An Omitted Author.
February 17, 2010
Allan in Best Borders, Book Reviews, Flower gardens, Musings on Gardening, Penelope Hobhouse, Tony Lord, gardening book reviews

Flower Gardens, Penelope Hobhouse, Frances Lincoln

A reader contacted me a short while ago because she noticed that I had omitted an internationally renowned author from my list of recommended books on gardening. That list appears to the right of this page. While the omission was not an oversight, it was, at first, difficult to write a response because the reader, a garden blogger in her own right, is someone I respect immensely.  At first I had difficulty replying spontaneously because I did not want to offend her. In time, I was able to collect my thoughts and deliver them in, what I hoped was, a polite manner.

The omitted author is Penelope Hobhouse. By coincidence, one of her books, Flower Gardens, is the first I ever purchased when I began gardening. It was the initial inspiration for planning and planting an English style garden. However, there were shortcomings to the book that I was unable to articulate until a few years later when I purchased a similar book by Tony Lord, Best Borders. Then, by comparing the two, I understood what made Mr. Lord’s book better than Ms. Hobhouse’s.

Flower Gardens is a beautifully written ode to gardening. The author takes us on a journey not only through her favorite gardens but also through the garden ideas in her mind. Reading her work is like walking beside her, collecting pearls of wisdom along the way. Sadly, some of us do not have the time or inclination to stop and savor all that Ms Hobhouse offers us.

The generous amount of information that she shares with us is so all encompassing that it is overwhelming. There is too much to read and too much detail to absorb. Nevertheless, this is an exceedingly well-written, lavishly illustrated, and impressive-to-give-or-receive publication. Unfortunately, it is not as useful to practical gardeners as are other books.

Mr. Lord’s book, on the other hand, is leaner and more focused; the text is more accessible, and the photographs of flower beds, some identical to those that appear in Flower Gardens, are more effective, by comparison, to those taken by Ms. Hobhouse’s photographer, Andrew Lawson.

Changing lifestyles and new technologies have transformed some of us into impatient readers. Few have the time to curl up with a book. We merely consult them to learn how-to-do things. As for the information we seek, some of us expect it to be distilled to its essentials; then to be delivered efficiently and effectively. Above all, we demand superb photographs and idiot-proof illustrations that instruct and inspire the reader rather than decorate the book's pages.

In making the selection of recommended garden publications, I have chosen those books that deliver information instantaneously. I seek out practical, quick-to-find, methodically organized, and easy-to-follow advice, because like many others, I am a time-deficient gardener.


Article originally appeared on Garden Design, Montreal, Perennial Flower Gardens, Gardening Tips, Gardening Advice, Gardening Book Reviews (
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