The Old Dog Book List….

So here we go….

I’ve met with my first client, agreed the brief for my first job and I’m going back to do the survey next week. I’ve been down to deepest Kent to look at my sister’s front garden. Taken photos, done a bit of sketching. My pencils are sharpened, my desk is tidy, the books that were piled up on the floor are neatly arranged in the bookcase….

…. hold on, they should have been neatly arranged. But when I sat down this morning to organise them I got sidetracked. Because to hell with fiction, who cares about poetry; this year I’ve been gardencentric to the point of obsession. I’ve discovered the joys of secondhand gardening books and the postman has been plodding up to my front door on a pretty regular basis with parcels of garden focussed literature. When I pick one up I find it very hard to put it down again without reading a few pages. So this morning turned into more of a reading than an arranging experience.

I was amazed to find out how many there were. But when the books cost less than the postage it’s hard to resist. Some have been good, some have been bad, some have been downright ugly. But the good have become close friends and they’ve seen me through some tough times.

There have been some unexpected pleasures. Open the front cover of A.M. Clevely’s The Integrated Garden and you find a handwritten message on the flyleaf – ‘To my Darling from his Darling on his 30th Birthday.  14.11.1988.’ And the imprint of a lipstick kiss. How intriguing. Like the plot of a Richard Curtis film. Who were they and where are they now? Did ‘my Darling’ lose interest in his garden? Why did he give the book away?

Then there is the book with the Northamptonshire Central Library sticker inside the front cover. Turns out it should have been returned by 1.11.2010. Oops. Someone’s in trouble. I hope it’s not me.

And there’s the rough sketch of a planting plan for a rose garden tucked into the pages of Beth Chatto’s The Green Tapestry.  The scent of old roses and lavender drifts into my imagination from the faded scrap of paper. I’m tempted to try and recreate the plan for one of my designs.

These books are so much more than they seem. Each one is a mystery, has a history, a backstory of usage and inspiration. I feel honoured to be the next in line to benefit from their wisdom.

I realise that my crammed bookcase is a testament to my quest for the book with all the answers. Have I found it? No. But there have been some pretty close contenders. And before I turn my back on studenthood I just want to offer up a list, for anyone who might be interested, of the books that have been most useful, the titles I will be keeping by me to turn to for guidance and inspiration in times of need.

First off…. anything by Beth Chatto.

Then there’s:

Brian Davis’s Gardener’s Essential Plant Guide

Roy Lancaster’s Perfect Plant Perfect Place

Hilary Thomas and Steven Wooster’s The Complete Planting Design Course

Jill Billington’s New Classic Gardens

John Brookes The Garden Book

James Blake’s An Introduction to Landscape Design and Construction

Tania Compton and Andrew Lawson’s Dream Gardens: 100 Inspirational Gardens

Michael E Doyle’s Colour Drawing (for advice on hand-rendering plans – and lots of what looks like good stuff for Photoshop users but since I’m not one it’s lost on me!)

I’m sure there are others that my fellow students could add to this list. And if anyone feels that way inclined I’d love to know what they are. But these are the books that I keep on going back to.

And maybe I’ll tuck a few notes and messages in between their pages for the next person in line to use them.