The Grove: A Nature Odyssey in 19 1/2 Front Gardens
The past year has seen renewed interest in the nature on our doorsteps, as can be seen in the work of amateur botanists, old and young, identifying wildflowers and chalking their names on pavements. But beyond the garden wall lie cultivated plants, each with a unique tale to tell. ‘The Grove’ takes twenty species and uncovers their remarkable secrets. This book follows the author on a walk down a street in London. Each chapter will focus on one front garden and a crucial plant that it contains. In the background the story of a strange year in the city will be told.
‘The best gardening book of 2022.’ The Telegraph
‘A wonderful book.’ Alexandra Shulman, Mail on Sunday
‘Meet the millennial Monty Don.’ The Sunday Times Style
Any 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 Â½ 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
‘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.’
‘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