This book heroes 20 commonly found plants growing in the front gardens of one road in London. Ben’s observations in Grove Park – such as hollyhocks growing at number 92 being ‘serotonin for the summer soul’ – are insightful and full of joy. Ben takes us with him as he walks up and down the street in all weathers and seasons, often with his baby in tow.
The book is so much more than the sum of the 20 plants and the front gardens they call home. He cleverly uses the front gardens as a vehicle to share both local and botanical history. The Grove is packed full of fascinating facts, as well as quotes from relevant poems, books and journals. It’s very carefully researched and in each chapter whilst Ben starts with a single plant he takes us to a much bigger world, that unfurls like a beautiful flower as you turn the pages.
His career as a gardener enables him to give a wider perspective. In the chapter about the rose, he observes, “The need to do causes more damage in gardens than benign neglect ever has.” He shares snippets of his experiences gardening for others, including the very wealthy.
I lived in London for a decade, in two flats, two maisonettes and in a small townhouse. My routes to and from work would always take the most botanical route possible. In a world of concrete and tarmac the seasonal highlights shone out like beacons. Spring was astounding. The parks decorated with cherry blossom and houses draped in wisteria were a much needed balm. Thank you Ben for taking me back there and reminding me of the joy plants brought to my life as I walked around the city and overcame physical and mental health challenges. Having grown up living next to a garden centre, London was something of a shock to the system. The plants were a connection to home, colours and scents dialled up as they nestled against their grey, urban backdrop.
I was given a free copy of the book in return for an honest review, by Random Things Tours.
Hannah is the author of The Cactus Surgeon, a nature & health memoir. Living in London, Hannah suffered burnout and was diagnosed with a functional neurological disorder. With no information available to help her, she found her own way to get better.
Growing up in a garden centre, her childhood was full of nature and plants. This was in stark contrast to the concrete of the capital, where she became unwell. In searching for the answers to her illness, she wonders whether being torn from her pot and replanted in a more hostile environment was the reason her body started to malfunction.
After seeking out alternative therapies, and moving to the countryside of North Essex, her ‘green recovery’ continued. It’s a book of mindful moments, savouring the small wonders of nature.