On My Gardening Bookshelves

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

I recently did an interview with Mari Malcolm of the Amazon blog about the garden books I keep on my own bookshelf. It was a fun interview to do. I love, love, love books and have a pretty extensive collection of gardening books ranging from the contemporary to old. Some are useful resources and some are just plain silly. Answering the questions made me realize that I should be talking about them more often.

I thought it would be fun to show what my gardening bookshelf looks like as an accompaniment to the many books I mention in the interview. This shelf sits directly behind my desk chair. As you can see, there is no room left. In fact, some of those shelves are doubled up, with a row of books hidden behind the outer row! There are others still, either sitting on wall shelves directly over my desk, or stacked in floor piles here and there.

The top row (starting from the left) shows an old vinyl treasure box made by a company called Ponytail that used to make vinyl keepsake products for teens. I keep my collection of foreign or old seed envelopes inside.

On the second shelf you can see a copy of Dick Raymond’s “Joy of Gardening” a very good and very large vegetable gardening tome from 1982. It is geared more towards gardeners with lots of space to grow large food crops, but there are plenty of tips that can be gleaned for small-scale gardeners.

On the fourth shelf, “Herbal: The Essential Guide to Herbs for Living” by Deni Bown stands out. While there are some herb growing tips in this books, it is best for gardeners who are also interested in learning more about the origins and uses of the herbs they grow. There are also some gorgeous botanical prints strewn throughout.

Seed Travelers” (shown propped up, second row down on the left) is a cute kids’ storybook about the journey of a dandelion seed that I bought in Chinatown. Oddly enough it is not in Chinese, although I do have books that are.

I can see “A Tale of 12 Kitchens” by Jake Tilson on the second shelf of the second row and The Savage Garden (an extensive book on carnivorous plant gardening) in the last square of the second row.

The first shelf of the third row shows a giant photo of Akira Kurosawa on the set of his last samurai film. I found the photos tucked inside a film magazine at a local thrift store years back. He directed one of my favourite films of all time, “Ikiru (To Live)“. It’s not about gardening, but is such a gentle and moving story, I had to mention it none-the-less.


The second shelf holds reference books like my favourite (and most used) “National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers Eastern Region“. You can also see a little case tucked into the left corner that holds my collection of vintage Cigarette cards. Way back when, cigarette packages used to come with little collectible information cards inside. I’ve collected several over the years, although mind did not come in a package of cigarettes, but rather from antique stores and old paper shows.

On the third shelf you can see an old kids’ metal tool set box. This is where I keep all of my tomato, pepper, squash, and melon seeds.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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11 thoughts on “On My Gardening Bookshelves

  1. Oh, very nice. I don’t feel quite so hemmed-in by my piles of books. I especially love to see and hear about your older books. I’ve been thinking about books a lot lately what with all the focus on digital and web. The older books tend to have such wonderful illustrations, plus there’s the intimate tactile flip-through-when-you-want quality to books I’m starting to miss. Thanks for the picture and the post. JL

  2. Louise: Yes, there are two cameras in the second row: A Mamiya C330 on the second shelf and a Polaroid SX70 on the forth.

  3. Jeri Lynn: For those reasons and more websites can never replace books — they are different mediums that serve different purposes. I love paper.

  4. Like you, I have a whole bookcase dedicated to gardening books.
    I use it a lot in the winter when gardening outside is impossible.
    It keeps me sane.

  5. That’s ironic that you mentioned Ikiru because I finally watched it this weekend. You took the movie’s message with you, every day you update your blog you’re inspiring people to garden and inspiring them -to live-.

    I really enjoyed this post, the photos, and book recommendations, thank you!

  6. I love books too and can’t get enough gardening books. My favorites are usually personal anecdotes and/or essays as opposed to “How to’s”. My current favorites right now are “A Blessing of Toads” by Sharon Lovejoy and “Gardening at the Dragon’s Gate” by Wendy Johnson. Just had to share those two.

    Those seed packets are simply beautiful!

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