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  • Dana Tutela

Novels for the Gardener at Heart

When you can't dig in the dirt, read a book that fills your heart and mind with gardening.


stack of books next to plant and basket

Sometimes life prevents us from being in the garden. Weather, travel and health have been impacting me lately. When I'm working the soil with my hands and tending to my plants, my spirit is soothed and the tensions dissipate. But what if I can't have my 'garden therapy' time? I take myself to a fictional garden and relax with a good book!


I curated this list of books that are centered around gardens and nature to help fill that void. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!


Please keep in mind that I may receive commissions at no expense to you when you click my links and make purchases. However, this does not impact my reviews and opinions. I only endorse products or services that I believe are worthy of such an endorsement.  Link to full privacy disclosure here.

The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman


cover of book The Heirloom Garden



Summary: Two neighbors suffering from loss and trauma due to war, slowly come together and heal each other through gardening. Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to polio, and eventually her job. She barricades herself from the cruelty of the world in her extensively fenced property and nourishes her family heirloom garden and memories instead.

Abby Peterson rents Iris's adjoining property while searching for a way to save her marriage and family. Her husband suffers from PTSD from the Iraq War and withdraws into depression and drinking. This leaves her to become the bread winner to support him and raise their young daughter, Lily. Mutual curiosity and eventually compassion help the Petersons and Iris find the power of healing through gardening and sharing their stories.


Ginger with Roots says: The Heirloom Garden resonates with any reader who endures life's tragedies and finds solace through nature's beauty. This book fed my soul like a warm cup of herbal tea and a Wedgwood vase filled with fragrant flowers. The details are fascinating (I never knew the etymology of echinacea or Hemerocallis) and the parallels between people and different types of flowers are heartwarming. While both audio and hard copy versions are equally satisfying, the hard copy does have floral sketches for each chapter that are quite lovely.


The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher


cover of book called the Shell Seekers

Summary: Penelope Keeling is peacefully living out her golden years at her home and garden in the countryside of England. Her three adult children discover the immense value of her father's painting The Shell Seekers which hangs in Penelope's home and express their (sometimes self-serving) opinions about what to do with it. Penelope embarks upon a lifetime of memories, heartbreak and passion sharing her journey which determines the future of the painting.


Ginger with Roots says: The Shell Seekers is the first book that ever made me cry. I remember reading it on a flight after visiting a friend on Nantucket who insisted that I take her copy. Rosamunde Pilcher's descriptive writing captured my imagination and carried me into the world of the familial characters and English gardens. This novel reawakened my childhood love of flowers and ignited the passion of gardening for me that would last a lifetime.


Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes


hand holding book called under the tuscan sun

Summary: A poetic memoir by Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun details her emotional adventure renovating Bramasole, a run down villa in Tuscany, Italy. Bramasole, "yearn for the sun" in Italian, parallels Frances's own growth and renewal as she discovers the people, food and landscape of Tuscany.


Ginger with Roots Says: This beautifully written memoir absolutely spoke to me. Starting over and putting down roots is the entire theme of my blog! Dig in the dirt, grow your food, cook what you grow and make your house your home. If you are being kept from your garden, read this and escape to Italy. Now where can I grow olive trees...



Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen


hand holding book called Garden Spells

Summary: The Waverlys of Bascom, North Carolina tend an enchanted apple tree in their spirited garden that has been part of their family for years. Claire Waverly is a caterer who also has a special ability to 'cook up' recipes with their mystical plants. Family relations are strained and tested when her sister unexpectedly returns home with a daughter and together they must handle their garden spells and peculiar powers.


Ginger with Roots Says: I'm adding this book to the list because it is so much more than a novel with satisfying garden elements. The fantasy and magical aspects add an intriguing quality to normal gardening situations. Also this South Carolina girl loves the southern charm in Addison's writing that hangs in the air like the heavy scent of tea olives in summer.



hand holding novel called last garden in england

Summary: Five unconventional women from three different eras are connected through the design, secrets and restoration of one garden. Emma is tasked with the present day project of bringing the grounds of Highbury House back to its original glory. Venetia Smith is the famous unmarried horticulturist who designed the grounds in 1907 and left behind a garden not only filled with exquisite plants and garden rooms, but also a tale of love and secrets. Widowed and running Highbury House during the final years of WWII, Diana and her cook, Stella, meet the challenges of grief and unmet goals while salvaging the manor's gardens with land girl, Beth.


Ginger with Roots Says: If you need to garden vicariously through a novel, this is the book for you. Kelly navigates the drama of the story itself while incorporating intricate knowledge of the land, heirloom roses, flowering trees and nature so thick I half expected to have dirt under my nails every time I turned a page! This would be perfect for a book club to read.


The Music of Bees by Eileen Garvin


book called music of bees

Summary: The Music of Bees follows the heartwarming journey of three unlikely friends who come together through beekeeping, weaving a poignant tale of connection, healing, and the transformative power of nature.


Victoria Says:  I loved how this novel not only introduces you to the world of beekeeping but also bases the story around interesting and likable characters. Their unexpected friendship combined with interesting facts about beekeeping made this a delightful and educational read. I recommended it to my Grandmother, and she loved it as well.


Recipe for a Kinder Life by Annie Smithers


hand holding book called recipe for a kinder life

Summary: Annie Smithers details her journey as a chef who transitions from inner city life to 'countrified' living. Her restaurants incorporate her harvests and her creativity to design a successful farm to table menu. Smithers provides an informative description of sustainable life on a farm in Australia along with her partner, Susan, and her two adult daughters. Her message of respecting the land, waters and creatures is clear, pragmatic and genuinely heartfelt.


Ginger with Roots Says: Although this is not a fictional book, I'm including it in this list because it touches my heart and my need for putting down roots through gardening, cooking and sharing what I grow. I also love that the setting is Australia! I find myself intrigued by the opposite seasons, different varieties of plants and foods, pests and struggles. (No mention of deer or squirrels, but kangaroos and wallabies?) My favorite part is her generous inclusion of recipes throughout the book. Some measurements and certain ingredients might need conversion for Americans, but otherwise they are straightforward and look incredibly delicious!


The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett


hand holding book called the secret garden

Summary: Petulant young Mary Lennox loses her parents to cholera in India and is moved to England to live with her uncle. Sullen and unhealthy, she slowly warms to her jovial maid, Martha, and the friendly groundskeeper, Ben Weatherstaff. While exploring her uncle's massive estate, Mary finds a buried key that opens the gate to a secret garden hidden for over a decade. With the help of her sickly cousin, Colin, and Martha's brother, Dickon, she discovers the healing powers of tending to a garden, breathing the fresh air and letting her imagination run wild.


Ginger with Roots Says: While this story is written for the younger readers, I saw it sitting on my shelf and thought why not? Rereading a book that I loved as a young girl obsessed with nature and birds, I found this not only satisfied my adult gardener's heart, but also explained so much of my own growth and development. Apparently my love for flowers and digging in the dirt began as a brainwashing experiment with my childhood literature. Thank you, Mom! :)


These novels planted plenty of seeds in my gardener's heart and mind! I'm ready for spring!


If you are ready for some real gardening, join me in the following posts:


woman in relaxing garden


hand with flower silhouette against sky



sunflowers and chickens in garden




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otutela
Feb 27

I love this list!

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