The best books for designing your dream garden

Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit Author Of How to Window Box: Small-Space Plants to Grow Indoors or Out
By Chantal Aida Gordon and Ryan Benoit

The Books I Picked & Why

The Beautiful Edible Garden: Design a Stylish Outdoor Space Using Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs

By Leslie Bennett, Stefani Bittner

Book cover of The Beautiful Edible Garden: Design a Stylish Outdoor Space Using Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs

Why this book?

As primarily ornamental gardeners, we’ve fallen back on the old excuse about tomato plants being ugly as the reason why we don’t do edible gardening. It’s a lazy excuse! The Beautiful Edible Garden shows that its titular premise is so not an oxymoron. And it hits the two things we look for most in a garden design book, which are: (1) hyperspecific plant recommendations and (2) solid design principles we can learn from and put into action. Through lucid, inviting instructions and scrumptious photos, The Beautiful Edible Garden offers gold like how to select “anchor plants” to establish structure in a landscape, blueberries and culinary sweet bay being top picks. And the transformational effect of planting a “focal point” plant — which has us hankering to bring in a persimmon tree. 


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

Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You

By Amanda Thomsen

Book cover of Kiss My Aster: A Graphic Guide to Creating a Fantastic Yard Totally Tailored to You

Why this book?

Blending Thomsen’s signature humor with her rockin’ expertise, Kiss My Aster is the book you give to your cool friend who just moved into a house with a yard. This raucously illustrated guide gets into the soup-to-nuts of designing a garden — from the different types of soil and drainage essentials to the best vines to plant to why you might need a Japanese maple. (“Or six.”) Learn how to handle pests, and see what Thomsen wears when she’s weeding and deadheading versus when she’s demolishing, digging, and planting. Designwise, the book shows you irreverent ways to play with tall plants, textured foliage, and one-off “specimen plants.” It’s also opinionated — guiding you to a more sustainable gardening life and away from tired lava rocks. 


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

Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants

By Igor Josifovic, Judith de Graaff

Book cover of Urban Jungle: Living and Styling with Plants

Why this book?

What if your garden is completely indoors? This coffee table book encapsulates the #plantparenthood aesthetic (love it or hate it) of houseplants mobbed together and houseplants punctuating smooth, sunlit interiors. What gives Urban Jungle real cred though are its specific plant recommendations and care tips. It’s instructive to see what plants you can pair (or herd) together in similar spots — like an opuntia in a super-bright window paired with a huge Dracaena reflexa lurking five feet away. And indeed a fiddle-leaf fig, snake plant, kentia palm, Pilea peperomioides, schefflera, and spider plant all gathered together not only make sense light-wise but are an intriguing study in contrasting textures. It also inspired us to put a palm in front of a warmly colored accent wall.


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

My Garden

By Jamaica Kincaid

Book cover of My Garden

Why this book?

Now that you know what plants to put where, it's time to explore how those plants will never stop playing with your emotions. Kincaid writes with incredible emotional precision about the gardens she’s designed and planted — evoking specific hybrids of buddleia and aster that’ll send you googling and giving words to the anxiety of a wisteria that’s blooming more than two months late. The pages of My Garden are peppered with Latin names and inspiring combos, like a banana tree in a pot “looking happy amid a background of plants alien to it” including evergreens and monkshood. These plants and design elements like ponds take us on flashbacks to Kincaid’s childhood and young adulthood, and yes, into the scourge of colonization that even the dahlia can’t escape.


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

V. Sackville West's Garden Book

By Vita Sackville-West

Book cover of V. Sackville West's Garden Book

Why this book?

One of the GOATs of garden design, Sackville-West wrote a gardening column in The Observer from 1947 to 1961, and those discursive, dishy columns are compiled in this book. Twelve chapters for twelve months make this massive topic easier to enter, but Sackville-West's unpretentious yet opinionated writing already hooks you instantly. In this book, you can conspire on a “green, grey, and white garden” and learn exactly what plants and hardscaping you need. In the May chapter, find a radical way to grow clematis (horizontally instead of vertically) with a quick DIY. Sackville-West argues for the design benefits of her recommendations (for the clematis, enjoying the upturned flowers without craning your neck). But knowing many of these principles were applied to the famed Sissinghurst garden is all the convincing we need. 


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