A book worth buying – The Sceptical Gardener

img_2087A sign of an interesting book is when you find yourself keeping it to hand so that you can refer to it in numerous conversations. Not a showy book, in this case. There is a not a photograph in sight and the production values are what might be called utility, so it fails to fit the traditional definition of a coffee table book. Perhaps the descriptor of ‘aircraft reading’, or even ‘loo reading’ captures the format – short pieces between about 700 and 1200 words long which can be read in a few minutes. But for the last few weeks it has been sitting close to hand as we discuss many of the points made in its text.

I don’t want to over-state the case; it may not be life-changing. But if you have a curiosity for information backed up by reputable science in an easy reading style, it may appeal. It is a collection of just over 100 columns first published in The Telegraph newspaper in the UK between 2010 and 2015. These are grouped into loose categories – Garden wildlife (neonicotinoids and bees, the correlation between healthy birdlife and house prices plus more), Native and alien plants – and animals, the entertaining Not worth doing (I was quite pleased to see the author in total agreement with what I have written about planting by the moon and he is illuminating on demystifying permaculture and food forests), Growing food, Practical gardening and more.

The author is both a keen gardener and a scientist – a plant ecologist – with an eye for information which is often not brought before the general public. He has the ability to communicate this information with clarity and wit to the lay person. I have come to the conclusion that, as with the best of UK gardening television, UK newspapers are capable of delivering some really thought-provoking garden writing. I wish I could say the same for New Zealand but too often we seem determined to head in the opposite direction and gear our mainstream gardening media towards absolute novices and newbies.

I bought my copy through Book Depository and it was ridiculously cheap at $NZ16.21, delivered to my letter box within a few days.

The Sceptical Gardener by Ken Thompson. Published by Icon Books ISBN 978 178578 038 7

7 thoughts on “A book worth buying – The Sceptical Gardener

  1. Pingback: Tikorangi Notes: Sunday October 9, 2016 | Tikorangi The Jury Garden

  2. John Kingdon

    This post sent me scurrying around looking for my copy. I couldn’t find it so ordered another and found my original the day the new one was delivered. Must run a raffle at the local gardening group! I’ll always recommend any anthologies that bear the “Telegraph” trademark. They’re consistently good and, perhaps more importantly, consistently entertaining. I’m about to start reading this again but, if I remember correctly, one outstanding fact is that only once is a sex attributed to the gardener and it’s a “she”. Which, I suppose, means us fellas need to exercise caution when using loppers, secateurs and other sharp things. But thanks for reminding me of a really good read.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I did not notice the reference to the gender of a gardener but I just read your comment to Mark, who is currently reading the book, and he said, “Yes, I noticed that”. I laughed. I will keep my eye open for other Telegraph anthologies, based on that recommendation.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I see we are as one on the merits of this book. Next up is the The Rambunctious Garden which I ordered for myself but Mark got down on before I had finished the first chapter. Another interesting perspective.

      1. Stefanie

        Thanks for pointing me that way, I think I’ll go for that one, too!
        Top of my own wish list for Christmas is not a new title but one which I hope will be a good introduction into the subject (and probably overlaps in some ways with The Rambunctious Garden, albeit from a different perspective) – Ecosystem Services Come To Town: Greening Cities by Working with Nature. I heard author Gary Grant speak a few months ago here in London, together with other people working in that field and found it truly interesting, even inspiring. Kind regards to NZ!

      2. Abbie Jury Post author

        Expanding our concept of nature and reviewing the priority placed on indigenous species only from a pre-settlement era is an interesting debate. We have been looking, analysing and discussing the nature of our own personal environment and the exotic plants that have escaped into the wild and are therefore deemed to be noxious weeds. We are coming to the view that the mix of native and exotic is the new nature and we had better learn to live with it! Kind regards, Abbie

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