Book Review: What to sow, grow and do by Benjamin Pope and Sustainable Garden by Marian Boswall

When I was asked if I wanted to review these two books I could not have said yes fast enough.  I had already seen that they had been published and I had added them to my 'I need to read these books' list.

I know I am very lucky to be gifted books to review.  I have not paid for these books nor been paid to write this review, my words and opinions are as every my own.  Just know: whilst I keep telling myself I need to stop buying gardening books, that I would have most likely bought both of these.  Which might be all you need to know as a review.

What to sow, grow and do by Benjamin Pope
This book does exactly what the title says it does.  What more could you want from a book?  This book tells us what we should be doing and underpinned by Benjamin's approach and philosophy about gardening.  Benjamin is currently a Head Gardener at a private garden.  He also lectures on gardening and is a member of the RHS Herbaceous Committee.  Yet with all this experience and knowledge Benjamin  knows he is still learning.  Benjamin tells us he is guided by the seasons and not the calendar and that he observes so that he understands the garden, the landscape, the plants around him.  This is a very readable book with almost lyrical descriptions opening each section and then good, concise information that tells you all you need to know.

We are led through general pruning advice and gardening terms.  The seasons are explained to us and the book is sectioned into seasons.  Not just the four standard seasons though, the more nuanced early/late part of each season as early Spring and late Spring (and so on) which are quite different in terms of what you can expect and do in the garden.
There is information about which plants are in season, there are garden task lists and projects such as making plant supports or creating an autumn wreath.  We are encouraged to 'celebrate the season', which is probably my favourite part of each section.  Each season brings its own joy and we need to embrace that so that we appreciate the time we are in at that moment.  There is care and attention to detail threaded through this book.  Planting projects are explained so that we know what we are doing: so if we are planting a new hedge some good plant suggestions are made, we are told how to prepare the ground, how far apart plants should be and also to check that the plants themselves are in the best state to be planted so that damaged stems and damaged roots are removed.

The photographs by Kim Lightbody illustrate tasks and add beauty to the book and complement the words perfectly.

This is a wonderful book and will add value to any gardener's bookshelf (there is space, I promise).

What to sow, grow and do by Benjamin Pope is a Bloom Book for Frances Lincoln Publishing

Sustainable Garden by Marian Boswall
Marian Boswall leads a highly successful design practice working with private and public landowners to create beautiful sustainable landscapes.  Marian is passionate about reconnecting with nature and regeneration and rewilding.  It is therefore no surprise that this book is more than just how to complete some projects, it is a beautifully written book aimed to inform and inspire.  I was drawn in by the opening sentences in the introduction and was not let go until the end of the book.  This is a book about how to garden and why we garden and why the way we garden matters.  I think a lot of people, I certainly include myself, are trying to garden in a more sustainable and climate change friendly-way.  This book does not lecture, it does not threaten, it gently holds you hand, looks deep into your eyes and says 'trust me, I can show you some good ideas and broaden your understanding'.

and it did broaden my understanding.  This book is full of beautiful photographs by Jason Ingram and written with great style.  It is not a soppy book; Marian does not shirk from telling us what we need to know.  The section on comparing materials on pages 50/51 is eye opening.  It demonstrates clearly the challenges in deciding which materials we might use and the environmental cost using a variety of measures is shown. 

But I am getting ahead of myself, as Marian starts the book with talking about thinking about how we live and how we want to live.  She talks about creating spaces with our gardens, with nature, rather than just doing things to it.  Marian asks us how we want to live.  What is practical for us to do to be more sustainable.  Rather than rushing into things Marian wants us to stop and think and find our way that will work with our lives.  Marian is reasonable, she knows that some people have more money than others and some more time than others.  Marian is open enough to say that if you are reading the book you probably are lucky enough to have enough to eat as you can afford to buy the book; but also that you might be still very aware that we need to live more within our means.  So the book is about what you can do with the resources that you already have.  (You can of course pass the book on when you have finished with it.  I am a great believer in charity shops and in buying second hand books.)   If you have the budget, but little time then you might pay someone to help with your garden, if you have no budget but more time then you can do it yourself at a pace that works for you.  You do not have to go and buy lots of plants and new things, indeed Marian is saying work with what you have when you can.

Cost is not just about money, cost is also to the planet.  Marian talks about the price of peat in terms of its impact on the planet.  There is a discussion about water and how to use it responsibly and about the use (or not) of plastics.  These may well not be new themes to you, but that does not make them something that could be omitted and Marian explains well and gives us ways to garden keeping these issues in mind.

I like the sections where Marian is talking us through projects and about reusing and recycling.  Finding new purposes for items that might otherwise end up as landfill.  Marian also talks to us about how we source our plants, where from and what to look out for.  There is also a project to make a lawn spiral.  I have wanted to make a lawn spiral for a very long time.  It is not difficult to do, it does not have to be big.  Maybe this is the book that will finally prompt me to just do it!  

This is a very comprehensive book looking at every aspect of the sustainable garden.  I loved reading this book, I learned a lot and it was a pleasure to read.  I know I will read it again.  As I am sure you have already planned to add Benjamin's book to your bookshelp you know you can squeeze another one in.....

Sustainable Garden by Marian Boswall is published by Frances Lincoln Publishing

Take care and be kind

For more from the Blackberry Garden follow me on Twitter Facebook and Instagram