Are garden books boring?

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As good a place as any to write a book

I came across an article today in The Guardian titled, “Why are garden books so boring?”  This seems to be of great concern not only in The UK, but here in The US. Is it also of great concern in other countries? Not surprisingly the people most concerned about boring garden books seem to be authors who write about gardening.

One common thread is comparing garden books to cooking books. The author of The Guardian article, Lucy Masters says, “I look at cookery books and the photography is amazing, the layouts are appealing and interesting.” Are there no boring cooking books? Do cooking book authors have these same discussions, but reversed? Wondering when someone else will come out with yet another beautiful picture book of dinning in Tuscany?

Recently I reviewed a garden book which I didn’t find boring. The book seemed to have just enough photography, and interesting ideas to suit my tastes. My taste in most things runs a bit counter to the masses so tell me, is this the kind of book we are talking about as being boring?

Take a look at The Amazon top seller list in gardening. Are these books boring? I haven’t read most of them, so I really don’t know. What kinds of books would we expect to see filling this list? Seems they run the gamut from, “Vegetable Literacy, Cooking and Gardening”, “Marijuana Horticulture”, “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life”, “The Flower Recipe Book”, and  a bunch that help people learn to feed themselves. In the case of “Aquaponic Gardening”, it might help feed people in impoverished countries one day. That doesn’t seem boring. There are also a bunch of “how to” books on growing your own food.  It seems that if you’re concerned with GMO’s, pesticides, and corporate farms, you might want to know how to do this.

According to Lucy Masters article, nothing refreshing or novel has been published since, “Andy Sturgeon’s book Planted came out in 1999. On the front cover it had a man’s bald head with a terracotta plant pot and seedling balanced on top. It’s was such a striking image. Everything about the photography in that book was refreshing, ground breaking! That was back in 1999.”

Why do we hear so much about the decline of gardening books? What do you think is going on here? Is this just a case of bored garden book authors? How do you find the current selection of gardening books available? What would you like to see more of? Less of?


About Trey Pitsenberger

Trey is a nurseryman, author, and speaker.

05. December 2013 by Trey Pitsenberger
Categories: | 7 comments

Comments (7)

  1. (Quite) A few years back, when I was learning basic gardening, I had my favorite “Bibles” and I must tell you that included catalogs like White Flower Farm, and Plants Delights…….then, they sat unopened for many years, many got given away in a “free” box over the years, and my favorites still sit, I tell myself someday when I retire, I will look through them again. BUT, it’s this darn internet, instant information, whatever I need to know is at my fingertips! Still, I won’t part with a dozen or so beautiful publications! Boring is relative to what you want (expect) to get from a book!

    • Kathleen,

      Like you I have gotten rid of 80% of my hardcover and softback book’s. They just took up to much room, and I never used them anymore. The ones with sentimental value I keep. Isn’t it funny how we “curse” The Internet, despite the fact that we all use and secretly love it?

      Thanks for writing.

  2. When I was a new gardener, I devoured gardening books like they were Reese’s peanut butter cups. They were so good.

    But after a few years of intense reading I started to realize that I was reading the same things over and over again just said in different ways. If I ever did find something new to read about it was usually something that didn’t really fit into my areas of interest anyway (which is why I hadn’t already read about it).

    Still, the gardening books that I don’t find borings are the ones that deal with the gardener themselves. Gardens and gardening advice is all basically the same . . . but each gardener is unique.

    • Chad,
      Great comment as I was thinking how much I enjoy reading about my fellow nurserymen and women. AI also very much enjoy reading about how people run different garden shops around the world.

      Most of the new and exciting stuff concerning gardening is Internet based.

  3. Absolutely agree with both Lucy and Chad. (apart from my book, of course, but it’s not ‘how to’)

    And when will we see the back of the silly garden advice and what to do in your garden this week columns?

  4. I do agree with all the coments you got on “boring garden books” I love my garden books and I have lots of them and just ordered another. I may be 80 years old and have gardened all my life but as some famous person once said, “I am still a young gardener”. There is so much out there, in books, on the internet, fellow gardeners. I love it all. I especially like books on and by garden writers. One of my lastes favorites is “Roots of My Obsession” (I was , however, very disappointed in what Dan Hinkley had to say about himself. I have seen him in person, listened to his lectures, red his catalogs from cover to cover, no small fete, and then his comments in this book made me feel “blown off”. So much for that.).

    I feel that no much you know about a subject or maybe the more you get to know about a subject, gardening, the more you realize how much you don’t know.

    Thank you for your comments. I always enjoy following them Mary Hoblit

  5. Trey ~ As I have discovered over the last 35+ years of doing what I love, and that is anything gardening…..I keep going back in time to the “old gardening books” that gave really sound and good quality advice…some things that aren’t even practiced anymore in the general public……maybe because OF the internet and the “easy access” of information, they have “lost” the true meaning of actual gardening…younger generations just want an answer to my, “what’s wrong?” and not actual “listen or research or study” what is actually going on with their plants. I read Thalassa Cruso, James Crockett of The Victory Garden, and the old predated, 1940-50’s Western Sunset Garden Books, just to name a few and I’m always looking for more old garden books in antique shops to add to my collection. Even the old seed catalogs, like R.H, Shumways, Ferris Morris, and even Burpee from 1890’s…..had great information in them and varieties that aren’t around any longer. And finally another garden write is David Stuart’s the Garden Triumpant!! And there are so many more….just go to a book store and find them!! There out there, if you look hard enough!! Happy Gardening!!