It’s entertaining season, and my husband and I like to play our part by hosting a few dinner parties. All those parties, of course, mean lots of guests, and I wouldn’t be a good hostess if I didn’t have some eye-catching coffee table books laying around to be perused, would I? I also wouldn’t be a proper gardener if they weren’t all chock full of plants. My theory is that coffee table books should inspire, and perhaps even push you over the edge if you’re simply thinking about gardening. That’s precisely what these five gorgeous gardening coffee table books do. They’re not just for our guests, though. I find flipping through them to be a welcome respite when it’s 20 degrees and raining, as they trigger daydreams of glorious trellises and paths, not to mention melt-in-your-mouth recipes. In the spring and summer, the books serve as a reminder of why I get up at the crack of dawn to water and feed and watch everything grow. And while I can’t have all of you over for dinner, I can give you a peek at what you’d find on my coffee table. Just pour yourself some eggnog and crack open one of these beautiful books, and it will be just as if you were here.
The Edible Front Yard by Ivette Soler (photography by Ann Summa)
This book leaves me drooling every time, and can you blame me? Pages and pages of gorgeous garden photos greet me when I open it, and I just can’t stop turning them. Ivette Soler certainly did her research, too. There are surprising varieties you wouldn’t think would be edible (like prickly pear cactus, for instance). This is also a great resource if you’re trying to persuade your home owners’ association that they should let you plant kale or Swiss chard in the front yard. Who could resist veggie garden designs this beautiful?
Elizabeth David on Vegetables by Elizabeth David (photography by Kristin Perers)
Published this year to mark the 100th anniversary of cookbook author and journalist Elizabeth David’s birth, this compendium of some of her best vegetable recipes quickly claimed a spot on my coffee table. While I do sometimes bring it into the kitchen (I really need to buy another copy that I won’t mind getting messy), the breathtaking full-page photos are perfect for thumbing through during an afternoon break from the garden. With inspiration from French, Mediterranean, and Italian cooking, the recipes can be a bit exotic, but not too complicated for the novice cook. Some of my favorites: Braised Artichokes, Eggplant Puree, Sweet-and-Sour Red Cabbage… I could go on. I’ve even added some plants to next year’s garden plan just because the recipes for them look so enticing!
Flowers and Herbs of Early America by Lawrence Griffith (photography by Barbara Temple Lombardi)
If (like me) you’re a garden nerd, this one will definitely keep you parked on the sofa for a while. The photos are, of course, delightful, but equally as interesting are the short histories on how the plants were once used. In my house, this book’s main purpose is for inspiration and enjoyment, not gardening advice. Yes, there are a few tips on growing for each variety in the book, but they don’t go into detail. At least I’m not worried that I’ll ruin it by dragging it out into the garden! (P.S.: Andrea Wulf’s The Founding Gardeners sparked my love for books like this. It’s not a coffee table book per se, but it’s a great read.)
The Heirloom Tomato by Amy Goldman (photography by Victor Schrager)
Tomatoes have a special place in my heart, and therefore a place on my coffee table as well. I have a love-hate relationship with this book, though, as yet another tomato ends up in my garden plan each time I crack it open, thanks to the absolutely stunning photographs. I’m not just talking about the portraits of each variety, either; the recipes are also gorgeous. The Cherry Tomato Focaccia, for example, looks as beautiful as it sounds, as does the Savory Tomato Custard. While I’ll admit that, yes, it’s a bit hard to look at this book when tomatoes aren’t in season, it does serve as a wonderful reminder of the riches to come when warm weather returns.
Natural Companions: The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Combinations by Ken Druse (photography by Ellen Hoverkamp)
You’ll find over 200 images of inspired plant pairings (by color, season, and more) in this book, many done using a special scanner. This technique creates such lively, vibrant pictures that the plants seem to come off the page. (Just the thing to inspire new gardeners.) I love to eavesdrop on the enthusiastic reactions from guests who take a peek while mingling in our living room. The creative combinations inspire me, too, on even the dreariest of winter days.
Article written by Amanda Davis.