and science of gardening explained and explored
ISBN-10: 1845338332

Don’t be put off by the idea that botany is something high falutin’, scientific and impenetrable. Once you have seen your tiny, dry seed burst through the compost and noticed that each seedling is as different as the seed that you sowed, you will have so many questions. Why does this plant have two seed leaves and that one looks like a single blade? Why didn’t that one grow at all when I looked after it so carefully? How did that bush get into my chimneystack?

This is another RHS book with glorious production values, explaining complex ideas in simple ways and in easily digestible sections, all with beautiful pictures. It’s a book to linger over on cold, wet days or when you really are too tired to do more than put your feet up and enjoy the natural world in paper form.


My illness has meant that I have had to give up my work and so I am now looking to find a new career through my writing. If you have enjoyed this page and would like to encourage me to produce more, click the coffee cup below to make a small donation; no strings, no fuss, just a little, 'Thanks, keep it up.'

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