Yes here today in the uk it is World book day, the rest of the world it’s a little later, so anyway like the who drives on the right side of the road conversation, I shall take my country of births side of things.
My book choices however I hope, won’t cause any arguments! These are books that may not be the best condition books or have pictures that take your breathe away but these are books that have shaped me and helped me as a horticulturist more than most others. They are also some of the books I go back to time after time and their value is more to me than just money. I limited it to only 5, which has been hard but here they are
Sanders Encyclopaedia of Gardening
Ahh now this is one old book, written by Thomas William Sanders. He sadly won’t be know by many modern gardeners. Born in 1855 he started out as a builders apprentice before being took on by a local gardener, from that moment onwards he had a great pedigree working in many great country houses including Versailles and designing a great winter garden back in 1884 ( see they aren’t just a modern thing), he starting writing as a young man and become editor of Amateur Gardening, a post he held for 40yrs. This book first published in 1897 has had various revisions since then including one done by another editor of Amateur Gardening, Arthur Hellyer and there is so much information within it that is still relevant today, look at the use of charcoal, non peat methods, such a brilliant well written book at still comes off my book shelf now at time as it first did the first time my Dad showed it to me as a young boy and giving me a copy on my first day at work, lovely book
The golden age of Plant hunters by Kenneth Lemmon
Wow if there’s one thing to get a young person hooked on Plants is course the tails of the great Plant hunters with all the dangers they risked to bring new Plants back to Europe and this book doesn’t disappoint but it’s more than that, it was a gift from a dear old family friend, Professional Gardeners Guild founding member, very crafty old style head gardener Ron Nettle, every time I see this book on the shelf, I just remember him telling tales about how he got rid of the old tree he didn’t like and other such tales. It’s inspired me throughout my career both in the worlds and the memory of a great person
Trees and shrubs Hardy in the British Isles by WJ Bean
If you haven’t read these reference series of books umm please go and find them and by them, brilliant stories behind the Plants that we grow and little gems of forgotten knowledge like how good Catalpa is a durable timber with stories about how whole trees were found in one piece in the bottom of a valley that was flooded for 100yrs and once remerged, found to be in almost the same shape as it entered. William Jackson Bean was born in 1863 and spent his whole life working at Kew Gardens where he spent time as Head of the Arboretum and in the end the Curator of the gardens. This wealth of knowledge made him the right person to write, arguably the reference book on trees and shrubs. First published in 1914 and regularly updated until the 8th addition. He sadly passed away in 1947 but he left us with books that will far outlast my presence.
The Graham Stuart Thomas Rose Book
GST was one of the best horticulturalist in the 20th century and certainly one of the greatest rosarians of all time so it’s no surprise that two of his rose books have made this list. He was also a great plantsman who had great knowledge of a wide range of plants from trees to alpines. He spent time as a nurseryman and owner and garden adviser to the National Trust. This rose book is combination of his three Rose books and they are just a delightful read but also just full of his knowledge. It’s not widely known but he spent at least 1 day per week at RHS Lindsay Library researching rose history and names and it’s this attention to detail that makes his books so special. For any rose knowledge, these books are still the go to ones
An English Rose Garden
This book just had to be here, once more written by GST, this book is based on arguably the icing on GTS lifetime of work with roses, the Rose Garden at Mottisfont Abbey Gardens in Hampshire. It is also a place so close to my heart, I grew up on the estate of Mottisfont, when I left school I worked there for 2yrs as a NT YT student followed by a return few years later for 10yrs. This book was presented to me when I finished my YT contract, signed by my old colleagues at Mottisfont. It brings back many memories of the garden and my first steps into gardening. The pictures and writing are just outstanding and if you have ever visited Mottisfont, it is a book well worth getting hold of
The Hilliers manual of trees and shrubs
Started out as a catalogue for the famous Hillier nurseries, it was turned into a plant lovers go to book for trees and shrubs that can be grown in the uk. The new version published in 2014, lists over 13,000 from 700 genre and it is the go to reference book. I have the new one but I still use the original one I brought. It has notes in there of where I had seen some of the rarer plants listed and when and that just makes it a little more personally.
At this time of digital ease, it is had to think where books will fit into our modern lives but in reality books just aren’t there to be read, they are there to hold memories, maybe the first one you have brought, the person who brought it for you or just associations that a search tab on a phone, tablet or computer just can’t give you. Yes yes I know you can bookmark a website or page but isn’t it more fun to find a bookmark of an old letter within the book instead?