When was the last time you bought a gardening book?

To answer my own question it’s been a while. When I got my first garden and ‘discovered’ gardening I bought a handful of tomes, some ‘how to’s’ a couple extolling design principles and others with an historical/classical garden bent.  I’ve since added a few how to grow vegetable books and more recently a couple of garden poetry books, a smattering of gardening  diaries coupled with a handful of books given as presents the number of gardening books is relatively scant when I compare it to the cookbooks I own.

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The inspiration for this post is an article on the Guardian’s gardening blog “Why are garden books so boring?” by Lucy Masters which highlighted the woes of the gardening book and publishing industries and the general malaise of bookshelves in shops.

It’s a great question isn’t it? Dr Hessayon (of Garden Expert Book fame) said the internet has changed the publishing world; well it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work that one out! But as the author of the piece commented cookbooks are all the rage and yet look at the plethora of recipes on the web. So what is the difference?

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  CELEBRITIES GRINNING AT GERANIUMS

The author discusses the popularity of cookery programmes and cookbooks and compares them with the formulaic and dull gardening books and programmes on offer.  And she is right, I don’t buy gardening books by “presenters” as all I see when I flick through them are standard layouts, photos that belong in the last century and way too many photos of the presenters themselves looking wistfully at the wisteria, poignantly at the pansies, or grinning at the geraniums. You get the picture! Too many photos of the “stars” used as page fillers and not enough thought about the contents and how the subject relates to me, a home gardener who is no longer a beginner nor is she an expert.

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WE ALL HAVE TO EAT SOMETHING SOME OF THE TIME

I believe there are a number of reasons why cookery is so popular – essentially we all have to eat, it is accessible – most of us have a kitchen no matter how small, baking and making gives us a ‘feel good’ moment, we can share results, it covers health issues, cultural histories and in today’s tough economic climate home baking is seen as cheap entertainment, even a treat. But most of all I see cookery as being an instant hit. If you prepare something from scratch it takes how long – from 15 minutes to a few hours?  For most busy people that’s doable.  

Garden Greenery Fern

TIME POOR AND NO GUARANTEES

If you apply these same reasons to gardening what do we have? Not everyone has a garden, look at new-build housing the majority don’t even have balconies for a piece of personal outside space and waiting lists for allotments are still at a high. Now think about how long it takes to grow flowers and vegetables – we’re talking weeks as a minimum, more likely months and when it comes to creating a garden we’re talking years for it to mature. In today’s world that is a huge investment in time, not to mention expense.

Combine the ‘time issue’ with the notion that the results aren’t guaranteed and we’re onto a loser. I know a soufflé may not rise or a joint of meat may end up overcooked but essentially the results are edible or at least can be remedied and if all else fails you can get a pizza delivered. If on the other hand you sow a packet of seeds the results aren’t guaranteed and what is worse is you have to wait to find out if your efforts have been a success. In the 21st century that’s a lifetime of waiting for a potential no-show. For the time-short instantaneous Twitter generation this strikes me as a “why put all that effort” kind of question, I can go and visit a public park and post the photos while I’m there.

Hosta in pot

INSTANT WHIP

There is no equivalent to instant whip puddings when it comes to gardens.  We all remember the garden makeover programmes of the 80s and 90s, a quick fix approach to gardening that had its moment of glory and attention.

Buying your plants from garden centres doesn’t give any more guarantees. The plants sold may not be suitable for your garden, your area, let alone your lifestyle. Plants need care and attention – they need the right amount of daylight, warmth, nutrients and water plus protecting from pests. A late frost and your precious plants can be wiped out.  Relate that to cooking? The only thing I can think of is a sourdough starter for bread making – it needs your help and care to stay alive.

Exotic Garden Fronds

FACELIFT

Maybe gardening needs a “facelift” a look outside the realms of classic gardens and gardeners of yore, a look away from the Anglo-centric cottage walled garden to the gardens of Iran, Cuba or Korea.  Maybe garden books could step outside of the RHS and NT mowed lawn and clipped yew hedge world view. Perhaps the garden publishing industry could challenge us with new contents and new layouts.  Could they interest and excite a new generation?

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21st CENTURY SOLUTIONS AND THE PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE

The gardening “industry” needs to take a proverbial leaf out of its own book and look at where people are now. What are the Smart Phone/Tablet generation wanting? What are they doing and where do their aspirations lie? We’re on the web so how about looking at what the internet is achieving and what forums, blogs, Pinterest, YouTube, photo sharing sites and the like are giving that books aren’t?

There are countless films on YouTube explaining how to plant a cabbage, split a dahlia or prune your apple tree. It looks like the reference book market hasn’t woken up to the possibilities of Social Media. Social Media  is giving us an accessible global outlook, a personal view, an approachable view, a view that is all about connecting and community, sharing ideas and experiences, what works or what proves tricky. The personal perspective. Social media can give us a low-level human view of gardening, no stardom or qualifications needed. Just a willingness to look and engage.

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But my worry still remains that as a garden takes time to create and we are simply becoming more and more time poor, fewer and fewer people have access to their own personal outside space that we will cease to be participants and become a world of viewers of gardens.

And not gardeners.

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So when was the last time you bought a cookbook and would that be more recent than a gardening one? And do jump in with your thoughts and ideas whether its the publishing industry, how we get the YouTube generation interested in gardening – is it food, style, design, environmental issues or does gardening need to find the horticultural equivalent of Mary Barry and Paul Holywood?

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76 comments

  • I haven’t bought a gardening book in years. The internet connects me with actual people that live in the same area as I do, that are experiencing the same weather as I am, etc. If I have a question, I can find out the answer almost immediately.

    • I wonder if that is one the problems for the garden book industry in that so many things come down to local, whether it’s climate or soil and cookbooks are easy as most ingredients can be bought either locally or on the internet

  • You know my favourite gardening book is one only just acquired, because it is a cookbook too! It is called Vegetable Literacy Deborah Madison. Maybe social media could give us an app for planting time for Our areas, we could set up a little alarm note system, that sees weather and timing of said veg in your zone and calls you and says Sow cabbages today, plant lettuce tomorrow (something like that!) . Get onto it. Stop reading about it. Get busy! i think i could do with that app.. c

    • I’ve never heard of Deborah Madison before…sometimes I think the book industry is blinkered by where we live. Having said that I know what you mean about an App for your area…. the likes of the RHS have what to plant etc for the UK, but a weekly reminder for your area would be good. And funnily enough I saw a demo of a brilliant bit of IT the other day, basically a database that even I could code….. I may work in IT but I’m not geek enough, only mildly 🙂

  • I inherited all of my father-n-laws gardening books and the only other one I have ever bought has been about herbs. I reference them all on and off, depending on the “season” I am in and love being able to being “off line” to read them.
    I’m not sure a lot of people are patient enough for gardening these days, except for a few old school type of people.
    Have a super day Claire.
    🙂 Mandy xo

    • How wonderful to inherit a set of gardening books, often the best reads are those that are tried and tested over time.
      I think you may be right Mandy about people not having the patience to garden, it probably seems like too much of an investment in time and effort. Sad so many people are missing out

  • Excellent post Claire! The last time I bought gardening books was, oh 10 years ago! Cookbooks, last month! I love to garden and want to garden, but I have a chronic condition which doesn’t allow me to do heavy labour. And my garden really needs heavy labour! I need hubby to do it so that I can then plant and care for my garden. But as you mentioned, it’s all about time.

    • Thank you for sharing, it must be so difficult with a chronic condition to garden, I guess the joys are in the planning and planting 🙂 I think gardening is such a commitment in terms of time that it must preclude lots of people.

  • I constantly buy garden books (as well as cookery books etc.), and internet and all the contacts in cyberspace will never change my feelings about books which are a very important part of my life. I’m very sad when I read the comments on your page and wonder what the future will be like for writers like myself when people loose the passion for reading and handling books? I agree that lots of books show images of gardens which are completely unattainable for ordinary people which is frustrating but there is inspirational stuff too by real people for real people.

    • Hi Annette, since you left your comment there have been a few people who definitely buy gardening books! As you say books are a part of our lives, and I don’t know where we are going on that one. There is something very pleasurable about pulling a book off the shelves, finding a comfy seat and settling down to a read.

  • when was the last time i bought a gardening book? Never!! ( i also don’t buy cookbooks.)

    I think the accessibilty of free topic specific info online has almost negated the reasons for investing in large volume generalized texts on any subject.

    i hope this post gets Freshly Pressed, Claire. You’ve written something very thought provoking here and it deserves wide readership!

    • i just thought of something…..if anyone wants to read excellent reviews of gardening books, stop by gardeninacity.wordpress.com He is an avid gardening book reader and does a great job reviewing them.
      He also writes about his own garden and reviews the many gardens he visits when travelling.

      • So as a keen gardener you’ve never bought a book on the subject, that I find fascinating!! But as a gardener I do sort of understand – there are so much reference material out there and combine that with the actual feel and look of gardening that any gardener has to experience to understand it then I start to see why garden books wouldn’t appeal to some.
        And Like you I follow gardeninacity.sometimes there are some interesting reviews, and funnily enough I was reading one the other day and got to think about you and your planned trip to England and how I’ll enjoy reading about your impressions of gardens here 🙂

        • Maggie got me a guide book of British gardens for my birthday so i could plan ahead which ones were must sees! Of course I’d love your input, too! Another question i have is this: August weather…besides decent raincoats, what weight clothing should we be bringing? when we lived in Boston, August could either be 85 (or wierdly) drop into the 50s some nights and not hit more than 70 the next day. i like packing LIGHT and am envisioning quite a challenge for a 3wk trip!

          • I’ll be interested to see what you choose to visit! Hmmmm it sounds like Boston weather in August is pretty similar – pack for every occasion! Just think layers, that you can add or take off and I’m sure you’ll be fine

  • It has been years since I purchased a gardening book and I rarely look at them anymore. Like Karen, I have a local gardening group I am connected to. We use an email group to ask questions and get advice. While still very small, I have started a wiki page for our group that documents all our local gardening knowledge. Someone recently gave me a copy of the book “The Year I Ate My Backyard” (or something like that), but I haven’t really gotten into it yet. I see a growing “urban homestead” movement in my area. A lot of people think it is cool now to grow your own veggies and raise chickens. Many are hoping to change how we grow, raise, an distribute food. I don’t see this as something that is going away, so writers/publishers may have a newish market in that arena.

    • what a great idea to share knowledge locally, and to set up a Wikki page – I’m wondering if our allotment people would be interested in doing something similar. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

  • Claire,
    A very thought provoking post!
    We started to winter in Florida about 5 years ago and started updating our garden here last year, so I bought several climate- and geographic-specific garden books to help me sort it all out. I have also bought gardening books by others trying to age in place with large gardens.
    I go to the internet when I’m looking for recipes and have given most of my grandmother’s cook books (and she had many) away. So I guess I find reference works in hard-copy book form worth the shop and buy, but not cookbooks because I have my reference works already (how to cook chinese-style, Julia Childs’ books, Betty Crocker how to, etc.).
    I am a very visual person, so I am a magazine junkie for such as English Gardens, Horticulture, Better Homes and Gardens, Country Gardens, etc. Hard-copy books for this purpose have priced themselves out of the market and there are surprisingly few eBooks of this genre.
    How to get the next generation interested in gardening? Blogs such as yours; more eBooks on the subject; combining DIY trends like using pallets to build vertical gardens in a tiny space ( http://wp.me/p2H8aE-1zu ); inviting young people to your own garden and treating them to something grown in your garden (even just herbs from the windowsill in the off-season). Just some thoughts. Thanks!

    • Thank you Shenandoah for your thoughts on the subject. Interesting that you have given some books away, I think I’d be a bit too sentimental about those!
      And I see why you’d buy geo-gardening books for such different climates, and I can see as a gardener how fun that would be creating two very different kinds of gardens.
      I rarely buy magazines, I got fed up with the repetition involved, so only buy them if I have a long train journey and don’t fancy my book. In fact I find the magazines often more formulaic than books, but maybe that’s me being ultra grumpy!

      • Claire,
        You are right about the difficulty of giving books away — giving anything away from a member of the family is very hard, very sad. But I try to think of the help the book will be to someone else and of how little real use I get from the book presently. Yes, the mags are formulaic, but the photos are what I dwell upon and try to envision what I like about the scene (and how to duplicate it) and what I don’t like (and how to avoid it). It is like visiting a great garden and being forced to only view it from one direction and figure out how they did it!

        • I like your way of seeing magazines – we all get inspiration from all sorts of places, and I guess it’s a way to see more gardens and gardening ideas than time and money and travel allows!

  • My last gardening book purchase was when we bought our house in Maine, and I realized that growing things there was very different than in Houston. Cookbooks….now that’s another story. I can’t resist them even with all the recipes that are on the web.

  • I haven’t purchased a gardening book in quite awhile (over a year, maybe two) but I do have my eye on the next one.
    Cookbooks…my DH is a skilled hand when it comes to cooking without recipes, so it’s been longer for us on the cookbook front, but if the cooking were left to me…it’d probably be the reverse.
    Is it odd that it never occurred to me to check YouTube for gardening? Replacing a bathroom sink, sure. But gardening? I fear I may now spend entirely too much time perusing…

    • Oh no,,,,, YouTube beckons! As with most things there is some real junk on there, but also some gems. I kind of admire people for having a go and making films, another way of sharing information

  • Are those pics of your garden this season? I’m so jealous if they are, my garden is still three feet user the snow! With more to come :(!
    I just bought a cookbook about curries a couple of weeks ago, can’t recall the last gardening book I bought.

    • Hi Eva, the photos were all taken last year in the garden, it’s looking rather forlorn at the moment with the drowning it’s had from the deluge of rain !
      A curry cookbook sounds good to me, I enjoy Madhur Jaffrey and Das Sreedharan’s books for curries 🙂

  • The last gardening book I bought was about 6 years ago when I first started dabbling in organic gardening. Alas, not only have I not looked at one in many a year, but I also haven’t had a garden the last 2 years. Too many issues going on for me, but your post is so interesting, Claire. I think social media could be a great way to engage more folks in gardening. And one of the best bits of info I ever found on composting was on YouTube.

    • Time and life get in the way of gardening don’t they Betsy. Sometimes its such a struggle to balance all the things we need to do with all the things we’d like to do! I think there’s some valuable stuff out there on YouTube, it’s having to trawl through some of the junk on there that can be a bit tiresome, but I admire people for having a go and posting articles, films ideas – I like the principle of sharing information – kind of makes the world go round 🙂

  • Although I haven’t bought a “gardening” book I have purchased two books on foraging and have never stopping buying new and vintage cookbooks. I have so many cookbooks I subscribe to “Eat your Books” so I can search for recipes and ingredients on my own bookshelf as easily as an internet query. I like the feel of paper books and the photography. But I do use the internet……

    • deb I hadn’t heard about eat Your Books so thanks for putting me onto that! It sounds like we have similar approaches, still loving books but finding the internet a great resource,

  • I didn’t need books, I had an 80 year old neighbour called Trixie who advised me. I learned a lot from her. Cooking meals offers instant gratification and feedback,

    • Now that is special – to have learned your gardening from a great resource, someone who has actually seen and done it. You can’t better that!!

  • Hi Claire. Here in NZ we have the Yates Garden Guide which is in it’s 78th edition and has been sold over a million times in 130 years. It is almost an essential purchase for anyone wanting to start out gardening here and most homes have a copy, even if it is from 1970 and recommends liberal use of DDT! The most recent one is much more environmentally aware!
    But I think the publishing industry is in a state of flux and not really sure what to do with the digital age and have dithered so much they have almost missed the boat.
    The other thing to think about is it is a commercial industry and they see people being time poor and living in high rises and think that it isn’t economic to produce gardening books – they do have to sell in great quantities to make a profit.
    The other thing I have discovered is the publishing industry is made up of a collection of individuals who not only decide what gets published, but also how it is presented. Which is a little concerning that such a small percentage of the population determine what is perceived as the way the world is.
    Luckily I was fortunate enough to have some of my blogs turned into a book – which is filled with humour, weeds and ‘real’ gardening and is a long way from your standard gardening books.
    I have loads of gardening books – but the internet is my first point of call when I have a problem or need inspiration.
    Cheers Sarah : o )

    • Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. The NZ book sounds a bit like the Dr Hessayon books here and like them he used to advocate chemicals – its interesting to see how things have changed!
      I think you are right about the publishing industry being in flux and not really knowing what to do – but that isn’t helped by it being held in a few hands – new blood might be an answer. And as you say by “real people for real people” – hope you have a great day!

  • I used to love gardening, especially when I was getting started…but yes, over time, they turned repetitive and boring. That’s when I realized that gardening is best done thru trial-n-error and learning thru friends personal experiences:) I do agree, Claire, with lesser space and a need-for-speed with everything, gardening is a passion that needs to be retained…

    • I also think cooking is trial and error – we discover what works, and what works for us, and hopefully over time as we learn and become more experienced we get better, well hopefully that’s the case 🙂

  • I haven’t bought a gardening book in more than 20 yrs and they were for my dad who loved to flip through the pictures the way that I flip through my cookbooks. The last cookbook I bought was a couple of years ago … a combination of a picture/history and cookbook though I use the internet a LOT for my recipe searches.

    Your pictures would be a great addition to a gardening or picture book.

    • Thanks for your thoughts,like you I use the internet a LOT for searches and recipes and ideas – I like the personal touch that blogs etc bring. And thank you for your compliments! Hope you have a great day

  • Well .. I am a sucker for gardening books .. even though I try to give away the ones that I don’t “need” and try to be so very careful about buying yet another book .. when I see one that is highly unusual it is difficult for me to pass it up. I guess Victoria, BC is just the right place for stores to sell gardening books .. we are so lucky for a vast selection. I do have a great collection. Hmmmmm..I’d made a list a few years ago .. perhaps it’s time to do that again and cull more out. Good blog, Claire! Also “time poor” that is interesting. I was so time poor before I retired .. now .. I’m time rich and most of it is spent in the garden!

    • How wonderful that you are time rich 🙂 and that you have such great bookshops – that I’m envious of, I go to London regularly and sometimes I get a chance to have a wander, and bookshops are often part of that wander, but I find the cookery sections much larger and often with more interesting titles. The gardening bit is often tucked away in the darkest furthest corner…….. I’d be interested to read your list

  • My gardening books to cookbook ratio is almost the same. I do love the feel of a book in my hands. I like turning the pages. I wonder how it will be in the future with everything going electronic. I guess my collection will be “vintage” one day! Ha ha ha. As for gardening, I do love it. It does take a lot of time. I do find I don’t enjoy it as much where I live now. The soil is mostly clay and the weather is not very conducive to growing plants like I’ve done in years past. I spend countless hours amending the soil to the point where I don’t know if I want to do it anymore and let nature have at it. I say that, but know there will be that tug somewhere inside that will say, “Go on…you know you wanna play in the dirt!” Great “thinking” post. Enjoyed it a lot!

    • I know at the moment here in the UK we have had the wettest winter on record for a long time and we are all fed up of it – I can’t go anywhere near my allotment as it’s just soaked, and goodness knows when it will be dry enough to plant out!
      I wonder if blogs will be considered vintage one day 🙂

  • You’ve got me thinking now! I don’t remember buying a gardening book for years, but have been given many… I sometimes buy a magazine, but they are very superficial, with mostly just pictures of before and after! I like to have cookbooks I can refer to again and again for favourite recipes (bought another one only last week!), but gardening books normally don’t inspire me at all and I only use reference books…

    • Isn’t that fascinating Cathy that you don’t find garden books or magazines inspiring. Like me. I think the publishing industry probably needs a kick up the proverbial !!!

  • I have one gardening book: The RHS Encyclopaedia. It tells me everything I need to know that isn’t printed on a potted plant’s name label. If it’s seeds that I’m planting, then the RHS book will cover all the info I need.

    But I also find gardening books dry as dust. I can read a cookery book like a novel but I just can’t do that with a gardening book. Cookery books are inspirational; gardening books are instructive and often restrictive (don’t plant here or there, etc). Recipes are meant for tweaking but you can’t say the same about information in a garden book. It is what it is.

    Another aspect to this (imo) is the move away from ‘real’ food, ie., cooking from scratch using fresh, raw ingredients and the shift toward processed and pre-packaged foods. People are giving up their cookery skills for convenience, and if that’s the case, then what are people going to do with a patch of home-grown carrots or a barrel of potatoes or 20 kilos of apples on a tree that are all ripe at once.

    Anyway, those are just a few of my thoughts about this, Claire. 🙂

    • Loving your thoughts 🙂 and having a capsule gardening bookshelf sounds so practical and simple to ,me. But it was your words “inspirational; gardening books are instructive and often restrictive” that caught my attention the most. And maybe that’s one of the reasons – instructing is a joyless word and makes me think of school…….. Hope your feet are dry!!

      • Yes, our feet are dry here, Claire. Lots of rain but thankfully it’s all outside. Hope you guys are doing okay.

  • Clarie, just beautiful … how to combine reading and gardening. I totally agree that buying anything from the garden centers is no guaranty – rather the opposite. Your photos are so fantastic. So lush. I don’t have any garden .. or green fingers, so I will enjoy follow your adventures. That last photo with the rosemary, so beautiful. Thanks for all the beauty in words and photos.

    • Thanks Vivi, always a pleasure to see/hear from you. I liked the last photo too because of the rain drops on the leaves. Hope you have a great day !

      • Claire, as I said before – it always a pleasure to land in your world. My medical problems don’t allow me to blog everyday. Had a good day today, thanks. *smile

  • Lots of food for thought here (pardon the pun). I bought a gardening book last year for the first time in awhile. Interestingly, it’s written by Sarah the Gardener, a blogger in New Zealand. The intenet lead me to a paper covered book!

    I love the books I do have, but don’t often see books that would enhance my collection. I would hate to think my gardening blog is irrelevant. There is so much to gain from growing a houseplant, a few seeds, bulbs anything that lives, changes and grows. It makes me sad that this could be a lost art.

  • I’m sure that I understand the difference in ratio between cookbooks and gardening, but I buy both. Not in the quantities I once did, but sometimes I do want something to browse through. In the last twelve months I have bought a few gardening books that specialize in succulents and xeriscape landscaping. I find them inspirational and they do give me specific ideas of interesting layouts. And I will still buy a cookbook from time to time, and then share them with friends. But at the same time, I’m probably influenced more by the blogs I read. I take more info in from the blogs, but I still want to “hold” the books! LOL!

    • I wonder if that’s where things are going – towards specialisms like succulent gardening – I can see how you would be inspired and informed by reading up on specialist subjects – and the benefits show in your great garden!
      And isn’t that just brilliant you get info from blogs and want to hold the books – best of both worlds 🙂

  • I’m a definite bibliophile and life without books would be like life without gardening or cooking. I use the internet, but nothing can replace settling down with a good book and a cup of tea. My array of gardening books is eclectic from reference to inspirational. Of course there is a lot of superficial rubbish about, but then there always has been. Creating a good garden takes time and patience and along the way there is always time for a good read and learning from the experience of generations of real gardeners who know the value of earth under the fingernails.

    • I think there are plenty of us who still enjoy sitting down with a good book and a cuppa. and nothing beats experience does it? nothing like watching something work or fail to learn about your soil, your garden, your climate etc.

  • I haven’t bought a gardening book in ages either. I have a few design, some how to grow x, y, z encyclopedia types and some misc stuff. I think revamping the photography could help–they don’t call food photography “food porn” for nothing!

  • What a thoughtful and thought provoking post, Claire! There are a lot of complex issues here and some that I know that the Garden Writers Association is grappling with. One thing to keep in mind is what a local garden designer shared with me, that most of his clients were aging and not able to keep up with their gardens, so were pulling out the fussy plants and going with ornamental grasses, shrubs and trees that needed less attention.

    In the US, the trend is towards regional gardening books, since we have such enormously varied growing conditions across the country. While this is appropriate for specific “care of the garden” topics, it can get pretty boring and this is the type of information available online. To me, the core of an interesting garden book is sharing a new way of “seeing” a garden – how it works, what its purpose is, and what its aesthetic value can be. There are a few of those books out there, but not enough. They depend on writers who actually garden, and honestly, when I first joined the GWA, I was shocked at how many garden writers didn’t actually garden! They are journalists and photographers with an interest in gardening, not the same thing at all. The garden books I love, and still buy, come from those writers who are sharing their deep interest, involvement, and creative work with gardens. I’ve bought several garden books in the past few years, but every single one of them were downloaded to my iPad through a Kindle app. Frankly, there aren’t that many garden book choices in digital form, yet that is the trend for book publication, like it or not.

    As for why do cookbooks sell in spite of recipes freely available online? It all comes back to editing. I don’t buy many cookbooks but when I do find a good one, I know that I can count on a consistency in quality, whereas online recipes have very little quality control and vary wildly. It all comes down once again to a particular talented person testing everything themselves and sharing their findings. When garden writers do that instead of “reporting” on gardens, their books are equally of value.
    Whew, that was a really long answer to your question!

    • thank you so much for sharing your insights and thoughts. – so much fo rme to think about.
      What you say about “the core of an interesting garden book is sharing a new way of “seeing” a garden” and not reporting is probably the reason I buy so few books, what are people adding to the subject.
      An old friend of mine used to be a journalist and worked on many magazines, she invariably found that those working on say health and fitness were probably the least health and fit 🙂
      We don’t have such big variations in climate, but i can understand some of the “local” appeal of books, but again I’m with you on the editing and testing of books whether they are recipes or how to plant a bulb. You need to build a trust as well as a relationship with the reader.
      Thanks again for your comments!

  • Haven’t bought a cooking or gardening book in at least three years. Most of what I want or need to know is online or on Youtube. Isn’t that sad for a book lover like me to say? I have an extensive collection of both, my favorites being my volumes on herbals, both growing and using. I grow some flowers, some veg, but the bulk of what I plant is herbs, and I can’t seem get enough of them.

    I prefer to garden on the wild side. I love natives and make every effort to garden with as many as I can find. I do enjoy the large tomes with all the beautiful photos of gardens, and pottagers, but I wouldn’t want to garden with that much structure! Not even on a small scale.

    What a wonderful article, Claire. You’ve got me thinking about spring!

  • What an interesting and thought provoking post. Cookery programmes are popular on T.V.and the people who watch these are probably the ones who buy cookery books. I don’t think this necessarily means they cook though.
    As for gardening, I don’t know whether young people haven’t got time or whether they want instant gratification and haven’t got the patience to wait for things to grow. I am not surprised if gardening books don’ t sell very well. If people haven’t got time to garden I don’t suppose they have time to read. Anyway most modern gardening books seem to be celebrity driven, or they are boring how- to -do books, or even more tedious; lists of plants. I buy gardening books all the time and I have a vast library of them. But they are all second hand and vintage books, written in a more leisurely age when knowledgeable and experienced gardeners took the time to tell you about their plants and gardens. This sort of discursive gardening book has gone out of fashion but there are still plenty of us who appreciate them.

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