The best books that totally change the way you think about plants and gardens, from giant trees to fragile flowers

Jane S. Smith Author Of The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants
By Jane S. Smith

The Books I Picked & Why

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

By Michael Pollan

Book cover of The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World

Why this book?

I love the way Michael Pollen makes us take the plant’s point of view, reminding us of how often we are coaxed to grow, eat, admire, and revere things that we “think” we discovered ourselves.  

I also love that Johnny Appleseed and Luther Burbank grew up as near neighbors, just a few years apart. Inland Massachusetts as an agricultural hotbed—who knew?


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Urban Garden: How One Community Turned Idle Land into a Garden City and How You Can, Too

By Jeremy N. Smith

Book cover of The Urban Garden: How One Community Turned Idle Land into a Garden City and How You Can, Too

Why this book?

This gorgeous and touching book shows the many ways community gardens are more than a name—they build community. In a time when it’s so easy to feel helpless, here are ordinary people taking small steps with a big impact. I particularly loved the use of community garden time as alternative sentencing for teen offenders, and how the kids turned around and used their skills to help homebound seniors. 


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The World Was My Garden: Travels of a Plant Explorer

By David Fairchild

Book cover of The World Was My Garden: Travels of a Plant Explorer

Why this book?

David Fairchild was one of the early leaders of the US Department of Agriculture, traveling the world like a botanical Indiana Jones to gather cuttings and learn about local methods of cultivation and pest control.  He introduced thousands of new crops to the United States, from mangos to soybeans. Wouldn’t you love to list “plant explorer” as your job description?


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

The Orchid Thief

By Susan Orlean

Book cover of The Orchid Thief

Why this book?

Like all of Orlean’s work, The Orchid Thief is beautifully written, a surprising and often funny portrait of a man obsessed with the dream of finding, cloning, and selling a rare and protected orchid. Orlean takes us into the secret world of bio-piracy and reminds us that flowers are not just emblems of luxury and beauty. They are also big business.


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Trees in Paradise: The Botanical Conquest of California

By Jared Farmer

Book cover of Trees in Paradise: The Botanical Conquest of California

Why this book?

This fascinating book answers questions you never thought to ask. What would Southern California be without citrus groves or palm trees? Why does the Australian eucalyptus cover so much of this western state, and who were the elite conservatives who saw their own survival in the battle to save the redwoods? Find out here!


When you buy a book we may earn a small commission.

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists