"An absolute dream of a read, this invitation to fall in love with plants and nature really shouldn’t be missed."
Simply glorious. This charming book took me by the hand and walked with me over the course of a year around the neighbourhood of The Grove in London, visiting the front gardens and history of this magical place. I say magical, it is actually a normal suburban street, but it is brought to vivid colourful life with Ben Dark’s knowledge and eloquence. Whether you’re an experienced or non gardener this book reaches out to all. I like to think of myself as a lover of nature, but my eyes have now been opened to a new world of possibilities. Ben Dark is a head gardener, award-winning broadcaster, and landscape historian. He not only knows his stuff, he also writes with a poet’s touch. Just to hear him describe Wisteria sinensis made me smile: “It has the poet’s ability to play the tortured ancient from youth. The stems bite into each other as they twist. Constricted growth bulges and flattens. Its wood quickly becomes striated, as if the thin bark lies over a mass of knotted tendon and muscle. It is why the wisteria is such a potent symbol of haunting”. As he walks around the local streets, pushing his son in his pram, the history of the area and plants come to life. He also introduces his own story and the thoughts of a number of renowned lovers of plants from the past including the indomitable Vita Sackville-West. Each and every flower, shrub or tree can be seen as an individual, each garden as its own neighbourhood sometimes reaching out towards the next. If anyone can encourage a burgeoning love of gardening it is Ben Dark. Oh, and I adored his thoughts about the 1/2 garden, everyone should dream so. Chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, this would make an absolutely perfect gift. The Grove: A Nature Odyssey in 19 1/2 Front Gardens is a beautifully readable, engaging and accessible book I can recommend heart and soul.