Books… I love books. Always have…
Anyone who’s been in my Yew Dell office, or for that matter in the Cappiello’s Highlands home, will find that to be a statement of the comically obvious. It is somewhat unfortunate that I chose to marry someone with similar inclinations but different subject matter choices. It is becoming a problem. If only Carolyn would trim her collection, it would leave more room for mine. After all, who needs more books on religion, philosophy or travel?!
Opening a new book for the very first time, something that should be done slowly and purposefully and preferably with a fine glass of port nearby, is a magical ritual. And old books… When you’ve finally sleuthed out a second hand or vintage source for that special book, and it arrives all wrapped up in brown paper and sheets of tissue, well better plan a good hour or two just for the unveiling, let alone the reading.
But of course beyond the joys of finding, unwrapping, holding and actually reading a book (yes, I read the old fashioned kind… you know… the ones with actual paper pages) a preoccupation with books has another great benefit. Books always make the best gifts. It matters not whether the recipient is 1 or 100 years old, a book as a gift is never out of style. Even if you already have 3 copies on your shelf, there’s always someone you know who needs to read that very book.
So it is in that spirit that I offer you my helpful holiday gift idea list for the gardener or garden appreciator in your life.
Flora Mirabilis – How plants have shaped world knowledge, health, wealth and beauty. Catherine Herbert Howell with foreword by Peter Raven
For the gardening history buff, this volume is a must. Tracing the origins of our collaboration with plants on the planet, it starts with early crop use and domestication and traces the growth of plant and human interaction through the centuries. Whether the first collected and eventually cultivated grains to our coaxing of all manner of food, fiber and fashion out of the plant kingdom, humans and plants have been engaged in a bit of a co-evolution since our earliest days together on the planet. If you’ve ever wondered about the origins of black pepper or sugar cane or even the seasonal poinsettia, it’s all covered between the covers of this engaging book.
The Forest Unseen – A year’s watch in nature. David George Haskell
It’s a pretty simple proposal. Take a single square meter of forest floor and then sit back and just watch. We’re not talking about watching for a minute or an hour or even a day. What Haskell does in this remarkable volume is to give us a glimpse into the observational brain of a natural scientist. And what I love so much about this book is that it doesn’t focus on answers. Rather than explain the biochemical or physiological inner workings of his little patch of woods, Haskell simply reveals… and then relates… and then wonders. It is simply impossible to work through the woods after reading this book and not want to just sit on a log and start your own year of seeing.
The English Flower Garden. William Robinson
Hardly an original selection here… After all, Robinson’s 1883 masterpiece has been called one of the most read and influential garden books ever published. But even with its widespread appeal and long standing impact, I am always surprised to find so many gardeners who have not read it.
The book can best be described as a narrated how-to or even a what-to that was designed to free the then modern gardener and designer from the shackles of garden regiment and formality. With this book, which was issued in 15 editions just during Robinson’s lifetime, the “lowly” cottage garden was celebrated and a more nature inspired style was unleashed on the world. While Robinson’s 19th century prose doesn’t slide off the modern tongue with ease, it magically leads the reader down the hall and out the door of convention. Even the extensive listing of preferred garden species, dated as it is, provides valuable reminders of long forgotten plants that deserve reinsertion into our own gardens.
This article was originally submitted to the Courier Journal on November 15, 2022.