The Revolving Bookstand: The Best in Gardening Books

In celebration of Historic Garden Week and the beautiful plants that populate Monticello during the spring months, Brian Hartsock, Operating Manager for the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello, shares some of his favorite gardening books for our Revolving Bookstand series.

“A Rich Spot of Earth” Thomas Jefferson’s Revolutionary Garden

Peter Hatch

One of my favorite Jefferson quotes, “the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add an useful plant to its culture,” comes to life in the gardens of Monticello and their legacy. Through Peter’s elegant prose, the story of Thomas Jefferson’s garden strikes me not only because of his genius but what he had in common with every gardener: curiosity and experimentation. Peter, who tended Jefferson’s extraordinary gardens for decades, shows how Jefferson used his garden as a laboratory, trying an incredible variety of herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Peter’s meticulous attention to detail in restoring the gardens is evident as he weaves a rich tapestry of history, quotes, and anecdotes that is a testament to how much he loved and cared for these gardens just as Jefferson did himself.

herb gardenThe Edible Herb Garden

Rosalind Creasy

If I could plant only one garden, it would be an herb garden. It is impossible to fathom all the virtues of an herb garden, from the textures and aromas that invite smell and touch; the culinary delight of fresh herbs; to their resistance to deer, rabbit, and pest insects. Herb gardens are a beautiful complement to any landscape and also perfect for container gardens on the patio. Rosalind’s book, with inspiring photography, walks you through planning, planting, and maintenance, and brings your garden into the kitchen with wonderful recipes for every taste and season.


Starter Vegetable Gardens

Barbara Pleasant

I love this book for a number of reasons. First, it offers something for every gardener regardless of experience. Also, Pleasant’s book offers a number of ingenuous techniques that can help parents and grandparents introduce gardening to children and garden newcomers. Nothing is more encouraging than success and this wonderful book makes that easy.



The Heirloom Tomato from Garden to Table

Amy Goldman

Nothing says happiness like biting into a fresh garden-ripe tomato from your own backyard and then sharing your harvest with friends and family. Goldman’s book not only introduces the reader to a stunning array of culinary adventures with unique recipes, but also to the incredible diversity of heirloom tomatoes, their stories, and growing techniques.


amwoodgardenThe American Woodland Garden

Rick Darke

Many gardeners I talk to struggle with wooded lots, dry shade, and poor drainage. Fortunately, the rich botanic diversity of deciduous forests offers many beautiful, native perennials that are well-suited for these difficult areas. A woodland garden is an enchanting space. It brings the delicate beauty of the forest to your door step with a wonderful variety of birds, butterflies, and other wildlife not far behind. This beautifully illustrated book is a key resource to using native plants in a landscape that will hold beauty year round.


brianGrowing up in the mountains of West Virginia, Brian Hartsock says his love of plants comes from his grandmother.   “I would stay at my grandparents’ house in the summer. My grandmother used to wake me up saying we have one thousand and one things to do. I think that was an understatement, but I always admired how comfortable she was tending her flower gardens. It is a bond that my grandmother and I still share today.”   Brian joined the Monticello family in 2009 and is now the Operations Manager for the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants. He has overseen a number of garden renovations and works closely with Gabriele Rausse, head of Garden and Grounds, and the Monticello gardeners to help preserve the natural beauty of the “little mountain.”   Brian served in the Navy aboard the USS Kamehameha. He later attended West Virginia University and studied horticulture. Brian enjoys horticulture because he is able to work with great people while surrounded with beautiful things. He says, “This combination lends itself to happiness.”

gardenThe Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants, established at Monticello in 1987, collects, preserves, and distributes historic plant varieties and strives to promote greater appreciation for the origins and evolution of garden plants. The program centers on Thomas Jefferson’s horticultural interests and the plants he grew at Monticello, but covers the broad history of plants cultivated in America by including varieties documented through the nineteenth century, and choice North American plants, a group of special interest to Jefferson himself. Visit the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants during one of its annual open houses and learn more online at

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