Last September, I started my studies for the RHS Level 2 Diploma in the Principles and Practices of Horticulture at Merrist Wood College.* While students are not required to buy books as the college library is well-stocked, two old edition of RHS books shown in class (on plant propagation and on pruning) particularly caught my attention—and thus, my small collection of horticulture books started.
The books are part of a series called “The Royal Horticultural Society’s Encyclopaedia of Practical Gardening” under the editorship of Christopher Bricknell, then Director of the RHS Garden in Wisley. There are eight titles in the series, which include:
- Plant Propagation by Philip McMillan Browse, 1979.
- Pruning by Christopher Bricknell, 1979.
- Fruit by Harry Baker, 1980.
- Vegetables by Tony Biggs, 1980.
- Lawns, Ground Cover and Weed Control by David Pycraft, 1980.
- Garden Pests and Diseases by Audrey Brooks and Andrew Halstead, 1980.
- Growing Under Glass by Kenneth A. Beckett, 1981.
- Gardening Techniques by Alan Titchmarsh, 1981.
After looking around at a website that sells second-hand books to see if I could buy the copies shown in class, I checked eBay and found to my surprise someone selling the entire set. I messaged the seller saying I’m a student studying horticulture interested in the set and I’m wondering whether they would accept a much lower offer. It was my lucky day (my birthday, too); they agreed. The copies arrived, almost mint in condition.
I am not someone who particularly seeks out anything vintage, but these old editions are still excellent reference books, especially for someone new to gardening. The writing is clear and straight to the point, and concisely discusses all aspects of gardening. The books are beautifully illustrated. The illustrations are detailed and quite helpful in providing visual aid to the text.
In addition, the books are non-fussy. Paperback with ring-binding, each title is easy to open to a page for reference while doing research, or even actual gardening. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they came in plastic envelopes, and slightly amused at the following practical reminder: “When working in your garden use this special envelope to protect the book from dirt and damage.” I couldn’t imagine anyone gardening and reading books at the same time, even to follow instructions. I guess, most of us would read first and then, apply what we read in the garden. But this shows how these books want information to be accessible to new gardeners, even if that means reading the books right while digging.
*In case you are interested in the course, find out more about it at the RHS website.