The Grove by Ben Dark

Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for The Grove by Ben Dark and published by Mitchell Beazley

About the Book

There is a renewed interest in the nature on our doorsteps, as can be seen in the work of amateur botanists identifying wildflowers and chalking the names on the pavements.

But beyond the garden wall lies a wealth of cultivated plants, each with a unique tale to tell. In The Grove, writer and head gardener Ben Dark reveals the remarkable secrets of twenty commonly found species – including the rose, wisteria, buddleja, box and the tulip – encountered in the front gardens of one London street over the course of year.

As Ben writes, in those small front gardens ‘are stories of ambition, envy, hope and failure’ and The Grove is about so much more than a single street, or indeed the plants found in its 19 ½ front gardens. It’s a beguiling blend of horticultural history and personal narrative and a lyrical exploration of why gardens and gardening matter.

About the Author

Ben Dark is a head gardener, award-winning broadcaster and landscape historian working at the top of British horticulture. He ’s been described as ‘the millennial Monty’ by Gardeners’ World Magazine and ‘the future of horticulture’ by Horticulture Week.


He graduated with a degree in History from Bristol University and went on to study Horticulture at Capel Manor College, before completing his education with a traineeship at the Garden Museum and an MA in Garden and Landscape History at the University of London’s Institute of Historical Research. As a gardener he has worked for embassies, cemeteries, heritage bodies and oligarchs. He has organized a private flower show for the Royal Family and helped to build gold-medal winning gardens on the main avenue at the Chelsea Flower Show. As the creator and host of the award-winning Garden Log Podcast he frequently speaks to gardening groups and industry events. Ben has written about plants for the Telegraph and has been featured in the Independent, Gardens

Illustrated and the Financial Times.

My Review

If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need – Marcus Tullius Cicero

If you are a regular visitor to this blog then you probably know that I like books. Whilst the house is not quite a library, it isn’t too far short, Sarah has a thing about gardens so we have a lot of plants around the place. I don’t know exactly how many plants she has in the front garden but the size of the bed is about 10m x 5m. Based on the words of Cicero, I think we’re sorted.

Even though he is a head gardener, Ben Dark does not have his own garden. He lives in a flat with his wife and son and when walking in the neighbourhood came across this street called The Grove with these rich and varied front gardens. It reminded him of the day, years ago, just after he had started horticultural college. He realised that he actually recognised a plant in someone’s garden Not only did he recognise it, but he knew its Latin name and could remember what he had recently learnt about it. From that moment on he was hooked on plants.

Each of the gardens was very different but they all had a particular thing in there that piqued his interest and for each chapter, he has chosen one plant to write about. Beginning with Wisteria, each chapter is on an utterly different plant, from Box to magnolia, Tulips to London Planes and roses to a plant that we have a lot of in our garden, Verbena. It gives him an opportunity to explore the origins of each plant and why we have them in London. It is endlessly fascinating, as we root around in the undergrowth with him, learning about each of them and what they bring to our gardens.

I had never heard of Ben Dark before coming across this book. But I can see why he is highly rated based on what I have just read. I did like the way that he uses a different plant for each chapter to explore the gardens of The Grove. The mix of culture, horticulture and history along with his own personal stories and anecdotes is just about right. He knows his green subjects too, drawing on all his experience as a gardener and he does that without me feeling that I was being lectured to as some of the gardeners can do.

Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour

Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here

My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for the copy of the book to read.

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  1. annecater

    Thanks for the blog tour support x

  2. Liz Dexter

    I have now read three or four reviews of this one and I’m going to have to get hold of a copy as it’s just my thing. I have a small front garden with a few plants crammed into it, two of which grow in the cracks of the wall and came with the house and one of which colonised some paving slab cracks from our next-door neighbours’ house.

    • Paul

      I think it would be right up your street, so to speak… I just donated it to the library otherwise you could have had it!

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