I prefer the radio Posted on January 17, 2013

Who was right: the person who said ‘one picture is worth a thousand words’ or the one who said ‘I prefer the radio: the pictures are better’?


I like books with lots of words in them: page after page of grey matter. Books like the radio rather than the telly. Picture books (I’m thinking of garden picture books) only half-occupy my mind. I am asked to admire one perfect garden scene after another; the captions are rarely enough even to bring me into  real contact with the scene, let alone profound or exploratory. Of course there are

exceptions, when the author has thought through the whole process, using words and pictures together to communicate and explain, but they are rare. What do we call books that are too good for the coffee-table?

I have just put down one of them: Hugh Cavendish’s A Time to

Plant, about the redesign of the über-Victorian garden at Holker Hall in Cumbria. The Cavendishes (Grania is a wonderful photographer) have been working on the design and planting for nearly forty years. Perhaps my sympathy with them relates to the fact that forty-odd years is the time we have spent gardening at Saling.The book is simply the logical outcome: time to explain and invite your reaction. A serious and successful match of words and pictures. Should I see it as a challenge?

Hugh’s Gardening Books


Trees was first published in 1973 as The International Book of Trees, two years after The World Atlas of Wine….

Hugh’s Wine Books

The Story of Wine – From Noah to Now

A completely new edition published by the Academie du Vin Library: When first published in 1989 The Story of Wine won every…

Friends of Trad

John Grimshaw’s Garden Diary