Gardening books I’m reading right now


I’m going to need a bigger bedside table.

Here’s what I’m reading right now, and just look at this awesome selection of design-oriented gardening books (and one magazine). I expect to review some of these in coming months, after the garden-tour craziness is behind me. But in case you’re starting to make your holiday wish list, I thought I’d go ahead and share these with you. All but two I bought for myself; Hummelo was sent for review, and my DH gave me Planting in a Post-Wild World for my birthday. I mention this just so you know I’ve put my money where my mouth is on these publications.

Garden Design magazine. One issue of this quarterly, ad-free, “bookazine” will keep you in great garden reading for weeks. The current issue includes in-depth articles about designing for drought, Piet Oudolf’s immersive planting style, plant explorer Dan Hinkley’s garden, and more. Variety, depth, and gorgeous eye candy. What more do you need from a gardening magazine?

Hummelo: A Journey Through a Plantsman’s Life by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury. This is the story of Piet Oudolf’s evolution from beginning designer to renowned plantsman and founder of the New Perennials movement. I’ve gotten a bit bogged down in the extensive detail about Oudolf’s early years establishing his nursery and design business, but even so, I’m intrigued by the impact of community in shaping the designer he is today. This is a book I’ll come back to soon.

Sunset Western Garden Book of Easy-Care Plantings: The Ultimate Guide to Low-Water Beds, Borders, and Containers. Sunset’s focus on the West excludes central Texas, but it still has relevance to the gardening we do here. Drought, heat, sustainable gardening, and an emphasis on outdoor living are covered, and plenty of gorgeous garden photos illustrate various elements of design. I eagerly read through this one already and will go back and do a slower perusal this fall.

The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer by R. William Thomas. Chanticleer stole my heart when I visited several years ago, and so I eagerly snapped up this book, written by head gardener Bill Thomas and photographed by the talented Rob Cardillo, when it came out. I’m learning so much about how Chanticleer’s creative gardens are imagined, planted, and maintained. I’m engrossed and carrying this book with me everywhere right now.

Outstanding American Gardens: A Celebration: 25 Years of the Garden Conservancy. Showcasing “eight gardens the conservancy has helped preserve and 43 of the more than 3,000 private gardens across the country that have been opened to the public through its Open Days Program,” including the Austin garden of James David, this book looks like an eye candy extravaganza with photos by Marion Brenner. I look forward to reading it and hope there’ll be plenty of commentary about the gardens as well.

Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West. This book is getting a lot of buzz in the design community, and it’s next on my reading list, after I finish the Chanticleer book. I’ve followed co-author and landscape architect Thomas Rainer’s insightful blog, Grounded Design, for years and am sure his book will be as intelligently written.


Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart. Although this isn’t a gardening title, I include it because it’s written by Amy Stewart, better known as the author of Wicked Plants and The Drunken Botanist, and because this fun story recently kept me entertained on a long plane ride home from L.A. Unlikely heroine Constance Kopp is a no-nonsense, battle-ready recluse who gets sucked into a cat-and-mouse drama with a nasty gangster. Set in 1914 and based on a true story, Girl is Amy’s first venture into historical fiction. Her talent for story-telling turns a dusty historical news clipping into a lively detective novel.

Are you reading any of these? If not, add them to your list! And why not tell me what gardening titles you’re reading?

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Austin-area gardening friends, come to the Inside Austin Gardens Tour this Saturday! My garden will be on tour, along with 6 others. Tour tickets may be purchased at each garden for $5 each or $20 for all. I’ll also have autographed copies of my book Lawn Gone! for sale ($20), if you’re looking for fall reading or an early holiday gift.

Inside Austin Gardens Tour
Saturday, October 17, 2015
9:00 am to 4:00 pm

All material © 2006-2015 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

15 Responses

  1. Wow, all seemingly well worth reading. The Garden Design “bookazine” is just that – I LOVE it. We just started carrying it at the nursery, we are thrilled! I’ll have to track down a few of these others, too. Have you read Plant Driven Design yet? I’m sure you have, that’s a favorite.

  2. TexasDeb says:

    All great choices!

    I too snapped up the “Planting in a Post-Wild World” the day it came out. Rainier’s style is one I greatly admire (and occasionally attempt to emulate). I’ll be checking out Amy Stewart’s fiction debut once I get finished with “The Drunken Botanist”, and I also have a lovely book on Sissinghurst to read once the gardening chore list pares down a bit.

    I’ll confess- I am bad about finishing reading gardening books. I tend to find something I want to try and the book goes back onto the pile and sits there for….a very VERY long time.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      The nice thing about gardening books is they tend to be visual and easy to pop in and out of. Sounds like a genre that works with your reading habits, Deb. —Pam

  3. Hi Pam, great to hear what you think. I’m also glad that you pointed out how many you bought. I also bought several this year including Planting in a Post-Wild World. I’m thinking about by Hummelo too. I also bought Girl Waits With Gun. I hope to read all of these as soon as the tours are over. Good luck on Saturday.~~Dee

  4. Alison says:

    Hadn’t heard of the Sunset Western book about low-water gardens, I’ll have to check that one out. I’m intrigued by Girl Waits With Gun too. But I’m pretty sure Amy Stewart has published fiction before. The Last Bookstore in America came out in 2009, and I enjoyed it very much.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Well, I’ll be, Alison. You’re right about The Last Bookstore. It’s described variously as a novella and an ebook, so I wonder if that’s why it doesn’t get mentioned in reviews or on Amy’s own Amazon author page? At any rate, I’ve amended my description to “first venture into historical fiction.” :-) —Pam

  5. Marilyn Rodriguez says:

    Love getting multiple recommendations all at once!

  6. Kris P says:

    I’ve got the Sunset book – I pick up just about anything Sunset puts out. Right now I’m reading Olivier Filippi’s “The Dry Gardening Handbook: Plants and Practices for a Changing Climate”. I should check out the Rainer/West collaboration and I hope to get to Amy Stewart’s new book soon.

  7. I’ve finally started Deep Rooted Wisdom which I picked up at Timber Press during the Portland Fling. Oh to have days and days to read and catch up on all the titles in my library waiting to be read.

  8. Luisa says:

    Belated thanks for a great post. My only “problem” (and if this is the biggest problem I face for the rest of my life, I’ll die happy) is that these are books (and a great magazine) I want to read and look through and enjoy as BOOKS, as opposed to Kindle material. It may be time to hit Ikea for another bookshelf…

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