Fingal’s Most Popular Library Gardening Books

With thanks to Siobhan Walshe and the team at Fingal Libraries, the following are Fingal Libraries most popular gardening books. The list was compiled for use in The Sodshow July 15th 2011 for which you will find the audio below. That aside, the selections may just surpeise you slightly.

Most popular adult gardening books:

  1. The Irish gardener’s handbook, how to grow vegetables, herbs, fruit – Michael Brennock
  2. How to be a gardener – Alan Titchmarsh
  3. Joe’s Allotment: Planning and planting a productive plot – Joe Swift
  4. Grow your own groceries: how to feed your family – Linda Gray
  5. How to grow your own food, a week by week guide to wild life, friendly food and vegetable gardening – Dirty Nails

Most popular children’s gardening books:

  1. Grow it, eat it – Dorling Kindersley publication
  2. Growing Things – Ting Morris – sticky fingers series
  3. Kids in the garden, growing plants for food and fun – Elizabeth McCorquodale
  4. Green fingers and muddy boots, a year in the garden for children and families – Ivor Santer
  5. Grow your own strawberries – Helen Lanz
  6. Grow your own tomatoes – Helen Lanz

The SodShow – July 15 2011 – Dublin’s Garden Radio (mp3)

This week, as a by the way and coincidentally, book of the week was Jane Powers book, A place that works with nature.

Irish Gardening Books and Shops


As one can gather… I have quite a vast and varied gardening book collection. But recently I have found it quite extremely difficult to buy anything that could be considered original. Even more difficult than that is to find anything at all original and Irish.

I did email hughes and hughes. I also emailed easons. For those outside of Ireland they are probably Irelands biggest retailers of books. I queried who selected the books for the gardening section…. it was some time ago now but I got no answer.

Once again, I was in Waterstones [not the most Irish] book shop on Dawson Street. Yes folks, when I’m not scouring the aisles looking for nouveau paraphernalia I am looking for new reading material. 😉 Waterstones deserve massive applause. They don’t know me. I don’t know them…. but we have more books in common than other book shop in Ireland.

A lot of them are specialist, or coffee table style books – but a higher than others percentage are Irish, written and referenced.


There are two main issues. Or two things I look for when choosing a book. The first is, is the book of any use or is it just a rehash of something that has already existed. Most recently, you will find that has appeared in the ‘organic’ or ‘grow your own’ department. Formerly it was simply called growing fruit and vegetables. But en vogue labelling obviously sells.

The second issue, after I narrow it down to a book I like is, as I can gather, is that most books are published for the UK market. That’s absolutely fine. But when it comes to the reference bit at the back… they are all UK companies. If for example it is to do with recycling…. it makes the book of very little use.


I know there are great books out there. I know there are great independent book stores out there. I am not all wishing to knock here. I am I suppose hoping it may [at the very least] improve the quality of what is for sale on the market at this moment in time. To those who don’t have grandiose garden book collections… it’s very akin, to analogise, to only being able to buy Stock, Aitken and Waterman music.

Whilst I am on the subject, there are always those a little more amazing and unique at their job…. If you do know one of them… go ahead and give them a mention.

If this post makes a difference, a publishing house wishes for me to review their garden books… a book shop wishes to put their message out in response to this – I am more than happy to do so. From this maybe we will all gain…. All you have to do is contact me.

Below is Waterstones gardening section….


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garden design bible [book]

tim newbury garden design book

bible... ?

I bought this book last year… and to be very honest…. it has sat on the shelf for most of that time. No offence Tim Newbury. Sincerely. That said, it only cost €17.55 [only?!!] in hughes and hughes and I suppose that should [again, sincerely] be taken into consideration.

But I’m still puzzled on this one. For me the only horticultural bible I know of is the RHS encyclopedia of plants and with that in mind, the truth is… this is far from ‘a bible’.

It is a good book possibly, for my Mom or one of my four sisters [who would not be gardeners of any format by the way]. It is I might propose a good guide when considering ideas for your garden…. a kind of  a ‘I was thinking of something along those lines…’ kind of a guide….?

But, you may be disappointed, if you were looking for lots of pictures. In its favour, the illustrations and the explanations are good – but then against that…. there are only ’40 great off the peg designs’ to chose from.

A good gift, a decent book [and a very useful one too for the novice, maybe…],  but not the greatest investment I personally have ever made.

PS: Dear Mr Hughes and Mr Hughes,

I did email you some weeks ago… but to no response. you might consider an educated and experienced horticulturalist to review your books before they hit the shelves…

my rating: 2/5

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Gardening Nude – a book review



This is a really unusual story…. in a sense. I’d had this idea for a book. A garden book….. I still do, anyhow… the book idea aside, it was to be something a little, not Royal Horticultural Society, all pot pourri kind of smoking jacket – esque etc… you get my drift.

Via my good mate Pat Fitzgerald I get an introduction to a lady called Shawna Coronado. Who’s written a book called gardening nude.

I got talking to Shawna. She sent me a copy. Signed. I read it. I wanted to review it but…. I felt, at the time, as I kinda knew Shawna, that it would be unfair [to you] to review someones book who I knew – where normally I buy the books myself and then [openly] review them.

[Mainly because people don’t send me stuff to review. Mainly because not a lot of people in horticulture ‘get’ green blogging. Which surprsises me cosidering their books are sold online…..]

So I gave the book to my Sis-in-law. She reviewed it. Emailed it to me. And then, in short, I wiped my entire computer…. and now I can’t get the book back…. which is a nice compliment, for Shawna.

So I called Shawna and said I do the review anyway. 😉


one of Shawna's side walks

Being honest…. really honest? When I first read the title…. well, you know yourself 😆

But whilst it may sound childlike to have that as a first image…. it was that childlke hat that I was glad to be wearing when I read the book.

Gardening Nude is a book that I would buy for any person who has never gardened before. Or has. It is gardening – but it is also, or moreso a  journey through someones life, who gardens. Does that make sense…?

It’s a gardeners story. It’s not all botanical names and bullshit you need a thesaurus to get through… it’s real life. I found it heart warming that a little strip of land [what we may all a verge] was landscaped for passers by to take time out, to sit down [bench included] and relax [this is just one of many pictures]. I found it more heart warming when this turned into a community garden… the list literally goes on as far as Shawna is concerned.

The difference here though is, like my neighbour asking me, [is in my opinion] is the hanging basket she just made up ok… ? The answer is, did it make her smile creating what for her, isn’t something that is done everyday[?]…. always a yes! It’s not Chelsea Flower Show all the time; and in that context – it’s perfect 🙂 To analagise that back to this book. I cannot be critical. In any way. Horticulturally. And with that in mind, I loved every second of it.

It was a mild escape from the often botanical [nonsense] system I live and love…. but sometimes helping your neighbour make something pretty for the front of their house is much more fun 😉

I emailed Shawna and asked her for a little insight into the why’s, who’s and why again. Here’s what I got….

1.] is this your first book. will it be your last

Never my last! GN was a great experience and I adore writing; I produce nearly 4,000 words per week for the several blogs and newspaper columns I write, so I look forward to many, many more years of writing and certainly many more books.

2.] its not gardening…. but it is gardening…. explain yourself! [smiles]

One day several years ago I walked out behind my property line and built a small garden for the public on a city easement area next to a public walking path. I was rewarded with the most unimaginable love from my community; people stop to say hello, give me hugs, and leave me gifts. All because of this little garden. Soon I expanded the garden because of all this love and encouragement onto my neighbor’s easement property, and within two years, the garden became over 200 feet long and my link to the heart of the community. After I built the site, it became apparent that I was touching the community on an emotional level. I was stripping away the excuses and pretty much putting myself out there in a way that was personal – saying I was “nude” is purely metaphorical, but it’s a great way to express the openness I experienced.

The book, “Gardening Nude” is not about gardening (or being nude) so much as it’s about the journey of getting healthier physically and emotionally. It is about being involved with the community and making a difference for the world in a big way. When I stepped outside that fence and built that garden – after already building hundreds of feet of garden INSIDE the fence – I suddenly realized that my improved health was not just from being outdoors and gardening. It happened because I was able to reach out and lovingly share time with the community. For me it represented a miracle cure and upon realizing the importance of helping others; a huge life change.

3] would you consider yourself famous now….?

No. Although it has been one rather interesting experience to be published and have “fans” sending emails and asking questions. It is an adventure.

4] what do most say they get from your book…?

Most people say they are inspired. It makes them feel as if they are not the only one’s struggling with defining better health and trying to live simpler and greener. In the end, I want people to feel as if they can make a difference themselves – every day, one step at a time.

5] what did you think people would get from it, at first… ?

When you first see and leaf through the book, it is a guide to living healthier and greener, and building community. Easy steps are listed. But once you read the book from cover to cover, you see it is a motivating and inspiring guide which speaks to the human need to be help each other get through life.

6] what where your thoughts when you first sat down with the pen/ typewriter/ computer?

I’d already been writing a newspaper column for several years when I first sat down to write GN. I thought I was an experienced writer and that creating an inspirational book would be easy – a snap. My first idiotic thoughts, “This is gonna be easy!”

Within two weeks I was bashing my head against the computer keys realizing my stupidity. To be a good author on green lifestyle living, the author needs to be more than experienced at living the lifestyle, the book also needs to be well-researched and documented. This research took nearly three months of hard work, followed by seven months of straight blood-sweat-and-tears writing, and of course, several additional months of editing and styling.

7] are you of irish decent ?

I am of Irish/German decent and have the blue eyes and freckles to prove that fact. J I have dreamed for many years of coming to visit Ireland. This summer I toured the U.S. keynote speaking –  I love it as much as writing – and am hoping to expand and travel internationally over the next several years. Maybe I’ll get lucky and have someone bring me in for a keynote tour? Celtic music is beautiful to me and my current favorite Celtic song by a traditional group is The Chieftain’s version of “North Amerikay”. Love it!

8] do you drink guinness…?

Sadly I am allergic to beer. No kidding. However, I do like whiskey. ::grin::

9] sum your own book up in less than 4 words…?

Gardening Nude is inspirational!

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get rid of your bin – book review



I bought this book about 4 weeks ago. It is great value for money and cost me just €8.99.

Being really honest it is one of the greatest little books I have ever purchased. I have carried it with me everywhere since I bought it. The reason why is quite simple as almost all books like this sold in Ireland all refer to mainland UK within the directory of contacts [ie. pointless in Ireland]

I rang Féidhlim and had a chat with him. Nice guy. A gentleman in fact. I queried the logic. The factual… and why nobody had written about this before, in Ireland.

Getting rid of your bin is possible… but as Feidhlim explains… baby steps and also better that one does a little rather than nothing at all. Brilliant stuff. Love this. More of it please. Full marks 5/5.

If you’d like a little further insight into Feidhlim… ? Here’s the interview I did with him. Thanks Feidhlim. 😉


1]i used to grow plants under my bed. you woke up one morning and thought ‘i wanna write a book….’

The thought of writing the book only came when the bulk of the material was already written. There was a group of us in West Cork preparing notes for a Sustainable Architecture course, basically a Low Impact, Low Cost course for people on the dole wanting to build their own homes. The Carbery Housing Association, who organised the course, got to the point of getting FETAC approval and running the first couple of lectures, but the number of participants wasn’t enough to keep it going. The long and short of it was that the course was postponed for the foreseeable future. There was a big pile of waste management notes on my desk, so I took it from there really.

2] when i was 24 i set up my own business. very different to the hobby. most people laughed. how did you go from i think i’d like to – to putting everything in the air.

Went I was about fourteen I collected my first publishers’ refusal letter for a book I wrote and illustrated myself. I filed it away for future reference and only found it again recently when the same publishers sent me the first printed copies of “Get Rid of Your Bin”. The intervening twenty years were spent doing all the other stuff that gets in the way of life; school, college, setting up an environmental consultancy business and all that sort of thing. Even though the bulk of the material had been prepared for the course, it took a surprisingly long time to get it to the point of being able to submit it for publication, and then longer still to polish it up for the bookshop shelves. Still, it was very satisfying to hold the finished book in my hands for the first time and know that a life-long ambition had been realised.

3]who got the first copy of your first book & for how much

The very first copy went to my wife, Elinor, and my daughters, Susie and Kate.

4]have you ever thought – i’ve made it. this is *the* one. when?

Do you know, I don’t usually apply that thought to life. With environmental consultancy work I have been designing and planting constructed wetlands and reed beds for 13 years, and recently branched out into Edible Landscaping. It is really satisfying to finish a job and stand back to admire it before packing up for the day. But there is always the next housing estate to fill with edible trees and bushes, or the next wetland wastewater treatment system to put in. Yes, it is nice to know that a stream is well protected from pollution as a result of a new constructed wetland system.

The closest I have come to that feeling of having made it at work was starting the Garden of Eden Projects as a community initiative. The first one started as a project in the Quaker Meeting House in Cork city, and from that I was offered a chance to propose an edible landscaping layout for a new apartment development. When I got the contract there was a brief feeling of elation, that yes, this was what I wanted to be doing. But that soon got covered over with the task of getting the job done. The Edible Landscaping side of the business has grown, and so too have the Garden of Eden Projects. This year we offered discounted trees to schools, churches and community grounds in Co. Clare with assistance from the council and the Department of the Environment & Local Government. It is satisfying, but the “made it” feeling is a bit elusive. There always seems to be more to do.

Stepping out of the work context, yes, there have been moments of “I’ve made it” whenever I have made it to the top of a particularly difficult climb on the cliffs in North Clare.

5]how long did it take to write the book

In terms of hours, I just haven’t got a clue. What I do know is that from the time I started to prepare the course notes for the Sustainable Architecture course to getting the first copy into my hand it took nearly five years.

6] if you were to compare your book to a song what would it be

It would have to be Money for Nothing. As well as the obvious advantage of just saving on bin charges, there is a whole host of stuff that we pay for that we don’t actually want. In fairness, who actually needs pizza plastic wrap, the big colourdy cardboard box or the polystyrene tray? We just want the pizza. But who pays for the pizza plastic wrap, the big colourdy cardboard box and the polystyrene tray? We do. Make your own pizza and you get excellent quality food, no plastic wrap, no big colourdy cardboard box and no polystyrene tray, and no bill for them all either. Anyway… Money for Nothing.

7] do you get free tickets for gigs & will you be going to electric picnic.

Nope. But I did get an invite to the book-launch in Limerick for Gemma Mawdsley’s new book The Paupers’ Graveyard.

8] how did you get to be published

To get published, apparently, you need a string of refusal letters to your name. Well I have plenty. I sent out copies of the manuscript to all of the publishers in Ireland that worked with that kind of book, and then just kept thanking people for the kind phrasing that they put on the letters saying “no thanks”. One publisher kept my faith up by expressing an interest in it and suggesting some changes, but then they had second thoughts. Finally as I began to explore self-publishing, Mercier contacted me out of the blue to say that they were really excited by it and would I be interested in meeting them to discuss it.

9] do you think enda kenny is a spanner

I don’t discuss politics on air.

10] coffee or tea

Coffee on the rare occasion if it is really good, organic, fair-trade coffee. Usually tea though, straight from the garden, and not always for medicinal use. A couple of leaves of sage in a pot of hot water is excellent for a sore throat. Fennel is great for settling the tum. In a baby’s bottle and cooled to the appropriate temperature, fennel tea can offer a full night’s sleep for the tired tiny baby stage of life (when drunk by the baby, not the parents). The best for flavour, I find, is a mixture of sage, mint and sweet cicely leaves. Since we moved house last year I have been struggling to get the sweet cicely to out-grow the slugs. The crushed egg shells are doing the trick now and by the end of the summer I hope to have good mixed herb teas once again.

11] do you know anto?

Not that I know of. Who’s Anto?

12]whats your favourite tshirt

There is a craft village in Spiddal, out the coast road from Galway. One of the craft workers has a shop called An Spailpín Fánach, where they supply t-shirts and the like printed with Irish language and Irish interest pictures. A while back I bought a dark green t-shirt there with a bright ink-style drawing of a scene from the Táin Bó Cúailnge of the bull of Cooley and the facing armies of Connaught and Ulster. Now I’m on the look-out for a long sleeved t-shirt just like it to replace one that has seen one cliff face too many in its rock-climbing career.

13] gimme a free book?

Sure, I’ve the kettle on already. Drop in whenever you are in the area.

14] so barrack obama calls you tomorrow….do go ‘Jasus Barrack…. whats the cluckin’ story horsebox’ or do you go ’shoite…. its flippin’ Obama on the flippin’ phone’……..?

Well the first thing I would assume is that he was reading all about the Garden of Eden Projects in the Clare Champion article a while back and wanted some tips for the community garden Michelle has started on the lawn there. Either that or he needs help getting the White House wheelie bin down to size. Think about it, what head of state doesn’t need help with their waste mountain?

15] if mary mc carthy [joe punter] wants to get one of your books how do they go about it…?

“Get Rid of Your Bin” is in most book shops around the country, and on – follow the link from the main page. Some internet shops bamboozle you with contents and links and offers and such like, but my one is really easy, there is just one book on the shelf! I’m working on the next one…

16] Beyoncee is going to play the O2 in Dublin – will you go?

I’m going to pass this year. I could pretend that I had even considered it, but won’t.

17] ben kenealy thinks *he’s all that* is he?

Who’s Ben Kenealy? Besides, if he thinks “He’s all that” then maybe that’s enough.

18] dave from Dublins 98fm got me into trouble with ‘her indoors’ – she made him rhubarb crumble and I ate it. Would you like some pie? What advice would you give to dave?

If you want a sugar free version, sweet cicely used to be used as a sweetener in medieval times. If you want a good cup of herbal brew with some of your pie, look no further than the herb bed for mint or fennel.

19] how many people turned up to your first book signing? honestly?

About fifty – a good turnout.

20] describe your book in one sentence?

The original title was meant to be “Get Rid of Your Bin – Get Rid of Your Bin Charges and Save the Earth” but the publishers preferred “Get Rid of Your Bin – and Save Money”. Either way, that sums it up fairly succinctly – the book is a why-to/how-to manual for minimising household waste and costs.

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