Treading Boldly Through the Flowers

Just a few of the books recommended by Flange readers to while away those hot afternoons this summer - click on the picture if you need a closer look

As a reader of Gardeners' World magazine, I always look forward to the We Love (insert current month) for.. feature, not only for the luscious pictures of must-have plants, but also to read the accompanying words of the 'master of the simile', James Alexander Sinclair (JAS).

Now Gardeners' World has branched out into the world of books, bringing out a series of (largeish) pocket guides for less than a fiver on the theme of 101. Thankfully these have nothing to do with the Orwellian room of doom and are much more useful, brimming with ideas for projects, pots, shady or problem places and growing to eat. JAS brings us the latest in the series, the pictured 101 Bold and Beautiful Flowers.

The book is divided into colour-themed sections, thus helping gardeners to easily match flowers into their current plantings, or to produce a whole border or garden from scratch. There are selections of choice bulbs and perennials and I'm glad to see annuals have not been left out of the equation - providing those welcome fillers whilst a garden develops or this year's fireworks highlight. Many of the plants will already be familiar to most gardeners, but the book's strength is to suggest a less well known variety - take the pictured front cover as an example. The usual Helenium on offer is 'Moerheim Beauty'. Nothing wrong with it, but it's in pretty well everyone's border. JAS suggests 'Rauchtopas' instead, describing its daisy shaped flowers as 'the reddish buff of burnt toffee, while the dark brown centre of each flower could be a chocolate-covered caramel rolo'. Doesn't that make you want to buy it right now (along with some accompanying chocolate perhaps)?

In this case you can judge a book by its cover - the standard of the photography throughout is high and the choice of plants throughout never fails to please. Flowering times and cultural notes are also provided, though I would have liked a one-liner summary at the bottom of each page (along the lines of what's seen on plant labels perhaps) to help with garden planning. They can be a little difficult to find at times amongst the sumptuous prose. That minor quibble to one side, it's a book to return to and I'll be using it to help replan some of my borders next year.

I'll leave you with a favourite description of mine - it's for Kniphofia 'Ice Queen'. Now I grew some of the usual Kniphofia from seed when I first had my garden, but ripped the whole lot out a couple of years later as they were an ugly mess for most of the year. I vowed Kniphofia would never darken my door ever again, but this had made me reconsider:

In the case of Kniphofia 'Ice Queen' you could call it Chic Poker. It may not roll off the tongue as easily, but instead of glowing harlot-scarlet flowers there are modish pokers wearing tasteful frocks of greenish-yellow, and the unsophisticated foliage is swapped for neater, spined leaves. It is a poker more likely to be found taking tea at musical salons than loafing around with disreputable sharks in basement billiard halls.


  1. What a wonderful quote you have given with the description of the Kniphofia - a plant that I have vowed never to allow in a garden of mine - but a plant that has a "Tasteful frock of greenish yellow" well thats another matter.
    Thanks VP After your review this is a book that may well find its way into my bookshelf. (well pile of gardening books by my bed)

  2. oh this isn't fair; my one vices is garden books, I know no restriant! I have an outrageous number already (which I can justify as a student, well almost anyway, koff).

    I shall have to avert my eyes if you are going to lay temptation in my way like this!

    I answered the rose question on the previous post.

    Best Wishes,


  3. See, it's completely vital you did yours, you have made two converts already. You should probably get a percentage, or at least a cake at the NEC

  4. those are great recommendations.

    Gig Harbor flowers

  5. Thank you VP. Very kind.
    With reviews like that (and Emma's and the GM's and one in Gardens Illustrated that I have just stumbled upon) I rather wish I was on some kind of royalty deal.
    The Helenium description was originally for an "inquiring nipple" rather than the chocolate covered Rolo. It was decided, however, the Gardeners World readers might find that a bit strong !

  6. VP ... I just got that Helenium this year .. I have Sahin's Early this year as well. I really look forward to Autumn plantings .. Monkshood, Anemone, Goldenrod, all the cone flowers .. grasses .. well, you get the idea.
    Beautiful pictures of the tour ! Thanks : )

  7. VP, You should ask for a share in the royalties on this book--I'm ready to go out and buy one right now! As always, very informative and interesting; you've mentioned some plants I wasn't familiar with and had to look up. Thanks for introducing me to several new sites and for including the quote from James Sinclair. His poetic writing would be worth reading even if it wasn't about gardening.

    Enjoyed the tour at the manor on Sunday's post. It would be hard to resist buying any new plants in a setting like this.

  8. Karen - shall I bring it along next week to show you?

    Zoe - don't look on here next Monday!

    Emma - thanks for the shove - I did rewrite some of it as it was so much like yours originally

    TSWCB - welcome - I've left a comment over at your place

    James - glad you like like it. Worth signing my copy tomorrow?

    Joy - You have so many flower passions, I'm breathless! Glad you liked the tour too...

    Rose - perhaps I need to come on over and set up shop? Glad you liked the tour too!

  9. VP, thanks so much for this review. I wanted to see what I was getting into--or what I was getting--and this leaves me feeling both informed and eager. Great quotes!

  10. No problem Kate - though it took a bit of persuasion from Emma and James himself :)

    I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have.


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