Updated: Sep 14, 2022
I am a lover of the written word. Hardly surprising as someone who writes for a number of magazines and has a blog; you may very-well have already guessed that. Despite its obviousness, writing, specifically garden writing, has long interested me: providing an opportunity to understand the approach others take to the process of gardening, the value and appreciation of plants and theories behind garden design. I collect books and long have done, with several thousand on all things horticultural, garden and plant (as well as other subjects of interest) adorning shelves in my office and elsewhere throughout my home.
While I inevitably use the internet for a lot of research for work, I gravitate towards books as my preferred sources of information.
As such, I thought it would be a good idea to share some of my favourite books with you as a guide to help anyone setting out in professional horticulture or garden design or the keen home gardener find to useful and interesting resources.
In most cases, good garden, plant and garden design books should be heavily adorned with images to explain ideas. Scenes of sumptuous planting and clever design being far better explored visually than (almost) any description could ever conjure in the mind's eye.
For simplicity I have broken into categories and provide only three of each type. In this first post I will look at two subjects and offer my favourite three books on each. Narrowing down selection was in itself a challenge, but important to be clear and helpful. In this page, we will cover Technical and Illustrative Drawing (focusing on hand drawing rather than digital here) and Horticultural Textbooks. Most are designed for the professional market, but a keen domestic gardener, or student in garden design or horticulture would, I'm sure get a good deal out of them.
Essentially, this is the iPlantsman reading list!
Technical & Illustrative Drawing for Garden Designers and Landscape Architects
Landscape Graphics by Grant Reid is a very useful book to help develop illustrative style and explains the value of different perspective and elevation drawings in communicating a design. Not a how to design book, but a how to draw your designs. I have had this book since I was a student and for freehand design drawing it has yet to be bettered in my humble opinion.
Architecture: Form, Space and Order by Francis Ching is both a book on drawing and principles of architectural design. It looks at history and discusses theories on layout, human use of space, views, proportion, balance and so much more. Hundreds of pencil drawings explain principles and highlight various approaches to laying out space. A mixture of a visual guide and interpreter of design, it is useful to copy images in developing illustrative style as much as it is as a guide to understand concepts behind architecture and design. The Author has produced other books on drawing for Garden and Landscape design well worth reading as well.
Landscape Detailing Books 1-4 by Michael Littlewood remain utterly invaluable resources for designers detailing construction outside. Not cheap, but timeless and a valuable guide to primarily 2D technical drawing of construction elements. Book 1 focuses Boundaries and details Walls (retaining and freestanding), Fences, Barriers, Gates and elements which divide space. Capping and finial detailing is included. Book 2 looks at Surfaces, detailing paving of various types, steps, ramps, changes in level and drainage. Book 3 looks at Structures, detailing everything from outdoor furniture to pergolas, arches, rooves, signage, decks, sheds and more. Book 4 looks at Water and details various types of ponds and pools, jetties, edge restraints, islands, fountains, waterfalls, features and more. These are valuable reference books that contain useful tables of information on recommended dimensions for paths, rooves, parking spaces and much more. Particularly helpful for professional garden designers who want to be sure that construction is clearly detailed before it is undertaken.
Horticultural Textbooks for Professionals and Keen Gardeners
Just to be clear, here I am talking about the subject of Horticulture and not gardening. A look at the various facets of the study of Plant and Soil Science, Botany, Ecology, as well as principles of horticultural techniques and a little garden design. Gardening and elements related to it will be covered in a separate post.
A Handbook for Horticultural Students by Peter Dawson has long been a go to text for anyone studying horticulture. It is expansive in subject areas and concise in detail and description, making it accessible and extremely useful to those starting out. Further detail will be required as students progress through the levels of study, but this handbook has the cornerstone of student learning in its chapters. Simple illustrations are clear to follow and text that rarely uses two words where one will do. A great opener to build knowledge and understanding. At least one new edition to the one listed here has been printed, but is not available on Amazon or elsewhere as far as I can see. Peter Dawson used to sell the books directly to students, but I am not sure if this is still an option.
Principles of Horticulture Level 2 and Level 3 (below) by Charles Adams, Mike Early, Jane Brook and Katherine Bamford. I am including both books as one they follow on from level 2 students to level 3. A wealth of information with key terms highlighted in the text and defined in the glossary. Excellent images throughout to explain ideas and particularly useful for students are the plants given as examples to explain specific issues. Two definitive texts that have long been of value to both students and graduates looking for a refresher. My only real criticism of both books is that they need to be revised to include new concepts and embed more on sustainability into the text.
The Fundamentals of Horticulture Edited by Chris Bird (multiple authors depending on chapter topic). Another great guide to the ideas surrounding Horticulture from what constitutes a plant to growing crops commercially and much in between. It includes technical detail sufficient for those starting out and is readable enough to be suitable to the very keen domestic gardener. It possibly doesn't marry the balance between learning out of interest and learning for professional studies as well as it might, though since the difference between the two is so vast, it is probably trying to bridge a gap too far. Full colour images throughout compliment the text and it is a very good start at looking at the subject.
Please note, the links to Amazon are paid affiliate links. If you purchase a product from Amazon, using this link I will receive a small payment from them. It doesn't cost you anything and the product is priced as per the Amazon price. Thanks
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