Meet: Gil Teague, bookseller

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31 Mar 2017

Gil Teague’s Florilegium has published some of our best garden writers, including Peter Valder, Margaret Hibbert, Michael McCoy and Alistair Hay, but we know it best as Australia’s only specialist garden bookshop.

Interview and images by Robin Powell

It’s been a tough few years for booksellers. Are things looking up?

I have seen a change. A lot of readers have realised that the book has qualities of communication that are different and more personal than the screen. For a non-fiction book it’s easier to flick backwards and forwards, and check the index in a book, but also imagination comes into play in way that it doesn’t in reading on screen. You spin off into your thoughts, and then come back to the author so that the quality of communication between the author and reader is different.

What are the current trends in garden publishing?

There is less being published now, which is not a bad thing. There was a lot of stuff that wasn’t original and simply recycled what was already out there. I would like to see more plants books, and books on regional gardening.Obviously these books have a smaller market because they are specific, but publishers could afford to be more modest in their sales expectations, lower the costs, and deliver books of great use to gardeners.  

What are your best sellers?

I couldn’t really say. I carry 5000 title and people have such a diverse range of interests across gardening. I have books about design, about individual plant groups, environmental issues, books that are just a good read, on botany or plant hunting or growing food. Certainly there has been a lot of interest over the past five years in food plants and how to grow them.

 

So what about a personal favourite?

I do love Huanduj, the brugmansia book I published in 2012. Alistair Hay spent five years researching that book and a couple of years writing it and it is really impressive. It brings up a lot of questions about human relationships to plants.

  

You also have second-hand books. Where do they come from?

People bring things in. I also bid at auctions. I recently bid at an auction in London and got three of the 12 lots I bid for, including one with eight 19th century editions of Charles Darwin’s works, so that’s exciting.

 

You’re a fixture at garden events and plant fairs. What’s the appeal?

Well I don’t get 300 people a day coming into the shop in Glebe, as I do going to a Cottage Garden Club meeting, or access to thousands over a weekend at the Collectors’ plant fair! And I do really enjoy meeting my regular customers and having a chat over the book piles.

Florilegium can be found online at www.florilegium.com.au, or drop in to Stall number 39 at Collectors’