I like to grow sweet peas every year as my Dad always grew them and my Mum loves them. As I was picking a bunch today I thought of this lovely book, "A Bunch of Sweet Peas". It has been on my shelves ever since it was first published in 1988 and apart from being exactly the sort of story I love (gardening, history, village life, a happy ending, etc), I was originally drawn to the book by the lovely watercolour illustrations painted by Ann Ross Paterson. I remember trying unsuccessfully to copy some of them when I first bought the book. I've never been able to master watercolours.
Henry Donald has written this charming true story about Alec White, a hard-up young parish minister living in a quiet village on the Scottish borders, and the competition for amateur gardeners organised by the Daily Mail in 1911. The newspaper offered a prize of £1,000 (£57,000 today!! - I used this converter) for the best bunch of Sweet Peas grown by an amateur anywhere in the British Isles. What makes this book even more delightful is the fact that Henry was the nephew of that young parish minister whose story this is.
I think a packet of Sweet Pea seeds and this book would make a lovely gift for a keen or even a new gardener. And you could read it yourself before giving it to the recipient!