The best garden books to revisit again and again

Ann Ralph Author Of Grow a Little Fruit Tree: Simple Pruning Techniques for Small-Space, Easy-Harvest Fruit Trees
By Ann Ralph

The Books I Picked & Why

The Essential Earthman: Henry Mitchell on Gardening

By Henry Clay Mitchell

Book cover of The Essential Earthman: Henry Mitchell on Gardening

Why this book?

For years Henry Mitchell wrote for The Washington Post about the agony and the ecstasy of gardening and, consequently, everything else. This classic is laced with pith, wit, gems, and instruction throughout. No one does it better or funnier. The easiest path is to quote the man himself: “Shasta daisies are far more agreeable and lovely than one thinks they are going to be.”


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

Botanica's Roses: The Encyclopedia of Roses

By Peter Beales

Book cover of Botanica's Roses: The Encyclopedia of Roses

Why this book?

Because of obvious limitations—space in the garden, sun, availability, and one’s responsibility to be a conscientious steward during a probably unending California drought—it’s impossible to grow as many roses as one would like. It’s not impossible, however, to content oneself with two or three plants for cutting flowers, and, instead, moon over this comprehensive collection of gorgeous photographs, descriptions of form, petal counts, habits, parentage, and scents. Keep 2,000 roses on the bookshelf. This book is a treasure.


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

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

By Christopher Alexander

Book cover of A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

Why this book?

This comprehensive book about architecture gets at the heart of the garden we live in, the environment where we reside. Each short section on topics as diverse as “Shopping Street,” “Entrance Transition,” “Tree Places,” or “Pools of Light” directs to related sections where you’ll find guidance about how to build or at least encourage a world that works for people, a world that feels right, a world we belong in, and one that feels like home. This world necessarily includes shared public and private spaces, work, light through windows, views, fruit trees, and a place for an old person to sit in the sun.


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

The New Sunset Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide

By The Editors of Sunset

Book cover of The New Sunset Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide

Why this book?

For more than half a century the Sunset Western Garden Book was the first and last word for Western gardeners. This compendium established a zonal system specifically for the nuanced West, and provided exhaustive, accurate, updated, and unbiased information, plant by plant, variety by variety, from A to Z. It offered a selection guide for specific situations suited to inland heat and the temperate coast. It provided basic information about planting, pests, soils, pruning, and weeds. I sold hundreds of copies of this indispensable volume to nursery customers. My co-workers did the same. That the sun has set on this essential field guide to gardening in the West is a bitter pill. Our Western gardens are diminished without it.


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

Get Your Pitchfork On! The Real Dirt on Country Living

By Kristy Athens

Book cover of Get Your Pitchfork On! The Real Dirt on Country Living

Why this book?

Most of us who took action on our ache to “get back to the land” gave ourselves over to a rustic bucolia we’d created in our minds. And, yes, as it turned out, it was all of that, the harmony of seasons, the deep peace, the night sky, the quail, and deer. It was other things, too, things we hadn’t reckoned on—isolation, endless labor, and the hourly rate of the well man. Readable and entertaining, Get Your Pitchfork On! eases the urban to rural transition with hard-won practical advice. It will infuse your dream, whatever its scale, with a healthy dose of preparedness to assure its best chance of success. 


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

Closely Related Book Lists

Distantly Related Book Lists