REVIVE YOUR GARDEN book review

Nick Bailey. Photography by Jonathan Buckley

Kyle Books £25 Hardback. Published spring 2018

My garden blends seamlessly with the surrounding countryside. If you drive along our country lane, you wouldn’t be able to tell anyone lived there. The garden shelters behind mature hawthorn hedges with scented wild roses and honeysuckle. I love its wildness. But there comes a point where the wild garden starts to get the upper hand; some paths are no longer accessible. The woodland is expanding and cow parsley taking over. And don’t even mention the brambles.

Just in time, Nick Bailey has produced a book that seems to be written specially for me! Revive Your Garden is a step by step guide to restoring order.

When a garden has got out of control, the task to get it back into shape seems overwhelming. It’s difficult to know where to start. This book sets out a sensible plan of action, starting with a section on “understanding the opportunities and limitations” of your plot.

Next there’s a back-to-basics approach on pruning. I should really know when and how

to prune my shrubs, but Nick’s guide gives me reassurance that I’m doing it right. There’s a master class on renovation pruning with plenty of photographs to illustrate different techniques.

For beginners, there’s a very good section on identifying the difference between weeds and useful plants worth saving. My daughters found this particularly good – as they are starting to look for their first-time homes. All the houses we’ve looked at in their (low) price range have terrible, ramshackle gardens.

There’s a section on renovating lawns. Mine have been attacked by all kinds of creatures, gouging holes in the grass. I just need a nudge in the right direction to tackle the eyesore.

One idea in the book I’ve copied involves taking photos of the garden and laying tracing paper over the top. Draw on the changes you’d like to make. In my case, I want to create a new breakfast terrace near the summerhouse; a sunny spot first thing in the morning. Drawing it out first gives an impression of what it would look like- before you’ve spent any money on the scheme, and you can play around with various options.

Practical advice on restoring paving, reviving gravel and fences is followed by a section called “How to Wow.” I need to revamp some of my planting areas- once I’ve hacked back the brambles.

Revive Your Garden gives you confidence to tackle any garden work, whether it’s bringing a tired and neglected garden back into shape, or putting your own stamp on a newly acquired plot. It’s written in an enthusiastic way. You can definitely hear Nick’s voice as he explains the techniques. It’s just the encouragement you need to get going.

Here’s some photos of my garden, before I start work on our renovation project. Wish me luck. I might be out there for a while!

There’s a path through there……

And there.

Honestly, there’s a path through there. Leading to the outside world, and this view.

NICK BAILEY, a regular presenter on BBC2’s Gardeners’ World, has worked as a professional horticulturalist for more than 20 years and won silver gilt for his first show garden at Chelsea Flower Show in 2016. Until recently he was head gardener at Chelsea Physic Garden.

29 thoughts on “REVIVE YOUR GARDEN book review

  1. It might be overgrown, but your garden looks lovely with its shady spots, nooks and crannies and long views. You’ve a big job ahead of you! I look forward to seeing posts about it as you work your way through it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Jane, we all had a panic when I got ill two years ago. But I just said, let’s not worry about the garden for now. It will always be there when I’m feeling up to tackling it. well, I’m a lot better now, and gardening is great for regaining fitness levels. I just didn’t really know where to start. An acre of brambles is a lot to tackle! I’ve been determined to keep my cut flower and veg patch going. Just got a massive bank of stingers and brambles all long one side of it. Thanks again for your kind comments.

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  2. This is a really helpful review. I love Nick Bailey’s first book, ‘365 Days of Colour’. Your before-and-after photos of your garden really show the difference. It looks lovely.

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    • Thank you Ali. Glad you found the review helpful. I have hundreds of books. But this one seems to have everything I need in one book. And I like his can-do attitude. It’s very cheerful and matter-of-fact. It really makes you feel like you can just get on and do it. I just needed a little push in the right direction. Thanks again for reading the blog.

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  3. This book might just be useful. My garden is small (50 x 120 feet, and that includes the house, driveway, and garage), but I planted shrubs with a suckering tendency, like Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) and snowberry, so I’m always hacking away at them. Your place looks like it has all kinds of potential, and that view of the outside world is lovely.

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    • Thank you Audrey. Well, Mum has that snowberry all along her field side boundary – so I know how difficult that can be. And I had that mahonia in the last garden, as ground cover. Never again! My garden has gone from wildlife haven to wilderness in just three years. Before, I always just kept it the right side of “in control.” But being ill for a year in 2016 led to the weeds getting the upper hand. Now I’m back and forth to the elderly relatives’ garden trying to help there, so this year the brambles have grown to even more gargantuan proportions. Thank you for your lovely, kind comments. I’m trying to be sensible and just tackle one area at a time. When I get overwhelmed, I just stand and stare at that view. Thanks again for reading.

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  4. That sounds like the book for me. Nature has taken over while my husband was so ill and I’m now having to try and get it back under some sort of control, it will be a long job. Brambles, nettles and bindweed have taken over in areas but I’m sure I’ll get there in the end.

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    • Same here Pauline. I took my eye off the garden when I was ill for a year in 2016. Tender plants died or became swamped by the more thuggish shrubs and perennials. Since then I’ve been distracted by trying to get back to work. And now there are elderly relatives requiring time and attention. I’ve decided to just battle the brambles and nettles and reclaim the pathways this year. Next year I’ll re-plant with a vengeance. Good luck with your own garden. I’m sure we will both get there in the end. xx

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    • Thank you Christina. It’s a very comprehensive book. A first class manual for looking after the garden. I like the matter-of-fact approach and tick list for jobs. I’m too emotionally attached to my plants and can hardly bring myself to remove things I’ve lived with for years. But as I’m reading though the book, I can hear Nick’s voice saying, “Right then, let’s get started.”
      Thanks again for reading the blog . Much appreciated.

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  5. Great idea for a book. I did a magazine article a few years ago about the revival of a mature garden and the gardener said, “sometimes you have to be ruthless.” It was a new idea to me and it made an impact on my thinking…that we can’t always be sentimental about declining plants or outdated design ideas, sometimes even good gardens need an overhaul.

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    • Hi Marian. That’s so true. I’m just not the ruthless type. But I’m going to have to be else we soon won’t be able to get in the drive. I always stand back and consider everything 20 times before taking action. That’s how I’ve got in a mess. I spend too long prevaricating, and not enough time just getting stuck in. It’s very hard to take the loppers to mature shrubs. They look stunning, but they are blocking the walkways. Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend.

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    • Thank you Mike. It’s a really great book. Haven’t been on here for a while. Staying with my elderly relatives at the moment. Looking after them and their garden. But I’ve made a plan of action. Just need some time to get on with it. Hope you are ok. Enjoy the weekend. xx

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    • That’s true. I perhaps need a chipping machine. Looking into it. I’ve got a Hot Bin for weeds, which I love. Fast turnover for compost. But the trigs and branches take ages to chop up. Thanks for reading.

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  6. Karen is a fabulous book that I could use very well, but I can not do gardening. I love your garden even if it’s wild. Those intertwined roses that do not let the road pass are divine. I like the small pergolas on the way. Your forest is beautiful. I imagine your honeysuckle, brambles and canine roses united and unruly: mine are also but in a lower degree because they have been planted for less time. Karen I’m sorry about your illness in 2016, I hope you’re better now (it’s the car accident, right?). I hope your family members get good soon. Karen I love your blog. Memories with love for your Mother. For you love and the best. Take care. Loving greetings from Margarita.

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    • Thank you so much Margarita. I’m so sorry you are struggling with the garden. Thank you for your very kind and lovely comments. I’m going to make a pergola for the roses that block the path. The brambles will be tackled a few at a time. With many tea and cake breaks in between 🙂 . Relatives have suddenly taken priority. I’m away staying with them right now. Loving greetings to you and your parents. Take care. Love karen xx

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  7. Your garden is similar to mine in so many ways. Except yours is tidier! It sounds like Nick’s book would be a welcome addition here too.
    I can’t believe it’s two years already since you were ill. Doesn’t time fly.

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    • Thank you Jessica. I was just thinking that this time two years ago I was in hospital on the hottest day of the year with 30C temperatures- and no air conditioning. A nurse called Beauty made us all some ice cream milkshakes at 10.30 at night because we were too hot to sleep. Funny how some things you never forget. So grateful to be sitting under my beech tree this summer. Weeds, brambles, stinging nettles… nothing really matters. They will all get sorted a bit at a time. Have a good week, and thanks again for reading.

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    • Thanks Gill. I’ve made space on the shelf for this one. Thanks for reading. Hope you are well. I’ve not had a chance to catch up recently, but I have been reading your blogs and they’ve made me laugh. Love karen x

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    • Thank you Brian. There’s a lot to do. I’ve just tried to pick the raspberries. What a painful job with all the stingers and brambles coming up through. I will have to start there! Thanks for reading. All the best. Karen p.s. the raspberries are super delicious this year. Seems they liked the very cold winter.

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    • Thank you Cathy. Everything’s grown like mad this year. Weeds I was keeping an eye on earmarking for digging out are now taller than me. Thanks for your kind comments. Hope you are enjoying the weekend. I’m still at my in-laws house. Missing my own garden.

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