The Garden Jungle: Or gardening to save the planet, by Dave Goulson 

by
28 June 2019

This gardener has the Attenborough touch, says Jamie Cable

LIKE a top-notch wildlife documentary, The Garden Jungle draws us in with fascinating details of the natural world and, at the same time, delivers a wake-up call.

The creatures under scrutiny are all around us in the average garden: bees, earwigs, moths, and beetles, to name a few. Ants, we learn, outnumber humans by more than one million to one. Earthworms, “unlike French aristocrats . . . are only very mildly inconvenienced by having their head sliced off”.

Goulson’s voice is that of the slightly eccentric, overtly green neighbour who is always good for a natter and engages us with observations of his garden’s ecology. The message is deadly serious, but the tone is not preachy. We learn that he resists the urge to remonstrate with the staff at Waitrose over the store’s selling double hollyhocks (single varieties being great for bees, these useless), for fear of losing his free-coffee privileges.

Tongue-in-cheek and humorous in places, Goulson eases us in fairly gently. He cites the adaptability of most pollinators as a reason not to get too hung up on growing only native plants. In fact, one of his favourite plants for pollinators is Mexican giant hyssop. His views become stricter if we want to cultivate a wildflower meadow — a specific habitat with particular flora.

The chapter “The Toxic Cocktail” focuses on the widespread indiscriminate use of pesticides in the United States: a shocking read. Goulson points out that, if you choose the right plants for your conditions, they should look after themselves. If they do suffer occasionally from slugs, aphids, or caterpillars, does it really matter?

Slightly bizarrely, each chapter begins with a recipe seemingly unconnected with what follows. Thus, a chapter on the importance of ponds begins with how to make a rabbit, squirrel, or venison pie. It is all part of a commonsense, non-squeamish look at food production. Many of us will share the author’s disdain for food waste. Few of us would squeeze a road-killed deer into the passenger seat of our car, and later butcher the carcass on our back lawn, ready for the freezer.

At the same time, I doubt that many will finish reading this important book without making a few changes to their gardening or way of life.

Jamie Cable is a gardener and freelance writer based in Staffordshire.

The Garden Jungle: Or gardening to save the planet
Dave Goulson
Jonathan Cape £16.99
(978-1-787-33135-8)
Church Times Bookshop £15.30

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Forthcoming Events

21-22 February 2020
Church Times Festival of Faith and Literature
With Sam Wells, Catherine Fox, Mark Oakley, Suzannah Lipscomb and many others. 
See the full programme

26 March 2020
Theology Slam Live Final
Theology Slam is back, continuing its search for the most engaging young voices on theology and the contemporary world. Find out more

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read five articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)