Book review: The Flower Garden by Clare Foster and Sabina Ruber

This book landed on my doormat at a time when I was researching for a piece on veg that you can grow in your boarders, and I had to set it aside and not allow myself to peek at it, for fear of being torn away from the job in hand.

Gypsophila ‘Kermesine’ by Sabina Ruber

Gypsophila ‘Kermesine’ by Sabina Ruber

The truth is, I am a flower person, through and through. I WANT to grow veg, and I DO, but nothing comes close to sowing and growing flowers. As regular readers of this blog will know, my problem (some might call it my USP) is lack of time, and this is why I regularly eschew sowing my own flowers and buy them as tiny plugs.

This book though, reminds me of the reasons why I DO sow a few flowers every year, despite not having a huge amount of time to give them…, not just because it saves me money, but because the authors are right, you learn SO much more about gardening and your plants by raising them from seed.

All the pretty things

All the pretty things

Clare Foster, Garden Editor at House and Garden Magazine, together with Sabina Ruber, acclaimed flower and garden photographer, began an exciting project back in 2012; to grow as many annual flowers from seed as they could. I love that Clare got stymied in this endeavour, as life got in the way while she moved house, and yet she began again…this somehow speaks to me - the real-life stuff…the things that don’t go to plan. It didn’t matter though…she picked up and carried on, and this glory of a book was born.

The flower garden: how to grow flowers from seed

Clare has divided it up into seven sections; Cottage garden favourites, Filigree Fillers, Bold and Beautiful, Sweetly Scented, Exotic beauties, Edible flowers and herbs, and Bee-Friendly flowers. This makes it incredibly easy to choose which flowers to have a go at sowing, particularly if you suffer from option paralysis…the hardest part is always choosing what to grow. She has also marked ‘easy’ plants (i.e. nigella) with a special symbol - so that’s another way you could pick, if you’re a beginner.


There is also a beautifully comprehensive, NON-SCARY section on sowing and growing. Gardening is so full of grey areas, and there are MANY different ways of doing the same thing, so I am drawn to advice that is instructional but doesn’t get too technical. Intuitiveness is key in gardening. We simply need a springboard for starting off, and this is a very good one.

sowing seeds

The last part of the book contains some ideas on how to use your flowers - how to make a sweet pea arch, for example, and how to create your own cutting patch. These are simple, one-page inspiration hits that appeal to me, as a time-pressed person, and obviously come naturally to Clare as a magazine editor.

Beautiful cobaea scandens in a vase -  How to sow cobaea scandens

Beautiful cobaea scandens in a vase - How to sow cobaea scandens

This book had me at hello with its GOLDEN spine and utterly stunning photographs. Sabina Ruber’s close ups are mesmerising, but the thing that sets this one apart is the fact that it’s NOT encyclopaedic. It’s obvious that every single plant here has been sown and grown by the authors, tried and tested. I love the fact that they stipulate specific cultivars, and that each one is photographed. What an absolutely gorgeous, useful book; I think it’s only a matter of time before its pages are crinkled and smeared with compost.

Highly recommended.

The Flower Garden by Clare Foster and Sabina Ruber is out next month

x Laetitia