Arts & Culture

A New Crop of Botanical Books

Green-thumb your way through a slew of garden-inspired reads, from a farm-fresh cookbook to a collection of essays by beloved Southern naturalists

Photo: Jess Spence

Must-Have New Guides

Gardening in the South by Mark Weathington, the director of the arboretum at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, is full of region-specific planting tricks (i.e. saltwater-resistant shrubs and which variety of milkweed works best to attract butterflies in the Deep South), plus an A-to-Z guide to the region’s best florae. Keep it on the shelf next to this pint-sized reference book: SowHow: A Modern Guide to Grow-Your-Own Veg by Paul Matson and Lucy Anna Scott, which presents a brightly illustrated, contemporary take on gardening. Learn how to grow those living walls that seem to be popping up in every new restaurant, or cultivate a personal cocktail garden with mint, lemon verbena, and dill.

Jess Spence

Coffee Table Stunners

Jess Spence

Leave Botanical Sketchbooks sitting out in a guest room, and let your friends delight over illustrations of flowers, trees, seed pods, and leaves, along with field notes from eighty artists and botanists, including Leonardo da Vinci, Carl Linnaeus, and William Bartram, who roamed the South between 1773 and 1777, sketching everything from evening primrose to oak-leaf hydrangea. Similarly engrossing, The Book of Orchids depicts 600 of the world’s most exotic plants in life-size photographs, so you can play ‘orchid thief’ from the comfort of your own couch.

Jess Spence

A Gift for a Gardening Chef


The Great Dixter Cookbook: Recipes from an English Garden knows no regional boundaries. Anyone who loves cooking from a classic garden will enjoy this beautiful work from Aaron Bertelsen, vegetable gardener and cook at Great Dixter, an estate in Northiam, East Sussex, England, that was the oasis of the late plantsman and author Christopher Lloyd. In a collection of stories, plant lists, and unfussy recipes, Bertelsen celebrates his garden’s bounty with instructions for everything from making plum jam to baking a perfect summer tomato tart.

Photo: Phaidon

Tomato tart.

Two Reads for Naturalists

Jess Spence

Those writing at the intersection of nature and literature lend their thoughts to Letters to a Young Farmer, an impassioned essay collection for anyone interested in a closer relationship with the environment. Kentucky farmer and poet Wendell Berry and his daughter, the activist Mary Berry, write letters, as does the Kentucky-raised novelist Barbara Kingsolver, who champions dirty coveralls, Southern accents, and women in the field. Put their ideas to work on a smaller scale with garden designer Jinny Blom’s new photo and idea book, The Thoughtful Gardener, which shares examples of gardens she has planted across the world that aim for harmony with wild landscapes over a perfectly manicured look. “Taking the pulse of the land is vital to my approach,” she writes. “Get out there and sniff the air.”

Andrew Montgomery

And One More, Just for Fun

Jess Spence

Remember that gorgeous crepe gardenia boutonniere by New Orleans artist Suzonne Stirling in Garden & Gun’s 10th anniversary issue? If you want to try your hand at the magic of transforming tissue paper into peonies and roses, pick up The Exquisite Book of Paper Flower Transformations by Livia Cetti for step-by-step instructions and a wealth of helpful photos.