Get in their Good Books
There's still time to bag some stocking-filler books for gardeners, from coffee table tomes and design inspirations to practical manuals and beginner guides. By Hannah Stephenson
As you sit by the fire enjoying your glass of mulled wine and mince pie, now is a good time to start planning your garden for next year - and there are plenty of ideas out there.
Here's just a few of the latest books to provide inspiration.
One of this autumn's most talked-about botanical books is The Cabaret of Plants: Botany and the Imagination by Richard Mabey (Profile, £20), which draws on plants in history, art and literature. Mabey, author of Flora Britannica, explores plants that have awoken our sense of wonder and changed our ideas about science and beauty. Picked from every walk of life, the self-contained chapters feature everything from weeds to water lilies, featuring high-quality prints and drawings.
Find out the intricacies of how flowers communicate with their pollinators in award-winning wildlife photographer Heather Angel's dazzling tome, Pollination Power (Kew, £25). Through her stunning photography, see how plants use colour, shape and guiding lines to attract insects and birds, which often gather nectar in most unusual ways.
The Private Gardens of England, edited by Tania Compton (Constable, £75), is a glorious celebration of the art of gardening through some of the country's hidden horticultural jewels. Some 35 English private gardens, thoughtfully selected by the writer and designer Compton, are vividly described in the words of their owners, who bring an astonishing sense of intimacy to their own creations, as well as their collaborations with some of the leading garden designers of today.
Grow Your Own
If you're thinking of getting an allotment in the New Year, or you're wondering what to grow on your existing plot, The RHS Allotment Handbook & Planner (Octopus, £12.99) is an invaluable guide to help you choose. Experts from the Royal Horticultural Society take all abilities through the different stages, and the book includes a planner.
Anyone looking for inspirational design will welcome The Art of Gardening by R William Thomas (Timber, £25), which focuses on Chanticleer, a 37-acre public garden in Pennsylvania, renowned for encouraging experimentation - including a fantasy garden, formal borders and woodland shades. Readers will learn how to make the most of a landscape's natural features, integrating structures and creating themes to tie areas together, as well as tips on the right plants for specific purposes.
If you've never grown plants of any sort, bag a copy of Frances Tophill's First-Time Gardener: How To Plan, Plant and Enjoy Your Garden (Kyle, £16.99). Whether you've bought your first home, are new to renting or just feel that you should do something about the jungle outside your door, Frances will help you to create an original garden, from the initial site survey through to the design, hard and soft landscaping, building, planting and aftercare.
If you want to dig out some fascinating facts about gardening, look no further than The Sceptical Gardener (Icon, £12.99) by The Telegraph's columnist Ken Thompson. He answers questions like "how can a gardener improve the flavour of their veg?" and "what do bees do that improves strawberries?" It's a dip-in miscellany of gardening titbits.
Good Enough to Eat
This knobbly swollen root, which looks a bit like an oversized turnip, is delicious mashed with potato and garlic or grated over winter salads. Its flavour is very similar to that of celery, but celeriac is more hardy than its cousin and can be harvested from October throughout the winter months. It is best sown in a frost-free greenhouse or on a windowsill in pots in a propagator in March. Transfer single seedlings to larger pots when they are big enough to handle, maintaining temperatures of 15-18C and plant outside after the last frosts. Grow on in full sun, if possible, in fertile, moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter. Keep the soil moist throughout the seasons and mulch before summer. When the plants are mature, remove the outer leaves as they fall, exposing the crown. Harvest from October to March, covering the celeriac with straw during the winter months.
Best of the Bunch
Orchids have become increasingly popular in the last decade as most of the popular types in this country are not difficult to maintain. They also add a touch of elegance over the festive season. The most popular orchid pot plant is the phalaenopsis, which can produce flower spikes in any season, usually reflowering within the year. They grow best in indirect sun, with daytime temperatures above 20°C and not below 16°C at night. Water thoroughly once a week, plunging the pot into water so roots absorb the moisture, but keeping the surface dry. Drain thoroughly for 15 minutes and put back in their resting place. Orchids can be repotted every other year between March and June, but not in flower. When they've finished blooming, cut the flowering stem with secateurs just above the second node from the base of the plant.
What to do this week
- If any of your pansies have the fungal disease pansy sickness, in which the whole plant turns yellow and dies off, dispose of the plants and the soil, as the disease is carried in the soil.
- Prune birch and acers while they are dormant to stop the wounds bleeding sap and weakening the plant.
- Shred the prunings from ornamental plants and fruit trees and bushes.
- Bring bay trees grown in pots indoors or move them to a sheltered position.
- Continue to harvest Brussels sprouts, parsnips and leeks.
- Plan any landscaping jobs which you are going to undertake next year.
- If soil is workable, continue winter digging.
- Fork over vacant ground to reduce the chance of pests.
- Prevent the pond from freezing over by floating a tennis ball on the surface or melting a hole by standing a hot saucepan on it for a few minutes, to allow an air hole for fish to breathe.