- The mother of all plant reference works
- A great boxed set to inspire the budding fruit and veg grower, no matter how small their plot
- A book on design that's been a regular companion in my garden, whilst I ponder where it's headed next.
All three are review copies, I received courtesy of the publishers.
The RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants
This is the 4th Edition of Christopher Brickell's outstanding work. Around 5,000 plants have been added, to provide a comprehensive reference of over 15,000 garden plants.
I would have preferred the two-volume approach of the previous edition, but welcome the increased focus on plant descriptions of this one.
Other reviews have criticised the exclusion of some of their favourite sections from previous editions, most notably the one on pests and diseases. I have a well-thumbed copy of RHS Pests and Diseases, which is a more comprehensive reference, and I'd recommend that as a replacement guide.
Readers should note the entries are found under their Latin genus name, but are cross referenced against their common ones, so everyone should still be able to find what they're looking for.
The genus entry begins with an introduction and general cultivation notes, followed by specific descriptions of the species, plus variants and cultivars where appropriate. The usual descriptive information on flowers, stems and leaves; height and spread, and hardiness is all there as expected. I would have liked to have seen Award of Garden Merit information too, as this is often a deciding factor gardeners use when faced with a plethora of choice.
There are plenty of clear photographs on every page, though note not every plant has a photograph. Drawings of e.g. plant taxonomy are also included, where needed. The result makes this reference attractive to look at and read.
With the advent of the internet some might question whether there is still a place for this kind of work. I'd argue there is as I've found it particularly useful for choosing the replacement plants I'd like for my back garden. I've found it easier to look through and bookmark the possibilities, then look through them again to make my shortlist, Rather than trying to keep track of dozens of online equivalents.
The RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants has a RRP of £75, which is good value for such a comprehensive work and some bargains may be found if you look around. It's worth consideration as a gift for the gardener in your life regardless of their level of ability.
RHS Fruit and Veg Box
Each book is bright and attractive, and the growing guides are packed with information to get budding fruit and veg growers off to a good start, no matter how small their dedicated GYO space may be.
The recipe book is divided into seasons, so fits in neatly with the GYO books. There are 100 recipes to help growers make the most of their crops, with a wide variety of starters, mains, puds and preserves. They also range from everyday cooking through to recipes fit to grace any dinner party or special family occasion. Most are quick and easy too and make good use of their fresh ingredients.
The RHS Fruit and Veg Box RRP is £20, and has an air of "buy 2 get 1 free" about it, as it's a combination of two RHS grow guides published already, plus a brand new cook book. It's a great combination. I'm going to pass on my review copy to a friend who is in the process of buying her first house and can't wait to get growing. I think this neat box is an ideal way to keep her enthusiasm going.
New Small Garden
It's also a timely volume as I'm planning a couple of replacement borders in my back garden. The strength of this book is it's rooted in reality as most of the gardens featured are real ones, rather than the stock photos of show gardens used in similar volumes. As a result it shows solutions to real problems overcome by garden owners, which are transferable to those gardens found on new or newish urban estates like mine.
Another strength is the emphasis on planting design which fits my needs exactly. However, that hasn't stopped me sitting in my garden mulling over the introductory first principles explained in the opening chapters, even though I already know my garden's soil and aspect, and the hardscaping is in place already.
A major takeaway for me from those chapters has been to look at my garden afresh from the patio and decide what needs to be done from there i.e. the place from where the garden is viewed most often. I now realise I've over complicated matters in the past by trying to design my garden to fit all viewing angles, and thus I've set myself up to fail.
I shall continue to use this book over the winter - along with the RHS encyclopedia reviewed above - to plan my new borders.
The New Small Garden has a RRP of £20, which I think is good value for the quality of practical information and great photography by Maayke de Ridder. You may also like to read Noel's blog about his writing process for this book, it's an interesting read.