Klein opens this book by saying that plants have characteristics similar to people. It's a very different approach and one that works surprisingly well. This new version from Mitchell Beazsley is a re-issue of her first book from 2004. It isn't a how-to guide to gardening but grouped around personalities of plants, showing that you can chose which to grow that suits you and your garden best. There is still a huge amount of knowledge packed into a narrative format broken up with large, colourful images. Rather than reading through all of the plants soil preferences and appearance you get a broader picture of the whole garden.
Each of the plants mentioned have a bit of history, description of appearance and tips on what sort of environment they want best. There is an impressive range of plants in the book and plenty to cater to all types and sizes of gardens, this isn't just a book to read if you dream of owning acres of land.
Some of the pictures look quite pixelated, probably because the pictures were taken in 2004, made more noticeable by the stunning quality of most of the images. The photography is really beautiful, and it would be lovely to simply flick through the book gazing at them, however it often focuses so much on the flowers of the plant that you don't get to see the leaves and stem which means it is much harder to identify them when they aren't flowering or to see what they would look like in your own garden year around. I would have preferred a wider variety of smaller pictures rather than the whole page images of just one plant.
The back of the books contains an excellent index containing both the Latinate and common names which makes it very easy to navigate. There is also an A-Z of all of the plants mentioned with the information on heights, best sites and special conditions which is very useful if you are using it as a reference book for planting.
My favourite overall section was the 'Will-o'-the-wisps & wafty whisperers'. It is full of lovely plants that add movement and sound to a garden. The organisation makes a lot of sense if you already have a well established garden and want something very specific from a plant, you can find something that will flower briefly, give lots of cover or add bright colour to an evergreen section.For me it was wonderful to read as I set up my own new garden, having just moved house and taking over someone else's garden I needed to choose carefully what to keep and what to replace. I'll be using Carol Klein book a lot over the next few months. I shall also be blogging (over here) about both the home and garden side of moving house and redecorating.
This book is an unusual mix of gardening guide, coffee table book and involving read. Although still helpful for a beginner gardener it isn't designed as a how-to but does teach you about how to plant out a varied and interesting garden whether a new gardener or an old hand.