Summer books of 2020: Gardens


Tony Hall, Kew Publishing, RRP£25/RRP$35

If your garden has been knocked back by 2020’s dry spring, this book offers a way to plan for more resilient borders. Tony Hall’s vast experience as manager of the Arboretum and gardens at the Royal Botanic gardens, Kew is put to good use profiling more than 200 annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees.

Alice Vincent, Canongate, RRP£14.99/RRP$19.97

Vincent’s story is being held up as a guidebook to the millennial generation’s fascination with plants, but it’s more than that. This beautifully composed memoir, published back in January, now seems a prescient pre-Covid-19 account of how unsatisfactory a life disconnected from nature can be.

Aaron Bertelsen, Phaidon, RRP£24.95/RRP$39.95

The false divide between gardening books and recipe books has long been a source of puzzlement to me, so it’s refreshing to see a gardener from the legendary Great Dixter house and gardens tackling the topic of container-based food growing in one volume. Expect lush photography teamed with plenty of practical advice.

Laetitia Maklouf, National Trust Books, RRP£9.99/RRP$14.95

I suspect many people tamed an overgrown garden during lockdown, only to feel overwhelmed about keeping all those crops and flowers looking good now they are back to work. If that sounds familiar, Laetitia Maklouf’s book will help. This month-by-month guide breaks everything down to short spells — what she calls ‘five minute flings’ — so you can take back control of your borders.

Modern Plant Hunters: Adventures in Pursuit of Extraordinary Plants

Sandy Primrose, Pimpernel, RRP£30/RRP$45

The phrase ‘plant hunter’ may conjure up the figure of a Victorian gentleman plunging through the undergrowth, yet the men and women who travel the world in search of new plants today have a very different outlook and agenda. Primrose profiles the plant hunters who seek out new species in pursuit of plant conservation, medicine, and more.

All this week, FT writers and critics choose their favourites — from politics, economics, science and history to art, tech, food and wellness. Novels, poetry and audiobooks feature too. Explore the series here

Join our online book group on Facebook at FT Books Café. Listen to our podcast, Culture Call, where FT editors and special guests discuss life and art in the time of coronavirus. Subscribe on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen.

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