Community Gardens

‘From the Ground Up’ by Fionnuala Fallon – Garden Book Giveaway

December 8, 2012
From The Ground Up

Image courtesy Collins Press

Are you a book lover or do you find everything you want to know on the Internet? Do you buy cheap gardening books, expensive ones, any books you see or recommendations only?

There’s such an array of garden books it can be difficult to choose, from ‘celebrity’ gardeners to unknown authors, there’s a book for everyone. So many that when you come across a gardening book, and in particular a book about growing food that’s unlike anything you’ve picked up before, if you’re anything like me it can fill you with excitement and glee. You just know it has to make it onto your own bookshelves somehow or some way.

That’s the sense I experienced when I finally unpacked Fionnuala Fallon’s first book ‘From the Ground Up‘. The book was sent directly from Irish publishers Collins Press who had kindly sent me a copy to be reviewed. Between Gift Seed Collection making, community gardening, teaching after schools children how to make vegetable puppets and family life, the parcel sat on my kitchen table unopened. It wasn’t until after midnight when I fell into bed that I remembered the book was still waiting to be unwrapped. Aware that day times are filled with activity and quiet time rare, I hopped out of bed and retrieved it. This turned out to be a BIG mistake.

As I carefully removed the protective envelope and pulled the book out, I began to feel a sense of joy. The weight of this new book, the solid binding and the colourful imagery immediately gave me a clue that this wasn’t going to be a run of the mill read.

What really popped my cork however, is that ‘From the Ground Up’ is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s a book about people. A book about individuals who are passionate about growing food – young, old, inner city, rural, big gardens, community gardens, small gardens and balconies. Fionnuala and her husband Richard (who took the beautiful images throughout the book) travelled Ireland chatting to several experienced gardeners about their successes, their failures, why they grow their own, what they grow, their recommended books and websites, their favourite tools and their treasured memories (I thought I loved my job but I’ll admit to some job envy at the thought of that! Fionnuala if you need an assistant when you’re writing your second book…..)

Fionnuala Fallon – image courtesy of The Sodshow

Fionnuala listened and noted, then wove the tales into chapters, giving us a glimpse into the lives and passions of these experienced gardeners. committing them to history in an exquisitely written and styled book. This gardening book is unusual and it’s inspiring. It’s about how Ireland is growing its own food and whether you’re a grower or an observer, gardening or thinking about it, in Ireland or overseas, I think you will love it too. The one thing it isn’t about is egos.

So why was opening the parcel such a mistake? Because once opened I couldn’t put it down. I read page after page, noticed the digits on the clock click by and didn’t care, I wanted to read more and I’m now writing this post with matchstick eyelids as a result.

I really don’t want to give this book away. I want to keep it by my bedside and pick it up every night before i fall asleep. However, as its Christmas and a time of sharing I will be posting it off to a lucky reader with an Irish address (apologies to anyone else but An Post overseas postage is ridiculous, and as much as I love you all…..).

So why am I parting with this precious book if I like it so much?

I figure that authors need all the help we can give them in the days of the internet and google. Book shops are closing and publishers working harder than ever to survive. I’m going to put this book on my own Christmas list and hope that it finds its way under my Christmas tree so that during the festival period when we’re taking a break, I can stick my nose into it for several days, read it cover to cover and not feel guilty that I should be doing something else.

So how do you get your hands on this particular gardening book? Just leave a comment below telling me the title and author of your own favourite gardening book and why. It might be about ornamental gardens, flowers, biology or self-sufficiency, just tell us about it. That’s all you have to do… Well that and (given that this is the time of year to share)  tell your friends about this giveaway and not keep it all to yourselves…. A winner will be randomly chosen on Sunday evening, the 16th December giving me time to post it and you the opportunity to give it away as a gift or treat yourself this Christmas.

If you’re not the lucky chosen one, you can purchase a copy from bookshops or online at Collins Press for €24.99.

Lastly, The Sodshow interviewed Fionnuala on Fridays show. She talked about her book, the inspiration, people she met and her own gardening experiences. If you’re interested you can listen to the podcast here.

Best of luck and Happy Christmas to you all x


  • Reply Brian (@_secretgarden_) December 8, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    Lovely review Dee.

    Two very different books Foliage by David Joyce as I love architectural plants to a book that was bought when we moved here Irish Gardens by Olda Fitzgerald.

    • Reply greensideupveg December 8, 2012 at 9:18 pm

      Thank you Brian 🙂 Have to admit if I took a photo of my own bookshelf it would be almost all Grow Your Own! Will bare those two in mind when I’m venturing further afield.

  • Reply catherineaconnors December 9, 2012 at 8:47 am

    I was given a gift of a book this year, it’s Bird by Bird gardening by Sally Roth… a lovely book which gave lots of advice on plants, shrubs and flowers that attract different birds along with lots of useful advice on creating safe spaces, shelter etc for our wee feathered friends.

    I live in Normandy, France, in a beautiful rural location and my garden (and house) are full of birds, I go home to Ireland now and note how few of our own native birds there seems to be.

    I have birds that nest in the roof of my house, within the ancient stone walls of my house, in the shed, trees and the bird boxes that I attached high up on several of the trees. The birds in my garden (and taking over the house) have been/are Goldcrest, Wren, Willow Warbler, Bluetit, Coaltit, Marsh tit, Siskin, Short-Toed Treecreeper, Goldfinch, Long-tailed tit, Dunnock, Robin, Black Redstart, Redstart, Blackcap, Great tit, Reed Bunting, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Brambling, Spotted Flycatcher, Swift, Kingfisher (thanks to the river at the end of our property), White wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Hawfinch, Swallow, Common Sandpiper, Starling, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Green Woodpecker, Tawny Owl (I’ve also seen a beautiful large white owl one night but he flew away before I could really determine what type of owl he was), Collared Dove, Pigeons, Crows, Raven, Magpie, Cuckoo, Jay, Sparrowhawk (we have lots in our area), Buzzard (again lots in our area), Purple Heron, Grey Heron and even the odd brazen pheasant strolling up our lawn to the wood lands on the other side…. all in all we live in a bird paradise 🙂

    • Reply greensideupveg December 9, 2012 at 10:55 pm

      Catherine your place sounds idyllic… will look out for that book as you’re right, we have lots of birds but nowhere near that variety.

      • Reply catherineaconnors December 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm

        You’ll have to come over one day Dee 🙂

        • Reply greensideupveg December 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm

          Catherine I can think of nothing I’d like more right now! Sounds heavenly and just what the doctor ordered 🙂

    • Reply MarkC December 10, 2012 at 11:07 am

      Yes, driving down to Italy through France the summer before last, we were struck by how many birds of prey there were along the main roads (including lots of what we think were hen harriers). A sure sign of a healthy environment. Meanwhile, back in Ireland, we get news of raptors being shot or poisoned!

      • Reply greensideupveg December 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm

        Yes, same Mark 🙁 Don’t forget to tell us what your favourite gardening book is thought to be in with a chance to win this one!

  • Reply Tracey December 9, 2012 at 10:13 am

    The totally indispensable book for me is The encyclopedia of Organic Gardening from the Henry Doubleday Research Association, A constant companion especially during the growing season, invaluable.

    • Reply greensideupveg December 9, 2012 at 10:52 pm

      Oh yes Tracey, have to agree with you there, its a fabulous book!

  • Reply Susan Madigan Mchugh December 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I Like ‘Colour in the Winter Garden’ by Graham Stuart Thomas

    It covers both large and small gardens and describes the amazing number of trees, shrubs, plants and bulbs which are available to provide colour in flower, foliage and fruit during the winter months.

    • Reply greensideupveg December 10, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      It sounds lovely Susan, and another I’ll be making a note of, thanks 🙂

  • Reply Mary Gethings (@Eco__Evolution) December 10, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Lovely review Dee.

    As a lover of all things gardening I have managed to collect an array of gardening books over the years. One of my favourite gardening books is an oldie which was given to me by my Mother-in-law when she retired from gardening – ‘Percy Thrower’s How to Grow Vegtables and Fruit’. A fantastic book with everything you need to know from soil preparation to harvesting.

    • Reply greensideupveg December 10, 2012 at 5:36 pm

      Ooh yes, Percy Thrower – he really was one of the best! Coincidentally one of my favourite cookbooks is a very old and falling apart Book of Pastry that was given to me by my mother-in-law – it has every recipe you can imagine! and thank you 🙂

  • Reply silelooksup December 10, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Oh, very difficult to pick just one! There are five!! jostling for the top spot. If I have to make a choice I’ll go with Trevor Sargent’s book, ‘Trevor’s Kitchen Garden’. It goes week by week and is a good guide to what you need to be doing and when. What makes it really special, for me, is that he’s managed to make me feel like one in a long line of growers in the Ireland, by giving background information on different traditions that relate to festivals or special days. It’s a book you can pick up and browse anytime and you’ll always see something new. Plus he did the illustrations himself! And he has an organic garden! (I’m running out of exclamation marks here…) 🙂

    • Reply greensideupveg December 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm

      I hadn’t realised when I started this competition Sile that it would cost me so much money on new books and bookshelves! Your quick review has me wanting that book now! There’s a chapter in Fionnuala’s book which you’ll enjoy then 🙂

  • Reply Margaret December 10, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Gosh, like everyone else I have so many gardening books (a full shelf) that I like…. I love Charlie Dimmock, and I’ve 2 Bob Flowerdew one’s that I’m constantly in and out of…. but the top one at the moment is The Polytunnel Book by Jane Russell. I have so much to learn!!!!

    • Reply greensideupveg December 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      Must admit, I’d find it difficult to choose my no 1 too. I bought Jane Russells book last year and you’re right Margaret, it’s packed full of information and tips 🙂

  • Reply Lisa December 10, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    So many books, I picked up the two books by Klaus Laitenberger this year from Seed Savers open day, Vegetables for the irish Garden and Vegetables for the polytunnel and greenhouse. Both brilliant books and sure they will be covered in muddy fingerprints and a little dog eared by the end of next year..

    Also, i was given a book as a gift, “The garden organic book of compost” – it’s a very interesting in depth read on compost even down to the role of each insect and their role in creating that perfect compost! There is no author written on the book but the publisher is New Holland Publishers in the UK.

    Another book I’m always referencing is John Seymour, the new complete book of self sufficiency, just brilliant!! and another ‘The polytunnel Book’ by Joyce russell, great for week by week, month by month polytunnel growing..

    I could go on and on…. A few versions of RHS Garden Plant Encyclopedia’s. And… the RHS propogating plants by DK Publishing.

    And look forward to my copy of the irish garden magazine coming though the door…

    Can never have enough gardening books!!!!
    Love some of the old musty smelling gardening books we pick up too from second hand shops too ..


    • Reply greensideupveg December 10, 2012 at 9:41 pm

      Lisa your comment made me grin as have all those books on my shelves too & all well thumbed, including the musty charity shop finds. You’ll love Fionnualas book too, whether its this or another copy 😀

      • Reply Lisa December 11, 2012 at 8:30 am

        🙂 I thought I’d best not go on too much further – it’s very hard to say a no. 1 favorite tho .. more of a favorite pile! 🙂

  • Reply Declan Gilmore December 13, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    John Seymour,new complete book of self sufficiency brilliant book/bible!

    • Reply greensideupveg December 13, 2012 at 10:52 pm

      Yes! The original was my first gardening/self sufficiency book. Love the new complete one, illustrations are wonderful 🙂

  • Reply Mary December 13, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    For a fun (& helpful ) book, I am enjoying
    Trowel and Error: Over 700 Tips, Remedies and Shortcuts for the Gardener. This easy to read book offers observations and suggestions for novice and experienced gardeners. I also love Seed People, copies of this (in English and Spanish) were sent to me as encouragement and support from a dear friend as our neighborhood began our Community Gardens

    • Reply greensideupveg December 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      Mary I don’t have either of those, will keep an eye out – Trowel and Error sounds good!

  • Reply DOTSPOTS December 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Thanks for the reveiw of the book, sounds great. My first time reading your blog and its great. My all time favourite book is a book I oicked up from a Charity Shop while living in the UK, sixteen years ago. Its called the A – Z of gardening and its made up of 52 editions collected by an enthusiastic gardener over a year back in the 1960s. It has everything – fruit and veg, pests and diseases, positioning your plants, trees and shrubs, month by month gardening etc. Just a mindful of information. I always wonder why it was sold because I find it invaluable. Like yourself, I have many, many books on gardening and love to delve into them to get ideas and knowledge but my A – Z is top of my list.

    • Reply greensideupveg December 15, 2012 at 3:12 pm

      Thanks Dorothy 🙂 Aren’t charity shops the best! My mother-in-law found a Readers Digest Gardening book and it’s just brilliant for all the old preserving techniques amongst other things – will keep my eyes peeled for the A-Z now!

  • Reply greensideupveg December 19, 2012 at 8:59 pm

    So the winner was Mary Gethings. Mary has been informed and the book is on the way 🙂 The draw took place on Sunday evening, was videoed and Mary’s name was pulled from the hat by Mr G. Unfortunately the recording has gone as I changed my phone, but it was an honest draw, honest 🙂

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