The best practical gardening books

Who am I?

I love gardening and learning about unusual plants but I find that many gardening books don’t provide a lot of useful advice. I grow over 3,000 different types of plants and have a background in chemistry and biochemisty. I teach gardening to new gardeners and garden design to more experienced gardeners. My students want to learn practical things like solving pest problems and growing plants with more flowers. I am always on the lookout for books that provide them with hands-on practical advice they can use right away. 


I wrote...

Garden Myths: Book 1

By Robert Pavlis,

Book cover of Garden Myths: Book 1

What is my book about?

I became frustrated with all of the myths I found in traditional gardening information, both online and in books so I wrote Garden Myths. In it I look at over 120 common garden myths and explain the truth about each one, using science-based information. This knowledge will save you time and money, and allow you to grow better plants. 

This book answers questions like, is fall the best time to clean the garden, do bloom boosters work, will citronella plants reduce mosquitoes in the garden, do pine needles acidify soil, should tomatoes be suckered, should trees be staked at planting time, can burlap keep your trees warm in winter and will a pebble tray increase humidity for houseplants?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Pruning Book

Robert Pavlis Why did I love this book?

I have known Lee Reich through his writings for a number of years and I find his books factual and practical. He simplifies gardening down to some basic principles and then tells you exactly how to copy his style in your own garden. 

Pruning can be a daunting task for those who have not done very much of it, but it can be quite straightforward. In The Pruning Book, Lee simplifies the process of understanding why you need to prune something and then he shows you exactly when and how to do it.

By Lee A. Reich,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pruning Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It sounds simple enough, but pruning can confound even the most competent gardener. This new edition of Taunton's award-winning book explains the dos and don'ts of cutting back; from humble houseplants to the most amazing exotics, readers learn how to make the right cut the first time, every time. With straightforward prose, over 250 photographs and 135 drawings, this essential reference walks gardeners through the process of pruning everything from ornamental trees and bushes to topiaries and bonsai. This demystifies the timing and techniques that result in the most successful pruning for healthy growth and good form. Updated with the…


Book cover of Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs

Robert Pavlis Why did I love this book?

Trees and shrubs – the woody plants – form the backbone of any garden and most gardeners only have room for a small number of them. It is therefore important to pick the best ones for the location you have. Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs is the best woody plant book available. It is full of hundreds of pictures and detailed plant descriptions. Michael Dirr is considered a global expert on these plants and he has grown many of them and speaks from personal experience. That is rare in encyclopedia-style books on plants. 

By Michael A. Dirr,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The text reflects the passions of the author and gives full details of the plants, from the latest nomenclatural changes to revisionist thinking on the ever-expanding limits of cold hardiness. Mike Dirr is a legend in the horticultural world, widely acknowledged as a leading expert on trees and shrubs for landscapes. Add to that more than 3500 color photographs, and indispensable backmatter lists for choosing exactly the right plant for the right purpose, and you have an unsurpassed resource for tree and shrub identification and selection, one that will be embraced by garden designers, landscape architects, urban foresters, park managers,…


Book cover of The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials

Robert Pavlis Why did I love this book?

I am a plant collector and love growing unusual plants, especially perennials. When I first picked up The Explorers Garden, many of the plants in it were new to me. I fell in love with Daniel Hinkley and his plant selections and have now grown many of the plants in this book.

Unlike many perennial books that all show you the same 100 common plants, this book is full of plants nobody else talks about. Daniel Hinkley travels the world to discover new plants and describes some of the best in this book. These plants are uncommon, but many are now available in better nurseries.

By Daniel J. Hinkley,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Explorer's Garden as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dan Hinkley's quest for distinctive plants has led him on expeditions to China, Korea, Nepal, Chile, and remote areas of North America. "The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials" presents the most fascinating perennials found during Hinkley's treks around the globe, describes the assets each plant brings to the garden, and explains how it is best cultivated and propagated. Illustrated with Hinkley's own splendid photographs as well as those of Lynne Harrison, this new paperback edition includes a new preface by the author and a completely updated list of sources for plant material.


Book cover of 1,000 Garden Ideas: The Best of Everything in a Visual Sourcebook

Robert Pavlis Why did I love this book?

Many gardeners, like myself, want to create a stunning garden design. The problem is that we are just not creative enough to come up with the ideas on our own, or at least I’m not. This book, 1,000 Garden Ideas, solves that for us. It is a picture book that gives us the ideas we need to create that special garden design. When I am stuck designing a corner of the garden I just start flipping through the book until I find something that will be suitable for my space and my personal tastes. The book makes it easy to be creative. 

The book breaks the ideas down into sections, so for example there is one chapter called pots which shows hundreds of different containers and raised beds, all different shapes, sizes, and styles. This book is just pictures, but it’s fun to flip through it. 

By Stafford Cliff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1,000 Garden Ideas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Highly successful author and innovative designer Stafford Cliff has visited hundreds of gardens in the course of his travels over the last forty years all over the world, taking photographs and making notes. With his designer's eye and experience, he has created a revelatory work - a unique sourcebook of the very best ideas providing choices and inspiration for every single garden dilemma and possibility, from colour and planting to hard surfaces and features.For every new choice a gardener wishes to make, for every change they wish to introduce, there is a complete wealth of options - the plants, the…


Book cover of Japanese Gardening: A Practical Guide to Creating a Japanese-Style Garden with 700 Step-By-Step Photographs

Robert Pavlis Why did I love this book?

My favorite garden style is the Japanese garden. It is a simple refined style that is so peaceful and over the years I have learned that you don’t need to turn the whole yard into a Japanese garden. What I do now is use elements of this style in various parts of the garden. The book, Japanese Gardening, will provide you with great insight into various styles of Japanese gardening and make it easy for you to do the same. Add a Japanese walkway into a normal garden and make it special. Or use some of the minimalistic plants to add a calming feeling. This book will give you many great ideas.

By Charles Chesshire,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Japanese Gardening as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This inspiring book offers expert information on how to create the perfect Japanese-style garden in any location, large or small. It presents the history of Japanese gardens and the principles underlying them. Sections on the five classic Japanese garden styles (pond gardens, dry gardens, tea gardens, stroll gardens and courtyard gardens) explain their key characteristics with practical tips on how to achieve them. Fifteen projects for creating complete Japanese gardens follows, with clear explanations, illustrations and gorgeous photography. A plant directory then details the various types of plants with advice on flowering habits and hardiness, while the final section outlines…


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Unsettled

By Laurie Woodford,

Book cover of Unsettled

Laurie Woodford

New book alert!

What is my book about?

At the age of forty-nine, Laurie Woodford rents out her house, packs her belongings into two suitcases, and leaves her life in upstate New York to relocate to Seoul, South Korea. What begins as an opportunity to teach college English in Asia evolves into a nomadic adventure.

Laurie spoon-feeds orphans in Ethiopia, performs 108 bows at a Buddhist mountain temple, walks shelter dogs in Peru, milks goats in Fuerteventura, and gets lost in Mexico, all the while navigating dating at midlife.

After four years of traveling, Laurie’s return “home” becomes an unexpected adventure of its own when she ends up in Arkansas and meets Bruce, a bird-loving, bearded Quaker, and then struggles to reconcile her need for freedom with her longing to feel settled.

Unsettled

By Laurie Woodford,

What is this book about?

At the age of forty-nine, driven by an urgent restlessness, Laurie Woodford rents out her house, packs her belongings into two suitcases, and relocates to Asia. What begins as an opportunity to teach college English overseas, evolves into a nomadic adventure as Laurie works and volunteers in South Korea, Ethiopia, Peru, Spain, and Mexico. After four years of traveling, Laurie's return "home" to the U.S. becomes an unexpected adventure of its own when she ends up in Arkansas and meets Bruce, a bird-loving, bearded Quaker, who challenges her to reconcile her life of fierce independence with her longing to feel…


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