A look at the contents page made me smile.
It starts with An early start which tells of the author’s introduction to gardening by her grandmother. As so many of us gardeners we start early, and Val Bourne was no exception. Her golden rule is to engage your children and grandchildren: they are the next generations of gardeners. She’s absolutely right, and I believe this book will help many people interest their children in gardening.
The book moves on detailing her move to her current garden, and then delves into chapters ‘Winter into Spring’, ‘The Summer garden’ and ‘Autumn into winter’. This themes things differently to many gardening books which often start with Spring as this is the time when most seems to need to be done.
The end chapters of the book are really wonderful and may raise an eyebrow. ‘The dreaded gastropod’ will make you look at snails and slugs differently, and she explains with great patience how slug pellets work and what the different chemicals do. This chapter might make you think twice about using these chemicals in your garden and she encourages you to look at organic strategies for encouraging slug predators. She also lists slug and snail proof plants which might ease the pain for some gardeners troubled by these slime pests! You will be more accepting of your shelled nuisances by the end of the chapter – the wonderful photos of empty snail shells will make you think about just how different the snails in your garden can be!
The Flying Squad chapter lifts my heart as a beekeeper – she explores more than honey bees though with a look at wasps, solitary and social, and the absolutely fascinating parasitic wasps. She looks at bumblebees and explores the different types you are likely to see in your own garden. She looks at the solitary bees too who have some very interesting behaviours. This chapter covers many other flying insects and has an excellent chapter on butterflies. There’s a small section on nettle related butterflies which might convince you that allowing nettles to grow in your garden isn’t the worst idea in the world! She looks at garden birds too with an amazing photo of woodpeckers on a lawn!
Her chapter called ‘The ground force’ starts with the very acceptable hedgehogs and moves onto other creatures like beetles and other creepy crawlies. Again she’ll entrance you with snippets of information about these creatures, pointing out their uses and habitats they like.
My favourite part of the book is probably the last chapter. It’s a selection of the top 100 plants for an eco-friendly garden. she splits these up into sections of 10, so that there’s 10 woody plants for permanent structure in your garden, 10 early bee plants (Please go and buy some of these for our precious pollinators!), 10 plants for borders and edges, 10 annuals and biennials (explaining that they need to be nectar rich to encourage pollination so they can set seed!), 10 gap plants for May, 10 umbels (suited for butterflies with small mouths), 10 nectar plants for butterflies and moths, 10 high summer nectar plants, 10 late performers, 10 daisies.
Val also gives a great list of books you might want to go on and read to find out more.
This book will make you look at the importance of insects and wildlife in your garden and encourage you to support and help it thrive.
It would make a wonderful gift for a gardener for their birthday too! It is beautifully laid out, packed with interesting information and is a delight to read. I have very much enjoyed reading this book and know that it will be something I will come back to again to re-read and admire the photographs of the author’s own garden.