ABC Wednesday 4 - B is for...

...Book Review

Just before Christmas I had the good fortune to win this book courtesy of the lovely Zoe and her fundraising advent blog. She's raised over £441 pounds so far for Macmillan Cancer Support - how about helping to make it a round £450 or even £500 by visiting her fundraising page? If you're not aware of Zoe's story, you might like to have a look at her Journey blog first.

When I found out I'd won, I promised to review the book as soon as I'd read it - here goes.

Val Bourne is a well known garden writer and organic gardener who writes regularly in a number of our newspapers and gardening magazines. This is the first book I've read by her and it won't be the last. Although Clive Nichols is credited with Special Photography on the front cover, most of the sumptuous photographs are Val's, mainly taken in her own garden. They're so vibrant and colourful, thus making a fantastic advertisement for organic gardening before I'd even started to read the text.

Val's road to natural gardening as she calls it was shaped by her early career at the National Vegetable Research Station (NVRS) where she worked on disease transfer by aphids. She quickly noticed the best way to get her next population of aphids was to spray the greenhouse with systemic insecticide. From there she became hooked on growing cottage garden flowers and gradually began to notice her flourishing garden full of wildlife naturally kept the nasties at bay. This she calls her 'living jigsaw' - a way of gardening which encourages wildlife throughout the year by ensuring as plants fade away once their season is over, others are poised to take over and provide nourishment.

Whilst Val doesn't profess to be a scientist, she is observant, has an eye for detail and can explain complex matters in layman's terms. These gifts she brings to bear on gently persuading us that natural gardening is the way forward. Her own Cotswold plot is relatively modest in size and has been created on a shoestring, thus her style of gardening is within the reach of most of us.

Like many gardening books it's divided into the seasons and is like taking a garden tour to see what's looking at its best throughout the year. Even in winter there's lots to see and rich fragrances to sniff. Each sub chapter within the seasons ends with a look at a gardening friend or beastie, mainly from the insect world. There's plenty of information on how to keep the friends (even one of the slug family!) and the natural ways to fend off the foes.

This isn't a campaigning book, but is all the more powerful for not being strident. What better way is there to argue a case than by leading by example and showcasing the results from your own healthy, sumptuous garden?

Do visit the ABC Mr Linky website to find lots of other bonza posts on the theme of B.


  1. Hi VP, this books sounds a little bit different in a possive way I think. Val Bourne I'll put that name on my remember this list.

    Have a great day, here we yet an other grey January day but VP it is just three days left of this miserable January.


  2. I got given a copy by one of my favourite, and nicest, book shop customers who always asked about the plot. She said that she thought that I'd really like it, which I do!
    Thanks for a good review VP. xx

  3. Didn't you do well to win such a book :)This is on my bulging bookshelves too VP and is an excellent read. I thought it was a good mixture of plant information (many of my favourites included) and useful practical information. Val Bourne also writes gardening articles for newspapers and magazines. You may be interested in her website I also have a copy of her 'The Winter Garden' which I hope to review before winter is done and dusted :)

  4. Great review - I think this one will go on my wish list

  5. Tyra - yes it is. Do look at her other stuff if you can get hold of it in Sweden, she has a nice style.

    Flighty - lucky you and what a lovely customer :) xx

    Anna - I'm very lucky :) I agree with your assessment, loads of information but very easy to read. Thanks for the website info and I look forward to your book review later.

    PG - I think this book will be right up your street. Her gardening style's very similar to yours.

  6. Her philosophy seems sound to me! I'm all for reducing chemicals and encouraging wildlife. :)

  7. Great review VP, and so glad you enjoyed it. We should thank EmmaT too who was the generous benefactor who donated the books to the cause!

    I like Val Bourne's books, not only her ethos, but as you so rightly say, her writing style encourages you to try her method.

    Thanks for the mention for the fund-raising too. Thanks to you it has now surpassed £450 this morning! Excellent news!

  8. Seen several book posts today but this is the 1st book review. Great job.

  9. I suspect this is an excellent book for English gardens...but I can tell you that I am pleased that you won a book you liked so much and got to support Zoe's very excellent efforts! Take care and happy natural gardening. I love natural gardening. gail

  10. VP, I have to admit to be seduced at times, just by the book cover .. and this one is calling me : )
    I really enjoy a book that gently leads you through the process of their view point and actions to carry that out.
    Why won't your hubby agree to that BIG book case you want on the landing of the stairs .. I keep wondering about that ? LOL
    How are Jess and Skimble doing ?
    Sophie and Emma .. well they are watching me go "cabin crazy" and find it mildly amusing ?? LOL

  11. My favorite part of the review was about Val noticing that the way to get her next population of aphids was to spray insecticide...quelle irony!

  12. A lovely review. The book is gorgeous but I have to confess I'm not a gardener although I love the books for the beautiful pictures.

  13. Jay - me too.

    Zoe - thanks so much for drawing my name out of the hat. Hope you're foot's getting better. And that's great news re the fundraising :)

    D Herrod - thought there might be a few of those around and thanks!

    Gail - that's really sweet of you :)

    Joy - I think you'd enjoy the book, but not sure how it would fit with your zone. NAH won't let me have the bookcase because he thinks it'll clutter the place up. Hello! we're cluttered up already!
    Jess and Skimble are fine, though thoroughly unimpressed with today's snow!

    Susan - that's just what I picked up on. I've also been to the place she worked when I was at school.

    Tumblewords - hello and thanks for visiting! This book certainly is a feast for the eyes.


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