The best books to immerse you in plants

The Books I Picked & Why

The Nature-Printer: A Tale of Industrial Espionage, Ferns and Roofing-Lead

By Simon Prett, Pia Östlund

Book cover of The Nature-Printer: A Tale of Industrial Espionage, Ferns and Roofing-Lead

Why this book?

This little book is a thing of beauty and I just find it spell-binding. Talented artist and printmaker Pia Östlund describes how she makes a curious discovery: a set of prints in the library of Chelsea Physic Garden in London. This leads her to rediscover the lost technique of nature-printing, while her co-author Simon Prett explores the history of this little-known art. Little snippets about fern hunting and facsimiles of fern fronds and seaweeds make this irresistible – the kind of book I’d dip into on a lazy Saturday morning over coffee, then struggle to dip back out of!  


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Glasshouse Greenhouse

By India Hobson, Magnus Edmondson

Book cover of Glasshouse Greenhouse

Why this book?

I grew up in a house choked with books – falling out of the shelves and piling onto the floor. I developed a curious habit as a child: I would sniff the pages of every book I picked up. Some smell old, like vanilla and time, I discovered; others smell fresh, like rain after a drought. Well, Glasshouse Greenhouse smells so good it’s worth buying for its perfume alone! Seriously though, this is a visual treat, packed full of emerald-green plantscapes on every page. The authors start their journey around the world’s glasshouses just metres from where I sit typing these words at my place of work, Oxford Botanic Garden. To me, this makes it particularly special. 


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The Long, Long Life of Trees

By Fiona Stafford

Book cover of The Long, Long Life of Trees

Why this book?

There is something innately calming about trees, isn’t there? Even just thinking about them. Today I often read about something called Forest Bathing. I’m told it refers to being calm and quiet amongst the trees – absorbing something from them in a way that nourishes the soul. Well, that’s what this book does for me. Fiona allows us to pause and admire the common trees around us; she leads us among seventeen common species including ash, apple, pine, oak, cypress, and willow, pointing out along the way how they are entwined with human existence. 


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The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and Its Citrus Fruit

By Helena Attlee

Book cover of The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and Its Citrus Fruit

Why this book?

When it’s cold and dreary outside and you long for sunnier climes, this book is just the tonic. Helena delves into the story of Italian history through the country’s citrus fruits, combining history, recipes, horticulture, and art. The Land Where Lemons Grow left me with the jasminy smell of orange blossom fixed to my nostrils long after I put the book down. 


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Flora Illustrata: Great Works from the Luesther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden

By Susan M. Fraser, Vanessa Bezemer Sellers

Book cover of Flora Illustrata: Great Works from the Luesther T. Mertz Library of the New York Botanical Garden

Why this book?

This is a satisfyingly large tome with sumptuous prints and illustrations from ancient texts, gardens, and herbals that spill out on every page and give it a sort of timelessness. Flicking through it now, the page that opened in front of me features a facsimile of a 1748 book, complete with foxing; it is so real I could reach out and touch it. This is something I’d put on top of the coffee table book pile and feel happier just to know it’s there, replete with its botanical treasure. 


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