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Is your “to be read” pile dwindling? Are you an avid reader but have found you’ve lost your joy of reading in the last few years? Are you a backyard gardener that’s hungry for more knowledge about plants and their needs?
I have always been an avid reader. From a very young age, I would devour all types of books. Historical fiction was probably at the top of my list. Crazy kings and queens, ancient Egypt, and anything about my American Girl Doll Josefina were some of my favorites.
I found that after I had kids, I didn’t have as much time to read for fun, and when I did have time, I wanted to just mindlessly lose myself in a T.V. show instead. I read a lot of nonfiction books related to flower farming or herb farming, too. But even my desire to read for research purposes was starting to dwindle.
In the last year, however, I saw someone on my Facebook feed recommend the book Verity by Colleen Hoover.
That book is nuts, first of all. I’m linking to it here if you’re curious.
Second of all, I did not realize how much I missed reading… for pleasure and for research purposes. Nothing beats a good, well-written book.
So, today I thought I would share 7 plant books to add to your reading list that I’ve personally found useful in the last few years. Most of these books are nonfiction, but there are a few fiction books on this list.
I hope you find some value in at least 1 of the books on this list!
Tropical Plants and How to Love Them by Marianne Willburn
I go through some serious phases of interests. I have what’s called “shiny object syndrome” when it comes to interests, hobbies, and the business. I want to do all the things.
I went through a serious houseplant phase after I ordered air plants and succulents during Fall 2021. First of all, I love all the lovely Instagram photos with the houseplant in a cute pot in the corner of the room. I love unique houseplants. I love the idea of covering my house with houseplants even though I have no time or room to care for them. I love the idea of spreading the joy of houseplants to my customers.
So, I read Tropical Plants and How to Love Them. And man, this lady knows her stuff.
Regrettably, I bought this book as an ebook version for my Kindle.
Tropical Plants and How to Love Them is a book I seriously want to purchase a hard copy of. Marianne Willburn helped me understand exotic plants and how to grow them based on what their relationship could be to the reader.
- Am I going to enjoy this plant during the summer, but after the summer ends, that’s the extent of our relationship?
- Will I want this beautiful plant to adorn my landscaping but ALSO care enough to bring it inside to adorn my living room in the winter?
- Will this lovely companion be around when I need them to be but also be relatively low maintenance as far as growing and storage is concerned?
- Will my tropical plant be super high maintenance… but also worth the work?
- And lastly, is this plant going to be useful for me in both the garden AND the kitchen or medicine cabinet?
If you’re at all remotely interested in tropical plants, exotic plants, and/or houseplants, then this book is a great read.
Gardening Under Lights: The Complete Guide for Indoor Growers by Leslie F. Halleck
This one is a bit technical. I would say for the hobbyist, Gardening Under Lights may not be for you.
However, if you’re a serious grower, you may consider giving this one a read. I learned so much about the proper lighting for indoor or greenhouse growing that it is insane. Honestly, I’m not sure I fully understand what I read.
However, I did purchase a special grow light due to this book.
I usually use fluorescent shop lights for my seed-starting during the winter. They work just fine and they are economical to purchase. I also have some LED shop lights I use, too. Again, they all work fine for seed-starting purposes.
However, I was looking for a bigger light for my cuttings and plant starts that I had to keep over the winter in my garage. I was afraid that my shop lights weren’t going to cut it, so I purchased a special light for my plant shelf based on recommendations in this book. All my plants looked great! No legginess or issues with light whatsoever.
If I ever get into some more serious production of bedding plants, I will definitely give Gardening Under Lights a look once again.
This one, however, is on my Kindle. I think it would be worth purchasing a physical copy if you are really wanting to learn something.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Language of Flowers is a novel that follows the story of Victoria Jones, a girl that grew up in and out of foster care. She has a special connection with flowers and their meanings, and this characteristic also leads her to have a very special connection with someone she knew in her past.
This novel is probably in the top ten best novels I’ve ever read. I’ve never actually counted, but it’s definitely up there. It is such a beautiful and interesting story surrounded by heartbreak as well.
Of course, I also love the fact that flowers are involved as well. This novel alludes to the Victorian “language of flowers” that was popular in that era.
Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden by Erin Benzakein
This list would not be complete without the book that started it all for me.
After I took a few horticulture classes in grad school to fill some course requirements, I fell in love with the world of horticulture. This was kind of unfortunate because my degree and internship experience was more focused on the world of row crops and agronomy.
I knew that I wanted to have my own small farm producing something other than corn and soybeans. I wasn’t sure what route I wanted to go exactly. When I knew I would be settling in my husband’s home county, I checked off crops that people were already growing, like peaches, apples, tomatoes… We needed to fill a gap.
Somehow the idea of a cut flower garden surfaced. I signed up for a cut flower workshop at a local farm in Elsah. I bought Cut Flower Garden. A dream was born. The following spring we started Sievers Blumen Farm. This book was the foundation of that.
Erin and her husband own Floret Farm, a cut flower farm and seed company in the Pacific Northwest. Erin has lovely pictures in her book, and she walks you through setting up a cut flower garden practically. Her website blog is really useful, also. I have loved watching her journey. Now she has a T.V. show on the Magnolia Network (of which I have yet to see)!
If you’re looking for the basics of starting a cut flower garden, Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden is the ticket. The photography in the book is also beautiful, so it would make a great gift.
If you’re looking for the next level up from Erin’s book, then you’ll really enjoy The Flower Farmer. Lynn is an experienced market gardener. She sold to several florists during her time, and her guidance is very straightforward.
This book is chock full of information!
I would say that some of the info could be updated. For example, there are a few plants that she says can’t be grown in certain growing zones, but recently there have been people experimenting with “pushing it” and their efforts have been successful. There’s only a few flowers I can think of where her information may be outdated.
As always, each farm or garden has a unique set of circumstances.
Regardless, this book is an excellent baseline if you’re looking to start a cut flower garden and develop it into something that is more than just a hobby.
Hothouse Flower by Lucinda Riley
Hothouse Flower, like The Language of Flowers, is also a novel. As you can tell, it was the title that really got me. The main reason I wanted to read it was because I had a chance encounter at my floral wholesaler.
A group of flower farmers in southern Illinois is working on forming a collective of flower farmers (Flower Farmers in the 618) to help assist each other and also sell together. I am fortunate to be a part of this group!
We were touring Baisch & Skinner, a large floral wholesaler in St. Louis, and I happened to run into Bob Baisch (one of the owners) in the cooler after the tour was over. We had a short convo, and he said something about how twenty to thirty or more years ago, many flowers (like roses) were actually grown in hothouses (basically, greenhouses) around the St. Louis region. Now, most roses are imported from Central and South America.
This led me to researching hothouse rose production history in the area, because I’m curious. Alas, I could find nothing. However, Hothouse Flower popped up as a recommendation so I ordered it.
This is a dual timeline novel set in likely the late 90s, or early 2000s, and also set back in the days of World War II and post WW2 in both England and Thailand. An English estate called Wharton Park becomes known for its exotic orchid breeding, and this novel tells the tale of how that happens. Later, Wharton Park falls into disrepair. The main character, Julia, discovers how truly connected she is to Wharton Park, even though she thought she was only the granddaughter of the gardener.
The novel is very slow to start. Very slow. But it picks up later. What I liked the most were the twists and turns and special connections between characters, but I also LOVED the imagery of Thailand.
In retrospect, there probably wasn’t as much imagery as I remember. But this book made me want to visit Thailand and explore the plant life there.
Cool Flowers by Lisa Mason Ziegler
Cool Flowers has been INCREDIBLY useful. The main point Lisa is trying to make is that you can grow flowers in the winter and early spring without the protection of a hoophouse or greenhouse. Also, utilizing cool flowers in your garden takes some of the heavy load off of you for spring.
For example, some flowers can be sown in the fall instead of spring. They overwinter and flower very early in the spring if you plant them in the fall, too. Also, some flowers actually prefer sowing in the fall. They’ll be be taller, stronger, and more vigorous if allowed the extra time to grow that fall sowing offers.
Lisa guides you through some of the top cool flowers to grow in your garden and how to start them from seed or when to transplant them. She also gives you tips on harvesting and care.
I would recommend this book as a companion to Lynn’s The Flower Farmer. With these two books, you’ll be prepared to start your own commercial cut flower garden.
Lisa also offers a flower farming school at her website called The Gardener’s Workshop. I have not taken it, but I know people that have. She also is just an awesome person to follow on social media because she is so informative.
The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer by Jeff and Melanie Carpenter
This is the last book I’ll leave you with in this post. I have many more I would recommend, but I think I’ll save those for a later post.
The Organic Medicinal Herb Farmer is jam-packed with information. It is one you’re going to turn to time and time again.
I am not an herb farmer (yet, remember… I have shiny object syndrome), but there are a few flowers that I grow that are technically herbs. I also love Jeff and Melanie’s advice on growing and processing different herbs because it can be applied to other crops as well.
I think the biggest thing I took away from this book is how to run a business selling products like flowers or herbs. They actually hired someone to come to their farm and help them do a cost analysis of their time, money, and profits.
One of the anecdotes that really spoke to me was about how weeds had overtaken one of their herb beds. They did the calculations and realized that if they actually spent the time weeding that bed to save the crop instead of simply mowing it down and forgetting the crop, they would be losing money. It was better to move on than to salvage what would be left.
I always think back to this story when August comes and I lose my battle with weeds or if a specific flower bed is not thriving. Sometimes it’s just best to cut your losses and focus on the crops that are making you money.
This guide would be really useful if you are at all interested in herb gardening. You’ll find harvest and processing directions for a ton of different herbs.
This list of 7 plant books to add to your reading list should hopefully be of use to you if you are in any way, shape, or form planning to have a flower or herb garden in your very own backyard. Many of these books go beyond the basics to really give you a sense of what it takes to boost your garden or landscaping to its full potential.
And, of course, a few of these books were just for fun!
If you’d like more garden or flower-related book recommendations, or if you just sincerely enjoyed this post, leave a comment below.
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Thanks for taking a few moments to read about 7 Plant Books to Add to Your Reading List!