Book Review – Diary of a Modern Country Gardener – by Tamsin Westhorpe (UPDATED 19 March 2020)

I was delighted to have been contacted by Tamsin Westhorpe and her publisher, Orphans Publishing, following my book review with the following Tweets:

Tamsin’s tweet about my review of her new book

Orphans Publishing’s tweet about my book review.


’I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train’. Oscar Wilde

The words of Oscar Wilde resonated with me last week when a happy accident saw me sitting on a slow train to London. Luckily, not being one for keeping a diary myself, I took Tamsin Westhorpe’s new tome ‘Diary of a Modern Country Gardener’ with me. And sensational it was. 

The format of diary writing is a well practiced model for garden writers; and why wouldn’t it be?  The exciting expectations, potential pitfalls and weighty workload of the gardening year laid out sequentially before our eyes, taking us from month to month and season to season. And as a well practiced reader of the aforementioned garden dairies I (and many other nosey gardeners) have been given the opportunity to have a bloomin’ good peek over the garden fences of a number of ‘celebrity’ garden writers. With Tamsin’s new book, however, I wasn’t invited to just peer over the palings. Through keen and detailed observations of both her activities and the vast collection of plants in the garden, I felt as if I were kneeling down in the damp soil right next to her; jeans wet at the knees and hands soiled and muddy from a good weeding session in the Stockton Bury borders. Beautifully gilded words throughout the book paint an intimate and evocative portrait of the garden throughout the seasons. 

It matters not whether the reader is an experienced horticulturalist or budding amateur gardener. The easy, conversational style makes for a great, and insightful read on many levels. I know my plants fairly well, but I love a book that has me googling a plant name here and there. And its not all about plants and gardening. There’s a delightful dip into Tamsin’s family life, both as a child and now, in her role as busy mum, wife, RHS judge and niece to her uncles (the current owners of Stockton Bury gardens), to whom she shows immense love and respect and acknowledgement of their creation of the Stockton Bury gardens in the early 1980s.

Alongside the calendar of gardening activities, the Diary of a Modern Country Gardener also features a monthly Key Things to do list, a variety of Country Projects (I am now extremely well versed in keeping hens & poultry), a handy Tool Kit and a glorious selection of Must-have plants and flowers. Credit must also go to Hannah Madden for exquisite artwork throughout and Gerry Matthews for photography.

Tamsin Westhorpe

I loved my literary stroll through Stockton Bury gardens, and so will you. But, just one burning question. As a ‘modern country gardener’ myself, will I really be able to pass through the turnstile at the Chelsea Flower Show this year with my soiled fingernails coated in pillar-box red nail polish?!

Author: Mike the Gardener

Freelance gardening writer, consultant and designer. Mike Palmer is a passionate and professional plantsman, offering services in garden writing, consultancy and garden design. Mike is also available for garden and plant related talks and presentations. Mike has been a professional horticulturalist for over fifteen years.

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