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I received a copy of the updated, paperback version of the RHS Nature’s Gardener – How to Garden in the 21st Century last week. The author, Matthew Wilson, has worked for the RHS, managing 2 of their gardens, at Hyde Hall and Harlow Carr. These gardens have very different climates and will suffer in different ways from future climate change. Using this experience he has written a book that shows how gardeners can minmise their impact on the environment and adapt their space to cope more successfully with the changing climate.

For me gardening is about working with nature so I was particularly interested in reading this book.

As you would expect from a RHS book this is very comprehensive, covering all the topics you would want if you were new to gardening; from working out your soil type and pH, to how to make compost and how to plant a plant properly. Where this book differs is the emphasis on conserving resources, minimising damage to the local and wider environment and ultimately gardening in a more sustainable way. I particularly liked the chapter ‘Reuse, Recycle and Sustain’. The author shows how choices are not always straight forward. For instance, quarried stone would probably be seen as a bad choice by most people. However, if it is sourced from a local quarry, so has low transport miles and the quarry provides jobs in an area where employment opportunities are small and when the stone is in place it will be hard wearing and around for a long time, in this context it compares well with other choices.

I thought the section on understanding the importance of climate, both macro and micro was very useful and will certainly make me look at my own garden in more detail.

The emphasis of this book is very much on understanding what your growing conditions are and planting plants that will thrive. Rather than adapting your conditions to the plants you want to grow. Matthew uses examples of gardens with sustainable planting at their heart such as Piet Oudolf’s Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe in Norfolk and the Dry Garden at Hyde Hall in Essex. Ultimately this new approach is good for all concerned, plants, the environment and gardeners. Who has time to spend on plants that need mollycoddling?

I loved the ideas for greening garden structures but would have liked some examples of these in small, what I call ‘normal gardens’, rather than from an RHS garden, just so the average gardener could be inspired to try something in their own garden.

The book finishes with a selection of plants grouped into different growing conditions and different growing heights. I loved the choices and if you had a new border to fill you could easily use these as the basis of your planting plan.

I think this a great book for someone new to gardening. It manages to distill a lot of the information you would get in a much bigger RHS book and combine that with being a more environmentally aware gardener. As a slightly more experienced gardener I would have liked a bit more on how I could impact less on the environment. It would have been nice if the use of plastic and finite resources such as vermiculite and perlite had been covered, their environmental impacts and what gardeners could do as alternatives. Having said that it is an interesting read, there is no doubting the author’s passion for his subject and it is good to see the RHS embracing a more modern approach to horticulture.

Thanks to Karen at Octopus Publishing.