5 books for the new gardener

As spring approaches, we love nothing more than sitting in a beautifully tended garden with a good book. Author Alice Vincent joins us in Caboodlers' Corner to recommend five books for aspiring gardeners.

What is your favourite genre to read outside?

Alice Vincent

"If you're a complete beginner, the world of growing stuff can seem more than baffling: long Latin words and reams of information on compost may not be what you thought you signed up for. But as a self-taught gardener, books were crucial in helping me navigate my way to the rewarding world of growing your own. A good gardening book can inspire and delight as well as educate. Here are some of my favourites."

Author photo taken by Giles Smith.



Brilliant & Wild

Brilliant & Wild: A Garden From Scratch in a Year by Lucy Bellamy

Lucy Bellamy's thoughtful book condenses the fashionable and sustainable New Perennials design movement into flexible gardening plans. All of the plants in Brilliant & Wild are perennials, meaning that they will return year after year to flower and grow again. Bellamy doesn’t speak down to her reader, but nor does she overwhelm them, explaining essential basics such as understanding Latin plant names and key groups of plants. This book will give you the means to devise a planting scheme that suits your taste and needs, which will also sustain the birds and insects in your local area, too. 

We Made a Garden

We Made a Garden by Margery Fish

While there are plenty of practical nuggets in English Country Garden Doyenne Margery Fish's book, it's probably better enjoyed as a witty and insightful diary of how Fish and her cantankerous husband Walter transformed a Somerset farmyard into a stunning garden. Written through the seasons over several years after the Second World War, We Made a Garden is an elegant and charming view into another form of horticulture. Even if you only have a windowbox, Fish's passion for plants makes this an irresistible read.

The Balcony Gardener

The Balcony Gardener by Isabelle Palmer

This was the book that most transformed me as a balcony gardener, from someone who faffed about a bit with little pots and grand plans better suited to a garden to a person who really understood the benefits and challenges of a flowerbed in the sky. Palmer blends creative ideas with practical information about container gardening through the seasons, and really grasps the basics of balcony gardening from which any enthusiastic amateur can blossom.

Root, Nurture, Grow

Root, Nurture, Grow by Caro Langton and Rose Ray

The resurgence in interest in house plants has seen endless books published on the subject, many of which cover the same ground in a variety of trend-aware designs. Root, Nurture, Grow, however, progresses from Langton and Ray's (also recommended) debut, House of Plants, with clear and practical advice for propagating your indoor plants. With organic gardening and sustainability at its heart, this beautiful book makes a lot of complex information wonderfully accessible.

How to Grow Stuff

How to Grow Stuff by Alice Vincent

Is it cheating to recommend my own book? Possibly. But I wrote How to Grow Stuff because I felt I couldn’t find a gardening book that took my lack of knowledge, space, time and money seriously. Twenty plants, all of which I’ve grown on the balcony during my first two years of gardening: it really does cover the most basic of basics. More established growers will find it rudimental, but if you want to start growing your own herbs, flowers and veg, this will get you on the right path.


About Rootbound: Rewilding a Life

When she was a girl, Alice Vincent loved her grandfather's garden - the freedom, the calm, the beauty of it. Twenty years later, living in a tiny flat in South London, that childhood in the garden feels like a dream.

When she suddenly finds herself uprooted, heartbroken, living out of a suitcase and yearning for the comfort of home, Alice starts to plant seeds. She nurtures pot plants and vines on windowsills and draining boards, filling her new space with green, and with each unfurling petal and budding leaf, she begins to come back to life.

Mixing memoir, botanical history and biography, Rootbound examines how bringing a little bit of the outside in can help us find our feet in a world spinning far too fast.

Win a copy of Rootbound: Rewilding a Life

Post a comment below telling us which genres you love to read outside and we will pick five readers to each receive a signed copy of Alice Vincent's Rootbound: Rewilding a Life. We'll pick winners after Thursday 26th March 2020. Congratulations James Silcock, Laura 'Lime' Muir, Geoffrey Thomas, Solange & Rosie Auckland, please get in touch with us.


Terms and Conditions

5 x winners will each receive a signed copy of Alice Vincent's Rootbound: Rewilding a Life

  • No purchase necessary.
  • Only one entry per person will be accepted.
  • The prizes are non-transferable and there are no cash alternatives. The Promoter reserves the right to amend the specification of the prize or offer an alternative prize.
  • Closing date 11:59pm, Thursday 26th March 2020. 
  • The competition is open to UK and Republic of Ireland residents except employees of the Booksellers Association and Book Tokens Ltd., and employees of participating bookshops.
  • Entrants must be aged 16 or over.
  • Entrants agree to Book Tokens Ltd. using their details in post-competition publicity. Your details will not be used for any other purpose, or passed onto any third parties, unless specified. Winners’ details may be shared securely with a third-party in order to fulfil the dispatch of competition prizes.
  • We will contact winners by replying to their original comment below. Winners must contact the email address we provide. In the event of a winner not responding after 14 days, we reserve the right to allocate the prize to another winner.
  • The promoters’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Unsuccessful entrants will not be contacted.
  • Book Tokens Ltd. will only use your email address and other personal information as outlined in our privacy policy.
  • Promoter: Book Tokens Ltd, 6 Bell Yard, London, WC2A 2JR.


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