What’s That You Say? Garden Books Thriving?


This just in from Publishers Weekly:  garden books are actually doing well this year.  A few highlights from their report:

What might be termed the “old variety” of gardening books hurt
the category's sales, argues Plain White Press publisher Julie
Trelstad. “The flood of coffee-table gardening books imported from
Europe nearly killed gardening publishing, not only because of their
expense but they were not applicable to U.S. gardening conditions.”

and this on veg gardening:

According to Baldwin at Chelsea Green, “This is the most
significant category of books for us, accounting for 32% of our net
sales in the last twelve months versus 22% in the previous twelve
months.” She adds that net sales grew by an “astounding” 56% in the
same period, while the entire list was up 5.4%. The publisher's
bestseller has been Eliot Coleman's Four Season Harvest, which is up 91% in the last twelve months and selling almost three times as well as it did three years ago.

Good news for Timber, too:

Timber Press has had similar success. Publisher Neal Maillet
disputes the naysayers, noting that the house's garden-book sales were
up 12% overall in 2008.

and of course:

A question that all publishers must deal with when releasing
gardening reference titles during a recession is: why would anyone
spend their hard-earned dollars on a reference book when much of the
content can be found online? Rick Rinehart, publisher at Taylor Trade
Publishing, has a few theories. “Book buyers are an elite group. And
those who are gardening enthusiasts are an elite within an elite. They
want to see their subject from many angles. Books do this.”


  1. Well, by God’s grace! Can’t wait to e-mail my own publisher and rub this in, I mean, point this out. Historically, hard-working gardening books have thrived in hard economic times, but in the age of the internet, what a relief to hear it’s still true. Thanks for a great kickoff to a spring weekend!!!

  2. “The flood of coffee-table gardening books imported from Europe nearly killed gardening publishing, not only because of their expense but they were not applicable to U.S. gardening conditions.”


    This confused me *so* much when I was just starting out and only sort of knew what zone was to begin with.

    Not that they’re entirely useless, but they should come with a big fat warning label if they’re sold in the ‘states. Maybe quarantined to their own shelf so neophytes don’t get waylaid. I’m still a little afraid of the garden book section.

  3. Here here. And I think Rinehart is righ tabout the multiple angle thing. Gardeners ARE tactile folks, and books ARE tactile, too, so, A=B. Plus, I am an elitist snob, so huzzah!

  4. I use the Internet a lot, but I still feel that browsing a book is easier, more enjoyable and more fruitful in many cases that surfing the Net. And you don’t have to buy them all – the library is a priceless resource.

  5. Amen to the idea that British garden porn has nothing to do with the experience of gardening in America, with the possible exception of Portland, Oregon.

    But about appealing only to the “elite of the elite”–I know you, Amy, often talk about creating a market as much as writing for one. I agree that that is what garden writers should be doing–not just preaching to the converted, but convincing mystified non-gardeners that the endeavor is profoundly enjoyable. And not that hard.

  6. “…gardening books imported from Europe … not applicable to U.S. gardening conditions.”

    How long did it take them to discover this fact? I long ago learned to buy books relative to my own gardening zone/Gulf South conditions.

    I notice there is still an European author or two on your sidebar.

  7. Hey, I like some of those European books. Piet Oudolf being very important.
    He really brought home the know your plants requirements and start thinking beyond the norm argument for great gardens.
    There is a world beyond our gardens that is quite often relevant to creating something beyond mundane.

  8. Oh, now I feel all squishy. “elite within an elite”. How delicous!

    But Benjamin has it right; we are a tactile group. How many gardeners have you ever seen, whether in person or on TV that doesn’t reach down and touch leaves and such as they walk their garden.

    And books..well..they have their own tactile appeal too. Especially after they get a little garden dirt on them. 🙂

  9. “when much of the content can be found online?”


    In the time it takes me to peruse through the irrelavant websites to find the one or two that give me some snippets of info on partial shade vegetable gardening, I could read an entire book on the subject.

    Also, I could take a laptop into the garden and hope my wireless connection holds, but what happens when I get mud all over it? Books and magazines are easier.

  10. My Garden Book Collection does something for me that my Laptop can not:In the dead of January when it seems like my Garden will never wake up I can curl up in the big chair by the Bookshelf in the corner.There are the favorites,Fran Sorin,Alan Titchmarsh,Ruth Stoudt and many more,all waiting to talk to me of their gardens,assuring me that spring will come.My Laptop does not do that yet.Though it has brought me Garden Rant.;-)

  11. IRONY defined!

    Rick Rinehart.

    Rick Rinehart’s Taylor Trade (an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group) published my book, GARDEN YOUR CITY in 2005.

    They own National Book Network, whose reps service every target market that I wrote this book for – – one of which is gift shops of botanical gardens and arboreta.

    It was, an my agent said, a perfect match since shop buyers purchase through reps. Reviews were great and I had spoken with bookstore managers so we eagerly awaited to hear of orders from Wave Hill, New York Botanical, Brooklyn, Chicago, Denver, Washington, etc! No reps. No sales.

    The recent purchase of the rights and remaining inventory of my book was not easy but it was an awaited offer that couldn’t be refused.

    So, as a fellow ranter and new distributor of Garden Your City, I ask you to see the table of contents on the website (.com) and tell your local garden shop, bookstore, and library about this how-to and where-to garden book. Please!

    Thanks SO much.

    P.S. I wrote for people who wish they could garden despite living in a city, need to know gardening basics, and for those who want to expand their beautification horizons – NOT written for the elite!

  12. I’ve bought an embarrassing number of garden books in the last year, and I plan to do so again. I don’t see much need to be reasonable about book purchasing – it’s not like they take up a lot of room once you own them, and I don’t know about you all, but I’d way rather have a nice shelf of books to look at than a picture, though pictures have their good points as well.

    I just can’t wait till they release the Kindle Color someday. Now that will be awesome to be able to carry around a lot of gardening books everywhere. Right now the photos do fall a bit flat.

    Anyway, elite, huh? Elite in the sense that I skip cable tv for books – yeah, I guess so. Gardening shouldn’t be an elite activity, though. It sure wasn’t in the past.

  13. ‘Book buyers are an elite group. And those who are gardening enthusiasts are an elite within an elite.’

    Once again ‘elite’ is confused with ‘affluent.’ And getting less so each day….

  14. what’s the name of that book. i’d love to expand my veggie garden into the partial shade areas of the yard.

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