Seek inspiration for your outside space from these green-fingered goddesses.

With warmer temperatures and several bank holidays in our sights, the lure of the garden is strong. If you doubt your capability as a horticulturalist, take it from one of the best in the world, Vita Sackville-West, that: ‘Successful gardening is not necessarily a question of wealth, it is a question of love, taste and knowledge.’ Whether you’re starting from scratch, an old-timer in search of new ideas or just an aesthete hungry for pretty pictures, a big old stack of gardening books will bring great pleasure.

Here, we’ve dug out the finest tomes written about gardens by women.

A Garden Well Placed By Xa Tollemache

Xa Tollemache moved into Helmingham Hall in Suffolk in 1975 as a young wife and mother. She spent the next 20 years learning how to garden, creating exquisite gardens at Helmingham in the process, before setting up her garden design practice in 1996. This book details the delights of Helmingham and 11 other gardens in which she has woven her magic. Buy it here.

Gardener’s Nightcap By Muriel Stuart

First published in 1938, this is a pretty collection of writing by the poet and gardening columnist Muriel Stuart. Beautiful and successful but also shy and self-contained, Stuart was happiest in her garden. Persephone Books chose to print it because it is ‘amusing, interesting, with historical resonance, and yet useful’. Buy it here.

Secret Gardens By Claire Masset

This whimsical book celebrates the hidden gems of The National Trust – from specially created secret gardens to forgotten corners of larger gardens and re-found lost gardens. Packed with historical and botanical details, it is a feast for the imagination. Buy it here.

Gardens In My Life By Arabella Lennox-Boyd

Arabella Lennox-Boyd has been designing exquisite gardens across the globe for 45 years and has won a raft of international gongs as well as six gold medals and a Best in Show at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Her own gardens in Lancashire and Italy are a sight for sore eyes. House & Garden says: ‘A world-renowned horticultural tour de force, Arabella Lennox-Boyd is one of the most accomplished landscape designers of our time.’ In this book, she writes with candour about 16 of the magnificent gardens she has created. You’ll get lost in her easy prose. Buy it here.

Paradise And Plenty By Mary Keen

The Rothschilds’ Walled Garden at Waddesdon is a haven of traditional techniques and productivity. This book lets you peek over its wall and into its secrets. In his column for the FT, Robin Lane Fox said of it: ‘If you want to know how to grow peaches, melons or superb herbaceous borders in beautifully matched colours, let alone every kind of vegetable and edible cherry, there are details here that no other gardening book in print is able to pass on.’ Buy it here.

Rhapsody In Green By Charlotte Mendelson

Everything that the novelist Charlotte Mendelson touches turns to gold and this ‘useful, beautiful’ collection of essays about her tiny garden is no exception. Her passion shines through every page and will galvanise you like nothing else. Buy it here.

The Private Gardens Of England By Tania Compton

The Sunday Times made this their Gardening Book of the Year in 2015. For this celebration of English gardening, Tania Compton selected 35 of the nation’s most beautiful private gardens, had them spellbindingly photographed and invited their owners to write about them. The result is romantic, touching and utterly compelling. Buy it here.

Life In The Garden By Penelope Lively

The author Penelope Lively loves to read, to garden and to write so it was inevitable that she would eventually pen this enchanting book. Partly a memoir of the various gardens of her lifetime and partly an exploration of the greatest gardens in literature, it ends up as a beautifully written history of horticulture. The Observer says of it: ‘Rich and unusual, this is a book to treasure. Few recent gardening books come anywhere close to its style, intelligence and depth.’ Buy it here.

Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst

The poet Vita Sackville-West wrote a column about the creation of her garden at Sissinghurst between 1946 and 1957. Now in the care of The National Trust, that garden is among the most visited and inspirational in the world. This gift of a book is a collection of her columns, drawings and photographs, with helpful additions by Sarah Raven. Buy it here.

By Becky Ladenburg
May 2022

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.