From Shelf: Favourite Books I read in 2022
The first non-fiction book from an award-winning new voice, hailed by Gardeners' World magazine as 'the millennial Monty'.
***'The best gardening book of 2022.' The Telegraph'A book to make even a quick trip to the corner shop endlessly fascinating. Dark has been dubbed the millennial Monty Don for this beautifully written study of the oft-overlooked nature on our doorsteps...Dark teases the drama, humour and history from even the most commonplace buddleja, box and tulip.' George Hudson, Evening Standard, Favourite Gardening Books of the Year'This enjoyable read throws a spotlight on the everyday.' Rachel de Thame's 10 Best Gardening Books of 2022, the Sunday Times'Gardening for a billionaire taught Ben Dark that "plants alone are not enough to make a garden special". Instead he finds "special" in the people and the history, as well as the plants, that fill 191/2 London front gardens. A soulful read. Tom Howard, RHS The Garden, Best Books of The Year'A wonderful book.' Alexandra Shulman, Mail on Sunday'Meet the millennial Monty Don.' The Sunday Times Style'Ben Dark's beautifully observed book, The Grove: A Nature Odyssey in 19 1/2 Front Gardens, tells the stories of 20 key plants growing in a single London street's front gardens in a way that's as engaging as it is informative.' The Irish TimesAny walk is an odyssey when we connect with the plants around us. Each tree or flower tells a tale. Mundane 'suburban' shrubs speak of war and poetry, of money, fashion, love and failure. Every species in this book was seen from one pavement over twelve months and there is little here that could not be found on any road in any town, but they reveal stories of such weirdness, drama, passion and humour that, once discovered, familiar neighbourhoods will be changed forever.There is a renewed interest in the nature on our doorsteps, as can be seen in the work of amateur botanists identifying wildflowers and chalking the names on the pavements.But beyond the garden wall lies a wealth of cultivated plants, each with a unique tale to tell. In The Grove, award-winning writer and head gardener Ben Dark reveals the remarkable secrets of twenty commonly found species - including the rose, wisteria, buddleja, box and the tulip - encountered in the front gardens of one London street over the course of year. As Ben writes, in those small front gardens 'are stories of ambition, envy, hope and failure' and The Grove is about so much more than a single street, or indeed the plants found in its 19 1/2 front gardens. It's a beguiling blend of horticultural history and personal narrative and a lyrical exploration of why gardens and gardening matter.'A testament to the secret communal power of a front garden.' Alice Vincent, New Statesman'Find joy in the ordinary plots on a city street.' RHS The Garden'Dark makes horticultural history fun and funny.' Editor's Choice, The Bookseller'Ben Dark is such a wonderful writer - The Grove drew me in from the first line.' Lia Leendertz'The Grove is overflowing with delicious nuggets of cultural, social and garden history - and I adore Ben Dark's humour and humility in equal measure.' Advolly Richmond'A heartfelt romp through the wisteria and wilderness of London's horticulturally remarkable front gardens.' Jack Wallington'Fans of Ben Dark's mellifluous tones on The Garden Log podcast will be delighted by how perfectly his lyrical musings transfer to the printed page as, with infant son in tow, he invites the reader upon a series of horticultural expeditions inspired by the deceptively ordinary planting of the front gardens in a south London street. The kind of thoroughly enjoyable read where you realise, late in the day, that learning has snuck in by the back door, though you feel inclined to forgive the author on account of the fun you've had along the way.'Andrew O'Brien'Dark creatively blends practical horticultural knowledge, meditations on his own dream garden, and literary references, including Vita Sackville-West's husband's letter on JP Morgan's garden: "All very good taste and depressing. No inner reality." This will leave armchair gardeners seeing their surroundings with fresh eyes.' Publisher's Weekly'Dark's book amused and educated me during recent bouts of insomnia. I found snippets of information that now elevate my occasional street wanderings to something approaching a botanical exploration. At less than a tenner for the paperback edition, that's truly affordable schooling.' David Wheeler, The Oldie