The best gardening books 📚

Browse the best books on gardening as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

Coming Fall 2022: The ability to sort this list by genre (signup here to follow our story as we build a better way to discover books).

Book cover of The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants

The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants

By Jane S. Smith

Why this book?

Gardening, whether in a backyard or a hundred-acre orchard, is an audacious attempt to improve on nature, and Smith’s fascinating hybrid of biography, history, and botany brings to life the most audacious of them all. The only biography on my list, I’ve included it because, in an age where we might be forgiven for thinking it takes millions of corporate dollars and genetic engineers to produce a new plant, The Garden of Invention reminds us how one man’s singular determination, patience, and brilliance can change the world. And produce the perfect potato for McDonald’s French fries.

From the list:

The best books on a gardening life

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Book cover of Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening

Otherwise Normal People: Inside the Thorny World of Competitive Rose Gardening

By Aurelia C. Scott

Why this book?

Q-tips, cotton balls, and hazmat suits: welcome to the world of competitive rose gardening. Scott’s engaging journey into the underbelly of rose exhibitions will leave you wondering, Are these hobbyists bloomin’ nuts, or simply having more fun than the rest of us? My dark-horse pick, maybe because it reassured me that my own gardening exploits (installing a 10,000-volt electric fence that deters people but not groundhogs, for instance) weren’t so wacky, after all.

From the list:

The best books on a gardening life

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Book cover of Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

Second Nature: A Gardener's Education

By Michael Pollan

Why this book?

A self-critical and often hysterically funny account of what happens when you plant a garden to be “one with nature” and nature has other ideas. Still my favorite Pollan book (his first!), which is saying a lot. Favorite bit: his journey from “living in harmony” with a resident groundhog to an albeit ill-considered act of firebombing.

From the list:

The best books to revolutionize how Americans think about nature & environment

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Book cover of A Little History of British Gardening

A Little History of British Gardening

By Jenny Uglow

Why this book?

To understand the British love of gardening, I put Jenny Uglow’s chatty book top of the list. Reading her prose is like listening to a favorite teacher, one who tells a good story while slipping in the pertinent facts.  "If I were a crow, flying across Britain in the 10th century,” she writes, “I would see forest and fields, iron forges and salt pans, small towns and settlements - occasionally I could circle over a deep park, or swoop down and feed on an orchard of ripe fruit, or pull worms from the newly turned earth in a small allotment."…

From the list:

The best books on the English love of gardening

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Book cover of A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed

A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed

By James Fenton

Why this book?

If you love flowers and love to garden, do not miss this book by British poet James Fenton.  Grab your seed catalogs and make a list of the hundred flowers you would grow, then compare your choices to James Fenton’s. I found it the perfect book to read during those gray days of winter, his bright prose radiating like an injection of sunshine. Fenton romps through the world of flower color: the orange of nasturtiums and Mexican sunflower, the lemon yellow evening primroses, and California bluebells “the colour of blue poster paint.” He captures his century of blooms with a…

From the list:

The best books on the English love of gardening

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Book cover of Dirt: The Lowdown on Growing a Garden with Style

Dirt: The Lowdown on Growing a Garden with Style

By Dianne S. Benson

Why this book?

Even though her heroine is Vita Sackville-West who, in the 1930s, created Sissinghurst, one of the world’s most visited gardens, I think of Benson as a hippy, outdoors version of Martha Stewart. In this paperback, her fast lane, quick gratification approach to gardening comes across with equal doses of humor as she emphasizes the joy of digging one’s hands into the soil and the importance of channeling one’s own aesthetic into hedge and plant choices. Her opinions are pithy, to say the least - she considers marigolds to be ‘hackneyed’ flowers; she talks about weeds having brains and calls the…
From the list:

The best books for grasping the principles behind landscaping and interior design

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