Whilst the internet is useful and practical as a source of information, I remain a devotee of books. Nothing beats relaxing with a good gardening book, or that wonderful feel and smell of a book as you get your nose stuck into it!
My gardening library is extensive and I collect garden history books. Amongst it are a number of gardening books that have shaped and influenced my own gardening journey. All come highly recommended by me.
Firstly Peter Cundall’s The Practical Australian Gardener, (Penguin), is exceptional. It gives a month by month guide of garden tasks and includes aspects like growing potatoes under straw, companion planting and dealing with pests without using toxic chemicals. If you only own one gardening book, this is probably my very top recommendation.
Another book that acted as a companion to my own love of bird watching and attracting birds into my garden is Birdsacaping Your Garden, by George Adams. My copy is a first edition and was published by Rigby in 1980; however, it is still readily available, in updated editions. It lists native plants that will attract and provide habitat for local bird species.
In 1997, I purchased a copy of Louis Glowinski’s The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia. (Lothian 1997, paperback) Glowinski has an extensive orchard in his garden in Melbourne. His research here combines practical grower’s information, with the history of the extensive fruit and nut species he describes.
On a more esoteric note is Secrets of Monet’s Garden, by Dereck Fell. (Friedman/Fairfax 1997). The lessons I took from Fell’s exploration of Monet and Giverny was that of planting to maximise the drama of a garden, via knowledge of colour and light combinations to accord with daylight and seasonal sun patterns in your garden. This knowledge gave my previous garden in Melbourne the capacity to “dance” in whatever light of the day, through the seasons. I incorporated edible plants into my own scheme and also learned much about including height and linking my garden to that of my neighbours to create an illusion of increased space by capturing and creating views that led beyond my own tiny garden.
Clive Blazey of Digger’s Club fame, put together The Australian Vegetable Garden (New Holland 1999). This is my favourite ever comprehensive reference for vegetable growing. Indeed, anything Clive Blazey, or Digger's Club puts out is enjoyable and informative. Bias towards heritage plants and waterwise gardening is equally noteworthy.
I can go no further without referring to kitchen garden books as another profound influence on my development as a gardener. I have a number of these, but my all- time favourite is Kate Herd’s Kitchen Gardens of Australia, published by the Lantern/Penguin. It delivers fabulous photographs, along with plans and descriptions of some truly inspiring kitchen gardens. Another great book for drawing inspiration from.
As a passionate rose lover and grower, Susan Irvine’s Fragrant Roses, (Hyland House), is an excellent guidebook for both rose lovers and those wishing to use roses as a fragrant design feature. My climbing roses have provided safe and secure nesting places for both doves and honey eaters over the years.
Then there is Jackie French’s Backyard Self-Sufficiency and Chook Book, (Aird Books), I have found both inspiring and entertaining, as well as highly informative.
Continuing along to my formal training and development as a Permaculture Designer, key sources of knowledge, inspiration and instruction have been David Holmgren’s Permaculture Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (Holmgren Design Services 2006), as well as Bill Mollison’s Permaculture a Designer’s Manual (A Tagari Publication 1988). These two books, explain and outline the concepts that underpin both the practice and philosophy that is permaculture. Both are pretty dense and you may find books such as Linda Woodrow’s The Home Permaculture Garden, (Viking/Penguin 1996) or Jenny Allen’s Smart Permaculture Design, (New Holland 2002), more accessible introductions to the concepts of permaculture.
To go back to my gardening roots, indoor plants can’t be left out. They provided my very first platform to develop, care for and experiment with a plant collection, create microclimates and consider vital elements of light availability and the plants requirements to thrive. Here Alan Seale’s Complete Guide to Indoor Gardening (Reed Books 1986), along with The Complete Book of Houseplants and Indoor Gardening (Octopus Books 1976).
Most recently, I was awarded a unique little book by The Ballarat Permaculture Guild, on completion of my Permaculture Design Certificate. It is as charming in its design, as it is transformative in its content, Grubb and Raser-Rowland’s The Weed Forager’s Handbook, published by Highland House.