HATFIELD House and Highgrove are among the famous gardens Lady Salisbury has had the pleasure to tend over the years, but her interest in plants and garden design goes right back to her early childhood where she cultivated a small plot on her parents land in Ireland. Her father apparently encouraged her interest in horticulture though she says of him: "My adored father believed educating women only taught them how to argue with men."

Luckily for us, Lady Salisbury went on to study and research of her own accord and learned much as she went along about dressing gardens to suit their architecture, keeping in touch with history, pioneering organic gardening and matching plants to climate as with her garden in Provence. Of particular interest to Hertfordshire readers, will be the section where Lady Salisbury describes how she set about restoring the gardens of Hatfield House including the highly inventive method she used to get the scale of statuary to the right proportions. Instead of shifting heavy statues back and forth she recruited staff to pose in situ before moving a single piece.

Packed with hints and tips, such as how to keep rodents off your bulbs, and lavishly illustrated by Derry Moore's beautiful photographs, the book is a wonderful gardener's companion. It also gives powerful insight into the history of the houses and stately homes and the rarified world of the people who lived in them. The thought of Prince Charles poised with his secateurs, and the young author whacking General (later Field Marshall) Alexander in the kneecap with a hockey stick which "took him out of the game" are delightful impressions that will stay with the reader a long time.

A Gardener's Life by the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury is published by Frances Lincoln Limited, priced £35 in hardback, www.franceslincoln.com