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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 19 April 2009
A really beautiful book, packed with useful and interesting knowledge, clearly written by someone who knows exactly what she is talking about. Suitable for the beginner or for the experienced gardener, everything is very well explained, and it really is an inspiring piece of work. Although the tone is largely factual and informative, some wry humour creeps in here and there, which really adds to it. I'd love to meet the author.

The only thing that fell a little short was the pictures, although lovely, didn't always give me confidence that I'd be able to identify the plants. Could've done with a few less artsy photos and a few more "clinical" ones.

Overall though I highly recommend this book, it's a real treasure.
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I believe Jekka McVicar is a national treasure. A herb guru and record breaking multi-gold medal winner at Chelsea, whose nursery is one of the few certified as organic in this country. I met her at one of the open days held at her Herb Farm last year - luckily for me it's not that far from where I live. It was a fascinating day out and it's good to have Jekka's latest book as souvenir of that day.

It's a gorgeous book and Jekka uses the term 'herb' in its widest sense, covering medicinal, culinary and other uses. So plants like Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and Betony (Stachys officinalis) have equal billing alongside the more familiar Mint and Thyme.

The bulk of the book is the A-Z of herbs (by botanic name, not common) and covers over 150 plants. You'll find plenty of history and folk-lore alongside the expected details on cultivation, harvesting and uses. There's recipes too including one for lavender biscuits and instructions for pickling Nasturtium seeds as a substitute for capers. After the A-Z, there's a shorter, more general section covering propagation, planning a herb garden (including several designs), container growing, pests & diseases, harvesting, using herbs as natural dyes plus instructions for making herb oils, vinegars and preserves.

The text is clearly laid out whilst packing a lot of information into each page. The photographs are beautiful too. I think it's a perfect gift for a complete beginner or an expert and I think you'll be looking at a number of the plants in your garden with fresh eyes, OR finding somewhere to squeeze in 'just a few more herbs that'll come in handy' into your garden.
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on 16 May 2009
Jekka's Complete Herb Book really is about as complete as it gets. It covers pretty much all cultivated varieties plus many species that grow wild in the British Isles. It is clear and concise, goes in to considerable detail on the culinary and medicinal uses and gives easy to follow instructions if you want to cultivate your own. Look no further for a book on herbs, this is the one.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 February 2013
Despite its glossy, attractive appearance and pleasant weight in the hands, this book is less useful and less interesting than it ought to be. It consists in the main of an alphabetical list by Latin name. Each headlined entry covers all the members of that Genus, so Papaver somniferum, the Opium Poppy, is jumbled up with Papaver rhoeas, the corn poppy, despite the fact that their uses and properties are quite different. However for no apparent reason Mentha pulegium, "Pennyroyal", is separated from the other Mentha (mints) and printed out of sequence before Melissa

The range of plants covered is large; too large in some ways. Herbs which are a normal part of British gardens sit alongside tropical and subtropical plants, with very little even in the small print to distinguish them; it is noted in passing that Cardamom requires a temperature that never falls below 18 deg C; this would mean artificial heat for most of the year, even in a conservatory. The information is not presented in a helpful form; Sweet Rocket is described as "a tall plant" though elsewhere the text admits it is 60-90cm, while only in the smallest print is mention is made of the height of Gingko biloba, a fairly fast-growing tree reaching, in time, 40 METRES or more. Hardiness is given by "zones"; this system is used in the USA because of its huge range of climates, but means nothing to most British gardeners.

The information on culinary and medicinal uses is similarly vague. No recipes for making remedies are given in the text, only phrases like "In Chinese medicine the root of (woad) used to treat meningitis..." which tells us a lot about Chinese medicine but little about woad. The entry for Prostanthera says "I am sure that a plant such as P.cuneata that gives off as much scent, and has obviously so much oil in the leaf, will one day have some use". But not yet, so why is it in the book?

There are 10 designs for herb gardens at the back; they are neither particularly attractive or imaginative, and are illustrated with very dull drawings. Extremely brief are the sections on caring for herbs, with a few tips on using them. The index suffers from having the Latin name and the English ones in the same typeface, instead of having one set in italics as usual; this makes it harder to use.

This book falls down in a number of ways. Though the pages are large, there is too much blank paper, the text is tiny and the photos, many of them simply window-dressing, take up a lot of the space. The "gist" is thus limited AND difficult to read. There are hardly any recipes or instructions for use, only vague remarks.

The one aspect of the book I don't take issue with is the red-triangled warnings. Any book on herbs should use these well. Having worked selling plants for many years, I've found people's enthusiasm for self-dosing is scary. When the first studies of Hypericum came out, it suddenly became clear that the people buying the groundcover St John's Wort (ie not the one used in medicine anyway) were planning to boil it up and drink it. This despite the fact that it is a herb to be used only when professionally prepared, and even then under medical supervision!

A much better book if you are designing a herb garden is English Herb Gardens.. If you want a safe guide to simple herbal treatments, go for Pocket Encyclopaedia of Herbs (DK Pocket Encyclopedia), which is really excellent and will save you a few wasted quid.
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on 9 September 2009
I bought this book for my husbands's birthday because he wanted to start using more herbs in the cooking he enjoys doing now he's retired. Read all the reviews and it seemed like the best of the lot and I can confirm that in our opinion it certainly it. Tells you absolutely everything you'd ever want to know about every herb, for cooking, medicinal and growing etc. in such simple language and great pictures. Can't reommend it highly enough, it really is an enjoyable book to browse, very interesting and informative. Don't bother looking further, Jekka McVicars got the herb business sown up !
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on 6 June 2016
A wonderful book and so useful for the novice herb gardener. I now have four 6' by 6' herb plots which are doing really well. I'm working on year-round herbs but now have an abundant supply for around 8 months - haven't needed to buy any salad greens for a long time.

Also been lucky enough to visit Jekka's herb farm (open days most bank holidays in Spring & Summer) and have some of her plants growing in my garden (definitely superior to those purchased from our local garden centre).
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on 8 June 2014
I bought this for my husband who says it's the 'herb bible' & the only one you need. It's more than just a growing guide but gives medicinal & culinary uses too. It also advises about laying out a herb garden.
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on 24 March 2012
Lovely book and great for helping me plan my garden BUT no mention is made of how tall each plant grows or how wide the spread is. Consequently I have had to use another book to work out just where in the border the plants should go according to height and how many of them I will need
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on 4 January 2011
This is a really comprehensive book about herbs.
I found the layout and format excellent, ideal for anyone starting out growing herbs.
The most usful data was the warnings, for example 'do not use this herb if pregnant'.
this is often lacking in other books.
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on 17 June 2013
This is the best book on herbs I have ever seen, it's clear, concise and helps you in an all round way in deciding which herbs to grow and how to grow them......everyone interested in herbs and gardens should have one lying on the coffee table. Can't say enough about this product and its not expensive for what you get. The delivery times were amazing too. If your looking at this book.....don't hesitate, buy it!
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