Michele Stellata, the editor of the popular site Gardenista, has pulled together a book this year titled Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces. The book celebrates 13 gardens including that of one of my favourite Instagrammers, Charlie McCormick, who gardens with designer Ben Pentreath in Dorset. The book offers quick tips on ‘getting the look’ and ‘cheat sheets’ for amateurs and seasoned gardeners alike. A nice blend of text and image, Gardenista would make a great gift for a new homeowner. Yes, you could find similar content on the site, but the perusing wouldn’t be half as fun.
Local artist and author Helen Stewart has a lovely stocking-sized book out this year titled A Garden’s Echo. Featuring collages, illustrations and prose, the book reflects on generations of gardeners and offers an intimate look at a garden and a life. To quote Molly Peacock, “through her warm voice and intimate images the artist tells a story of a nearly forgotten past, of her china-painting great-granndmother, of…the sons of an important nurseryman, of George Eastman’s flower photography, and of herself struggling on her farm….”
(By the way, Molly Peacock’s biography The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delany Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 is a wonderful read for lovers of history, botany and Britannia, but it’s far more than that too. Not that I’m rating here, but five stars.)
The floral photography book of the season is Ngoc Minh Ngo’s In Bloom: Creating and Living with Flowers. This book is for the aesthete, the armchair gardener, the artist or the interior designer – tastemakers, or people who love plants everywhere – on walls, on pottery, on fabrics. The book explores the obsessions of people around the world, offering glimpses into studios, gardens and homes.
Speaking of flowers, floral icon Ariella Chezar, author of Flowers for the Table, came out this year with The Flower Workshop. It covers everything from tonal contrast to tools-of-the-trade to hand-tied bouquets. Recipes make this book great for beginners and DIY brides, and while access to some of the flowers listed may be tricky, the book as a whole has a friendly and accessible tone encouraging experimentation. I’ve had the priviledge of working under Ariella’s guidance and she truly is a master of the art.
My final recommendation is a quirky little book that was first published in Point Reyes in 1994 but is again on the hip list (I picked it up in a design store in Portland this year). It’s called Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets and Philosophers by Leonard Koren.Wabi-sabi is a Japanese term which refers to an aesthetic that finds beauty in imperfection and impermanence. If that sounds like your garden, or if you value simplicity and are interested in cultivating new ideas about how we perceive objects and space, give it a try. The author blurb alone is worth the price: “Leonard Koren was trained as an architect but never built anything – except an eccentric Japanese teahouse – because he found large permanent objects too philosophically vexing to design. Instead he created WET: the magazine of Gourmet Bathing one of the premier avant-garde magazines of the 1970s.” The book just gets better from there.
Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing instructor at the University of Victoria.