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?

The books I picked & why

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The Pruning Book

By Lee A. Reich,

Book cover of The Pruning Book

Why 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.


Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs

By Michael A. Dirr,

Book cover of Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs

Why 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. 


The Explorer's Garden: Rare and Unusual Perennials

By Daniel J. Hinkley,

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

Why 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.


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

By Stafford Cliff,

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

Why 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. 


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

By Charles Chesshire,

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

Why 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.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in gardens, gardening, and design?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about gardens, gardening, and design.

Gardens Explore 29 books about gardens
Gardening Explore 68 books about gardening
Design Explore 35 books about design

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt, And Then It's Spring, and The Beautiful Edible Garden if you like this list.