It’s RHS Chelsea all week, and I was lucky enough to go to the preview today – such a treat in the unexpected sunshine, and admire the extraordinary breadth of plants and flowers on display.
Which leads me neatly to two horticultural books which both make a virtue of breadth. The first is Botanical Shakespeare: An Illustrated Compendium of All the Flowers, Fruits, Herbs, Trees, Seeds, and Grasses Cited by the World’s Greatest Playwright, a lovely work of scholarship, which does exactly what it says on the tin
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine”
The Gardener’s Garden aims to be the ‘ultimate collection of the world’s most outstanding gardens’, arranged geographically by continent. It features over 250 permanent gardens by leading garden designers, horticulturalists and landscape architects, including Capability Brown, John Brookes, Sir Charles Jencks and Thomas Jefferson, via Dan Pearson, Beth Chatto, Topher Delaney, Madison Cox, Piet Oudolf and Derek Jarman and more, ranging from the 14th century to the present day.
From Iran to Gloucestershire, California to Dungeness, the book covers every possible gardening genre ranging from the classicism of Villa d’Este in Italy to the quintessentially 21st century urban space of the High Line in Manhattan, and encompasses a vast array of garden types (courtyard, rooftop, parks, orchards, landscape gardens, kitchen gardens, water gardens) and garden styles (cottage, English, formal, alpine, tropical, Renaissance, Mediterranean and New Perennial).
Unlike many coffee table books, it is actively useful, as well as aesthetically pleasing: Each entry includes a selection of images showing overviews and planting details through the seasons, with accompanying text listing both design and planting features. Key details such as the location, designer, date, type, style, size and climate are also listed for each garden.
Botanical Shakespeare: An Illustrated Compendium of All the Flowers, Fruits, Herbs, Trees, Seeds, and Grasses Cited by the World’s Greatest Playwright by
The Gardener’s Garden is edited by published by Phaidon. £29.95
Both books were sent as review copies in spring 2017.