The Virgin Gardener is intended to be a starter guide for people who have either never gardened before, or are are very new to it and want some low hassle projects to get them started. Don't let this put you off if you are a bit more experienced however as there are plenty of interesting and quirky ideas in here for you too. I'd count myself as being somewhere in the middle. I'm not a total newbie, but I'm certainly not an old hand by any stretch of the imagination. For me this book filled in some informational blanks on topics that other books just seem to assume you know, and gave me some ideas to try out both in the garden and inside.
The book starts out with a run down of basic essential equipment and supplies. It looks at things like compost mixes (one of the afore mentioned blanks it filled was on what the different numbered John Innes composts are for), tools you'll need, and some explanation of different terminology. This is all very useful to have in one place, and to be honest I wish I'd read this before anything else - a lot of my gardening wisdom has been picked up here and there, and is finely interspersed with the experience you pick up as you go along by making mistakes. A lot of this could have been avoided by reading the first section of this book.
The main section consists of a collection of ideas for planting, eating, and aesthetic improvement of your surroundings both inside and out. All of the ideas are simple and straight forward, as Laetitia makes no secret of being a fan of the hassle free route, and are presented in the style of a recipe. They start with a list of required ingredients, go on to describe the method, and finish off with tips for maintenance and presentation. Some personal favourites were the pages on ageing terracotta pots, and how to make petrol station flowers look like an expensive bouquet! There were many more ideas that I loved, but to go into them here would spoil the enjoyment of finding them as you go through the book.
The final section of the book is made up mainly of lists of info. Examples of inclusions are Laetitia's Lust List, which is a list of her favourite plants along with information on their care and cultivation, and lists of potential pests and problems that a gardener might encounter and ow to go about tackling them. There is also information on things like watering and pruning, and a list of possible equipment and plant suppliers.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have already started implementing some of the projects and ideas. I can see it being a book that I dip back into for inspiration again and again. The whole thing is run through with Laetitia's fresh approach to the whole subject - her passion for plants and her enthusiasm for making everything around her as beautiful as possible. I was so impressed with this book that I actually bought another copy straight away to give to my sister for her birthday, and Laetitia's next book, Sweet Peas for Summer, is very high up on my To Buy list. Highly recommended.
To finish off this review, here's a video of Laetitia doing her stuff...