I have been obsessed with books and the library ever since I was a little kid. All of the librarians knew me by name and would go to great lengths to help me find new books I hadn’t read or gather my long list of special requests and order them in for me.
Before the internet was the amazing search tool that it is, books and first-hand experience were the only ways to learn about something new. I was so curious about so many things and the library fed that curiosity. I was always apologizing to the librarians for having such a long request list, but they never made me feel bad about being so curious and always helped me on my quest to find as much information as possible on my latest obsession.
I definitely passed my love of reading on to our kids. When they were small we visited the library at least once a week and had to have two library cards so that we could check out as many books as we wanted. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t max out the limit of 100 books per library card! I was always trying to make a deal with the librarian to sneak in a couple more.
Even now, I am still just as obsessed with books, and any time I find a bookstore (which sadly is becoming so rare), I can’t leave empty-handed even though my home library is overflowing to the point of having books stacked on the floor and in every corner of the house.
I have always had such gratitude for people who take the time to share their wisdom, experience, and gifts with the world through books. But it wasn’t until I became an author myself that I realized what an undertaking it is to make a book. Now every time someone I follow or admire writes a book I pre-order multiple copies and try to spread the word in every way that I can.
My personal library is a bit out of control and I know not everyone has the appetite or space to collect books like I do so I thought I would try and narrow down my very favorite books by category if you’re looking for some new titles to add to your own collection.
Top 5 books for gifting
If you’re looking for a great book to give as a gift, these are my go-to’s. I bet I’ve gifted two dozen copies of each this year alone. Each one of these titles has such rich storytelling, stunning photography, and something to offer for everyone (activities, recipes, and inspiration) no matter their experience level.
Life in the Studio: Inspiration and Lessons on Creativity by Frances Palmer
If you’re looking for some serious inspiration, this book is a must have! Frances Palmer is a renown East Coast potter who has lived an extraordinarily rich life and has grown a very intentional business centered around creativity. Frances opens up her life to readers and shares the most beautiful collection of essays, photographs, recipes, tutorials, and life lessons. Every single person I have given this book to has read it cover to cover in one sitting. It’s one of my top five favorite books and will leave you changed. In addition, Frances has just released two new jigsaw puzzles featuring her beautiful flower photographs which would make lovely gifts. Be sure to visit her website to see all of her incredible creations including her coveted handmade pottery, signed books, photo prints, and more.
I’ve been a fan of Mary Heffernan of Five Marys Farms for many years after discovering her on Instagram, and we’ve since become real-life friends. Mary, her husband, and their four daughters, all named Mary, have a ranch in northern California where they raise Black Angus cattle, Navajo Churro lambs, and Berkshire heritage pigs. They sell their pasture-raised meats and other farm-produced products direct-to-consumer. We’ve been Farm Club members since discovering Mary and her family and are always thrilled with the quality of their meat. Mary is an incredible businesswoman and a wealth of information. Last fall Mary’s cookbook was released and it has fast become one of the most used cookbooks on my shelf. All of the recipes we’ve made have been delicious and the stories and photography give this book so much depth and interest. If you want to learn more about Mary and her incredible business, you can read my past interview with her here.
A Year Full of Flowers: Gardening for All Seasons by Sarah Raven
I credit Sarah Raven with inspiring me to start growing cut flowers nearly 20 years ago. I first discovered one of her books at my local library in the very early days of my flower farming journey. At the time, I was looking for any information I could find on selecting the best varieties for cutting, growing super long-stemmed blooms, and germinating a handful of difficult-to-grow flowers. From the first moment I opened her book, I was mesmerized. Sarah’s books, award-winning website, products, and videos continue to inspire me today. Sarah’s latest title might be my very favorite of all the books that she’s written. A Year Full of Flowers is filled with so much helpful information including Sarah’s favorite varieties across so many different plant categories and the photographs by Jonathan Buckley are out of this world. If you’re looking for gardening inspiration, this is the book to get.
I had the pleasure of meeting Clare when we visited England a few years ago shortly after her book came out. I have been a fan of her work for so long and finally getting to connect in person was a dream come true. This book is one of my very favorites and I have gifted it to every single gardener in my life. In addition to covering everything you need to know about growing and enjoying homegrown flowers all year long, the abundance of beautiful photos will keep you glued to the pages from beginning to end. This book is a must add to your flower library!
Monty Don has such a gift for teaching and storytelling and I’ve looked to him as a mentor since I first started growing. He has authored 18 books on gardening and is probably the most well known and respected gardener in the world for good reason. The Complete Gardener is hands down, my all-time favorite gardening book ever! This book has been my go-to source of information and inspiration for nearly 20 years. One of the most comprehensive gardening books available, it’s packed with everything you need to know to garden organically, including composting, soil health, hedges, perennials, growing your own food … this book covers it all. This year, Monty released an extensively revised new edition that is even better than the original.
Floral design books
Arranging Flowers by Martha Stewart (Best of Martha Stewart Living Series)
An oldie, but a goodie! This book has stood the test of time. Organized seasonally, each page is filled with gorgeous photographs of flowers harvested from Martha’s garden at Turkey Hill.
Sue is one of the most talented, innovative, and generous floral designers I’ve ever met. Her beautiful book is filled with so many helpful tutorials for creating wearable floral art.
This book just arrived in the mail and I dropped everything to sit down and pore over its pages. It is overflowing with gorgeous photography, wonderful step-by-step tutorials, and beautiful essays.
Floret Farm’s A Year in Flowers: Designing Gorgeous Arrangements for Every Season by Erin Benzakein with Jill Jorgensen and Julie Chai
My second book teaches you how to create beautiful arrangements using flowers from your garden or those grown close to home any time of the year. To our shock and delight, A Year in Flowers became an instant New York Times best-selling book, which helped shine a spotlight on the local, seasonal flower movement and the incredibly hardworking people behind the blooms.
Flowers for the Table: Arrangements and Bouquets for All Seasons by Ariella Chezar
Even though 15 years have passed since its publication date, this beautiful little book has inspired more florists than perhaps any other book on floral design, myself included. Ariella’s focus on fresh, seasonal blooms has helped make important changes in the flower industry to include more local and seasonal flowers and foliage.
Ariella’s second book is filled with heartbreakingly beautiful designs in a wide range of complex color palettes. It is Ariella’s exquisite approach to color that distinguishes her work from any other designer, and has influenced my own designs tremendously.
Seasonal Flower Arranging: Fill Your Home with Blooms, Branches, and Foraged Material All Year Round by Ariella Chezar
Like everything she touches, this book by Ariella Chezar is pure magic. Her latest book offers even more inspiration for connecting more closely with nature through seasonal floral design.
On Flowers: Lessons from an Accidental Florist by Amy Merrick
Amy approaches floral design with an artist’s lens, taking ordinary blooms and helping us see them in a completely unique way. Her book feels like an intimate look into the pages of her scrapbook, tracing her love of flowers through her career as a florist in New York City and beyond, as she travels the world.
Flower growing books
A Year Full of Flowers: Gardening for All Seasons by Sarah Raven
Sarah’s latest title might be my very favorite of all the books that she’s written. A Year Full of Flowers is filled with so much helpful information including Sarah’s favorite varieties across so many different plant categories and the photographs by Jonathan Buckley are out of this world. If you’re looking for gardening inspiration, this is the book to get.
The Cutting Garden: Growing & Arranging Garden Flowers by Sarah Raven
This was the first book I ever discovered on growing cut flowers and has been a source of inspiration for nearly 20 years. I credit Sarah and this book for inspiring me to get my start in flowers.
Grow Your Own Cut Flowers by Sarah Raven
If I had to pick, this is probably my favorite book on growing flowers and I’ve referenced it so many times over the years that the spine is broken and almost every page is smudged with dirt. I love the way that this book is organized because Sarah crammed so much helpful information into the pages, but in a really easy to understand and reference way. While out of print now, if you can find a used copy, it’s worth whatever you have to pay.
I’ve been a fan of Kristine’s incredible dahlias for many years and have sought her advice on breeding my own new varieties many times. If you want to try your hand at dahlia breeding and learn from the best, this wonderful little book has everything you need.
Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest & Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms by Erin Benzakein with Julie Chai
My first book covers everything you need to know about growing flowers on a small scale and is the perfect jumping-off point for beginning gardeners. It includes detailed growing instructions for more than 175 different flower varieties and is overflowing with so many beautiful photos. Cut Flower Garden won the American Horticultural Society book award, which was such an incredible honor.
Floret Farm’s Discovering Dahlias: A Guide to Growing and Arranging Magnificent Blooms by Erin Benzakein with Jill Jorgensen and Julie Chai
This book does a deep dive into one of the most beloved cut flowers—dahlias. In addition to sharing all of my secrets to successfully growing dahlias, this book also features 360 of my very favorite varieties organized by color and also includes a chapter on breeding your own new dahlias, plus how to save your seed.
There’s good reason this book is considered the bible for beginning flower farmers: it includes everything you need to know to become a flower farmer. If you are considering getting into the business, you’ll want to read this book–twice!
Grow and Gather: A Gardener’s Guide to a Year of Cut Flowers by Grace Alexander
This delightful new book is filled with reflective essays, journal entries, and growing advice. The beautiful photographs provide a window into Grace’s lovely world and offer inspiration for gardens of any size.
This book is one of my very favorites and I have gifted it to every single gardener in my life. In addition to covering everything you need to know about growing and enjoying homegrown flowers all year long, the abundance of beautiful photos will keep you glued to the pages from beginning to end. This book is a must-add to your flower library!
General gardening books
The Bold and Brilliant Garden by Sarah Raven
I remember the first time I opened this book and was blown away by Sarah’s fearless use of color, combining bright, rich, saturated hues in ways I had never seen before. It inspired so many gardeners, myself included, to push the boundaries and really think outside the box when it comes to plant and color combinations.
Hands down, my all-time favorite gardening book ever! This book has been my go-to source of information and inspiration for nearly 20 years. One of the most beautiful and comprehensive gardening books available, it’s packed with everything you need to know to garden organically, including composting, soil health, hedges, perennials, growing your own food … this book covers it all. This year, Monty released an extensively revised new edition that is even better than the original.
Martha Stewart’s Gardening: Month by Month by Martha Stewart
While this book is nearly 30 years old, it has stood the test of time. This massive photo-filled resource takes you through an entire year in Martha’s garden and kitchen at Turkey Hill. Whenever I see copies at used bookstores I always grab them because they make the best gifts. If you’re looking for a book to get lost in over the winter as you plan out your garden, be sure to add this to your stack.
Organic farming books
On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm by Michael Ableman and Alice Waters
I read this book shortly after Elora was born and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. When I finished the last page I sat up in my chair and declared to Chris that we needed to leave the city as soon as possible and start a farm. This beautiful memoir tells the moving story of a small farm that is nearly swallowed up by development but becomes the heart of a community.
It is hard to pick just one of Eliot Coleman’s books because they are all fantastic, but I find myself referencing this incredible resource the most often. Eliot is the godfather of organic vegetable farming and his production techniques and generous sharing have revolutionized the way many small farms operate.
This brilliant book is a must-have for anyone interested in organic farming. Like Eliot Coleman’s books, this volume is focused on vegetable farming, but many of the principles are transferable to flowers. Both authors beautifully detail how it is possible to farm on a small scale without big tractors or other fancy equipment.
Business & personal development books
Hands down, one of the best books I’ve ever read in this genre. Part sermon, part therapy, and part ass-kicking … this book will blow you out of the water and into action towards the life and business of your dreams.
Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work by Steven Pressfield
More than any other book, this one changed my life the most. I remember when I finished the last page of the book and realized how much of my life I had been making excuses for not going after my dreams. The very next day I sat down and wrote the proposal for Cut Flower Garden. If you feel like you have something inside of you that you want to share with the world, this book will be the spark you need to take the next step.
This book really helped me shift my perspective around business and pursuing creative, meaningful work. Rather than focusing on what you do and how you do it, Simon challenges readers to get to the heart of why they do what they do and from there, everything else follows.
StrengthsFinder 2.0 by Tom Rath
I remember the first time I read this book I had such a breakthrough around focusing on my strengths rather than trying to change my weaknesses. The theory behind this book is that when we embrace the way that we are naturally wired and pour our energy into areas of strength we find more satisfaction in life and work. We’ve used this book to grow our team and it has been an absolute game-changer.
Favorite books giveaway
I thought it would be fun to give away a collection of my favorite books. To win one of five deluxe flower library starter kits featuring 12 of my favorite books (plus two new puzzles from Frances Palmer!) please share your favorite book (and why it’s your favorite) in the comments section below.
Winners will be announced and notified on Wednesday, December 8. This giveaway is only open to U.S. residents due to international shipping costs.
UPDATE: A big congratulations to our winners Jo Anna Mortensen, Bridget, Elizabeth Walters, Robin Parsons and Michelle Enns.
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