Worldwide Bestselling Gardening Books

– Posted in: Book reviews

Just in case you don’t subscribe to The Economist, I thought I’d let you know what are the top ten bestselling gardening books in all of Amazon-dom. This list is compiled from April 2006 sales figures from all the various Amazons combined.* So, yeah, it’s not the whole world, it’s all the world that shops at Amazon.

  • All New Square Foot GardeningIt kind of boggles my mind that this is the top-selling book in all Amazon “stores” together. Either it’s got a better marketing campaign than I’ve been aware of, or a lot more people are struggling to grow a garden in a small space than I ever imagined. Gardening on rural acreage myself, I am probably lacking in imagination. The “old” Square-Foot Gardening was published by Rodale, and if the new one really is topping the gardening charts, I bet they are kicking themselves for letting it get away. The “new” version of the book is published by Cool Springs Press, which is owned by Thomas Nelson, the Bible publisher. (Yes, Bibles. Good Bibles, too, our family owns quite a few of them.) The focus of Cool Springs Press is on regional gardening books, a great idea which, unfortunately, I don’t think they’ve executed too well in the case of New York State, as I went into detail here. They claim that “a gardening expert from your area is the author of the Cool Springs Press book for your state or region.” Now Felder Rushing is based in Jackson, Mississippi, last I knew, yet he is the author of Tough Plants for California Gardens, Tough Plants for Florida Gardens, and Tough Plants for Northern Gardens–as well as the more expected Tough Plants for Southern Gardens. To be fair, most of the 15 other books he’s written for Cool Springs Press could reasonably be regarded as having to do with the general region surrounding Mississippi. But I get the feeling that Cool Springs Press plays a little loose with the concept of an author being from the region he or she writes about.
  • The Complete How to Be a Gardener and The Gardener’s Year: The Ultimate Month-by-month Gardening Handbook, both by Alan Titchmarsh, are the next two on The Economist’s list. I have never read any of his books because he’s a Brit writing for Brits, which means his climate and mine don’t have much in common. But I might see what books of his are available through my library, just to see what his writing style is like. After all, I enjoy Christopher Lloyd’s writing even though I can’t grow half the plants he mentions. And if so many people from all sorts of climates are buying his books, maybe there’s something in there for me, too.
  • Outside the Not So Big House : Creating the Landscape of Home is a book I’d like to read, as I like Susanka’s ideas about architecture and Messervy’s column in Fine Gardening.Obviously a lot of other people are reading it, too.

  • Now this was a real puzzler. The Economist says the 5th ranking book was Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers: The Definitive Illustrated Reference Guide, but the link led me to this book–the Royal Horticultural Society New Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers, which doesn’t have quite the same title and appears to be out of print. I think they meant this book–the Royal Horticultural Society New Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers, which still has the “new” in Amazon’s description but doesn’t have it on the cover. But it’s also out of print. So do they really mean to say that an out-of-print book was the fifth highest seller at all Amazon websites combined? If that’s true, it’s quite a recommendation for the book.
  • The First Time Gardener by Kim Wilde is another one I am unfamiliar with. The Economist describes the author as “peroxide princess of 1980s pop turned horticulturist,” but being culturally illiterate I have to confess I don’t recognize the name. (No image available.)
  • I do recognize The $64 Tomato : How One Man Nearly Lost his Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander. I saw that title recently (probably at Amazon, come to think of it) and decided I needed to read it this winter. Not sure if it’s supposed to be funny or serious–or maybe both. Then just yesterday my mom sent me a link from the NYTimes. Seems this guy wrote an op-ed piece about how he couldn’t grow apples without resorting to pesticides. (I don’t think the link will be available to non-subscribers for very long.) So now I have to read the book to see if this guy is pickier about the appearance of his produce or unluckier at gardening than our family.
  • No surprise here. The Sunset Western Garden Book has been a standard reference for the western North American continent for ages. But did you know that they now have “Sunset zones” for the rest of the continent, too? I find they’re more accurate than the USDA hardiness zones, too.
  • The US branch of Amazon doesn’t even sell the 9th highest seller, The Allotment Book by Andi Clevely, so you’ll have to go here to get a gander at it. What gardeners of the UK call allotments, we would call community garden plots. Jane Perrone of Horticultural has one. So does Christa of Calendula & Concrete. Perhaps there’s a market for it here.
  • Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs is a reference work I’m familiar with, though I don’t have my own copy–yet. I wonder how many non-North American gardeners find this work useful. I know Dirr’s definition of “hardy” is actually pretty broad–it includes Zone 6–so the book probably does have a pretty far-ranging appeal. Whether you own it or not, I strongly recommend you consult it before investing in any tree. Dirr doesn’t hesitate to tell you the disadvantages of any tree that he knows to have problems. Of all the books on this list, this is the only one I’m familiar with, and I can confidently say it deserves to be on this list.

*”Global sales from,,,,, April 1st-April 30th 2006.”

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

Comments on this entry are closed.

CoolSprings June 24, 2010, 10:54 pm

Great ideas for gardening books! I always keep an eye out for good ones, my mother loves books about plants and gardening.

Gotta Garden June 5, 2006, 8:20 pm

I like Alan Titchmarsh! If you read BBC Gardening World (like me), you feel you know Alan. I finally got a chance to put a voice with him after watching him nightly on BBC 2 during the Chelsea Flower Show. He seems very “down to earth” (haha).

Since I loved The Not So Big House, I am eager to read Outside TNSBH. Funny, think I also saw $64 Tomato on Amazon. I can really relate, though, having gotten two lemons off my lemon tree last year!

Your site is wonderful! Thanks for listing these!

bill May 31, 2006, 2:00 pm

Somewhere around here I have a copy of the “square foot” gardening book. It must be the “old” one as I’ve had it for at least 8 years – ever since I built those raised beds in the back yard.

Never heard of any of the rest, except for the Sunset book.

Anthony May 30, 2006, 1:20 pm

I read the $64 Tomato just recently. Being a suburban gardener I could totally relate to the garden projects that he took on. Not a bad read.

Zoey May 30, 2006, 8:10 am

I must confess that I have not heard of any of these books. The only one I really would have an interest in is the Outside the Not So Big House.

In my beginning gardening days I read every gardening book I could get my hands on.

Now I just use the net to find information.

Although, I do enjoy a good gardening book during the long, cold winter months.