Books : reviews

Ken Thompson.
No Nettles Required: the truth about wildlife gardening.
Transworld. 2006

How well do you know your garden wildlife? Armed with the latest research, Ken Thompson punctures the myths that abound about wildlife gardening, and dispenses invaluable science-based advice, demonstrating with clarity and wit just how easy, cheap and rewarding it can be.

Ken Thompson.
An Ear to the Ground: understanding your garden: enlarged edn.
Transworld. 2008

Do you have a clue what’s actually going on in your garden?

We call ourselves a nation of gardeners but few of us have any idea, and still less understanding, of the science that is happening before our very eyes. How did plants get to be the way they are? Why do they have pretty flowers? And why is a weed-free lawn an ecological impossibility?

Expanded for this new edition, An Ear to the Ground gives the answers to these questions and many more, with eye-opening revelations about companion planting and the truth about planting by the moon. As entertaining as ever, Ken Thompson shows how a little botanical knowledge can bring not just better results, but peace of mind…

Ken Thompson.
The Book of Weeds.
Dorling Kindersley. 2009

Since the dawn of gardening history, horticulturists have waged ceaseless war against a ruthless invader. From the lawns of stately homes to minuscule urban plots, weeds have been the gardener’s perennial enemy.

This is your weapon against weeds. With his blend of witty, down-to-earth advice and solid scientific practice, Ken Thompson explains how weeds populate your pots, paving, beds, and borders, and shows how to prevent them taking over – or opt for complete eradication. A “rogue’s gallery” helps you separate the true thugs from the more benign pests, and reveals how to integrate some weeds into a garden ecosystem.

With eco-friendly solutions for environmentally responsible gardeners, this is the practical and achievable guide to winning the war against weeds.

Ken Thompson.
The Sceptical Gardener.
Icon Books. 2015

How are birds linked to house prices? How call a gardener improve the flavour of their vegetables? Do wildflowers really thrive in poor soil?

In this collection of articles from The Telegraph, biologist and gardening columnist Ken Thompson takes a scientific look at some of the greater – and lesser – questions faced by gardeners everywhere in a bid to sort the genuine wisdom from thee hokum.

What is the ideal temperature for a compost heap? What do bees do that improves strawberries? Why are gardeners in literature always such dummies? This is an expert’s gardening miscellany, aimed at making you not necessarily a better gardener, but probably a far more thoughtful one.

Ken Thompson.
Where Do Camels Belong?: the story and science of invasive species.
Profile. 2015

Where do camels belong? In the Arab world may seem the obvious answer. But they are relative newcomers there. They evolved in North America, retain their greatest diversity in South America and the only wild dromedaries are in Australia.

This is a classic example of the contradictions of ‘native’ and ‘invasive’ species, a hot issue right now, as the flip-side of biodiversity. We have all heard the horror stories of invasives, from Japanese knotweed that puts fear into the heart of gardeners to brown tree snakes that have taken over the island of Guam. But do we need to fear invaders? And indeed, can we control them, and do we choose the right targets?

In this controversial but entirely rational book, Ken Thompson puts forward a fascinating array of narratives to explore why only a minority of introduced species succeed, why so few of them go on to cause trouble, and what the real cost of invasions is. He discusses, too, whether our fears could be getting in the way of conserving biodiversity and responding to climate change.