In this blog “The Pottery Gardener by Arthur Parkinson book review” I will introduce you to this book, its author and hopefully why you might wish to buy a copy for yourself!
The Pottery Gardener by Arthur Parkinson is described on its front cover as “ravishing” by none other than Joanna Lumley. I would concur with this description. It is a lovely book with beautiful pictures, a personal love story to flowers and hens.
I purchased this beautiful book during the depths of winter for some colourful relief and inspiration for the coming growing season.
Arthur sets out his intention for the book;
“What I didn’t want this book to be was a heavy thing with tons of text. Elements of it, I hope, may prove to be of some practical use, but having myself amassed (like most gardeners) several shelves worth of books on the subject, I can divide them into two piles. One is for those that are for visual, inspirational use, much needed in the winter, and the other is for those that are practical and informative, often with very few pictures. This book is aimed at being in the first mentioned pile.”
Arthur sums up his approach to gardening as “Beautiful chaos is the look that is always wanted.” The pictures in the book show exactly this. Beautifully full beds, containers, dolly tubs and planters. The type of rich fullness behind which lies a great deal of hard work and creativity.
Arthur Parkinson – the author
Arthur is a young rising star of the gardening world and already has a good track record behind him. He details in his book his journey into gardening. Early inspiration came from visits to Chatsworth Estate, instilling a love of the gardens and the estate’s hens. Arthur’s father insisted he learnt a trade and young Arthur plumped for gardening. Training at college and Kew Gardens ensued.
Arthur became friends with one of his inspirations, Sarah Raven. On Sarah’s recommendation Arthur visited the Emma Bridgewater Pottery factory to inspect the garden there.
Gardener at the Emma Bridgewater Pottery Factory
Arthur visited the garden at the Emma Bridgewater Pottery Factory, discovering that it was fairly non-existent. He came to be the gardener at the factory and set to work creating a garden!
This is where the book becomes quite inspiring. Arthur had to build a garden upwards due to the industrial setting. Dolly tubs, galvanised animal troughs, raised beds, galvanised bins and more created the planting areas. Arthur explains that just because a space is small doesn’t mean you have to plant small plants. In fact, doing so just enhances the smallness of the area. He encourages planting of larger growing plants so that you feel as if you have worked into a rich and lavish garden dominated by fronds and petals.
Bare soil does not feature in Arthur’s plans for a garden. This is something I had not particularly considered despite being drawn to fuller looking gardens. The approach outlined in this book is to plant fully all spaces that you can with a wonderful succession of gorgeous flowers. In this way you can have cut flowers brightening up your house for a large part of the year. The garden at the factory provides beautiful flowers from early spring through to late autumn. Expertly planned successional planting is key here.
The pictures in the book of the Emma Bridgewater Pottery Factory garden are simply stunning. Enhancing the garden in many pictures are the beautiful rare breed hens that Arthur is equally fanatical about.
Inspiration and recommendation
Whilst Arthur’s intention for this book was to provide a delightful pictorial record of the gardens he has worked on, it also provides plenty of practical tips.
Arthur recommends many varieties of dahlias, tulips, alliums and many other of his favourite flowering plants. As I read this book I kept a pen and paper to hand and jotted down some of my favourite recommendations. As a result, I have ordered a number of dahlias. I always used to have dahlias in my garden at home as a child and I have no idea why I have not continued to grow them! This is being rectified this year! I’ve also purchased some interesting nasturtiums – it’s always a bit of a battle with my Dad about these at the allotment. I love them. He hates them. I am going to try and win him round this year with some colourful varieties. On the plus side they have a lovely peppery taste and are edible.
The book brims with recommendations for a range of different flowering plants. Enthusiasm for bee friendly flowers is present in a big way and I whole heartedly support this! Arthur also details suppliers and books he recommends.
I should also mention as part of this review that there is a chapter on hens. My purpose for purchasing this book was for the flowers but I have been wooed by the hens. They really are beautiful animals, particularly the breeds featured in this book. Unfortunately I do not have any space for hens – maybe one day.
I came to the book from a love of flowers and leave feeling love for hens!
My Own Experience of Gardening
Arthur makes some very interesting observations about how lacking school education is with regards to gardening and farming.
My own experience mirrors this. When I was in primary school I naturally gravitated towards the plants in the class room. My lovely teacher, Mrs Till encouraged me and made me plant monitor which involved looking after and watering the plants each day. Mrs Till presented me with a certificate for “The Boy with Greenest Fingers” at the end of the class year.
However, all that existed in the grammar school I attended was a voluntary nature / wildlife group. This group met infrequently to plant trees and clear wild blackberry vines. Other than planting a tobacco plant to see if we could observe acid rain burning its sensitive leaves, gardening did not exist on the curriculum.
I had my own plot of garden at home. In this plot I would grow lots of lupins, carnations and dahlias. I quickly discovered that I had “green fingers” and my enterprising brain soon saw me selling plants to school teachers. After all the school buses had ferried my fellow students home I would return to school chauffeured by my mum with the boot of her Datsun Cherry full of plants. I made some decent pocket money from this, selling boxes for £5 a time. Teachers would occasionally ask me to stay behind after class, not through any naughtiness on my behalf but to ask for some tips about their carnations!
I funded my hobbies of vintage scooters and records through gardening for older people in my local neighbourhood. Mrs Rees was a lovely lady who lived 5 minutes walk from my house. I gardened for her for many years and learnt so much from this gentle intelligent gardener.
Me and my parents
I was lucky to have been brought up by parents who loved the taste of fresh home grown vegetables. My father Graham and I have been helping each other grow vegetables for over 40 years now and counting! There is something very enriching and bonding about growing and working the land together. My dad brings his lifetime of knowledge, snippets of wisdom from “Treacle Toffee” Billy and other such characters that have crossed his path at the allotment. Having studied permaculture, I bring a different perspective to doing things. I also discovered Charles Dowding and his no-dig approach to growing vegetables. As a result this has revolutionised the way we approach the allotment plot.
Let me not forget my mum! Mum is a fantastic weeder. She clears a weed filled bed in no time at all. Mum also boasts super human strength when required and has been know to pull out trees with one hand!
In Summary, The Pottery Gardener by Arthur Parkinson Book Review
To quote Joanne Lumley, a “ravishing” book providing a wonderful splash of colour and inspiration. I have already spent a small fortune on ordering plants and seeds for the coming year. The entrance to my flat now features a lovely William Morris planter lasagne planted with tulips who are all peaking through ready to bloom and flourish as spring slowly arrives.
I have always loved gardening, having focussed in more recent years on vegetables in the allotment. Arthur’s book has reignited my passion for flowers and reminded me of my love for some that I had forgotten about.
I highly recommend this book. Both a beautiful coffee table book but also a useful book of recommendations and practical tips.
You can purchase a copy from Blackwells here: https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/The-Pottery-Gardener-by-Arthur-Parkinson-author/9780750992411
The Flower Yard by Arthur Parkinson
Having read our “The Pottery Gardener by Arthur Parkinson book review” blog you may be interest to know that Arthur has another book due out very soon. It promises to be another interesting and inspiring book. You can pre-order copies of it now. I’m a sucker for an autographed copy of things and you can get one from Sarah Raven’s website here:
From Sarah Ravens website:
“The Flower Yard follows Arthur as he gardens through the seasons in pots. It is a beautifully visual yet personal and highly informative read on his love for bold colours, cut flowers and bees. The chapters provide a fascinating insight how he grows his garden and ensures a bold a brilliant show from his pots, treating the garden as if it is a stage by growing plants from seed and using bulbs on a huge scale, despite the gardens size and being in the middle of a town. This book will prove to be a tonic with over 200 photos taken also by Arthur and will be especially helpful for those with truly small gardens, patios and balconies who want floral exuberance and escape.”
Or you can get one from Blackwells here:
You can follow Arthur Parkinson via his instagram account at: https://www.instagram.com/arthurparkinson_/
Sarah Raven can be found here:
Follow Charles Dowding and find out more about his No-Dig approach here:
If you liked The Pottery Gardener by Arthur Parkinson book review be sure to check out our other book reviews here: