I have a fridge magnet that quotes Cicero as saying ‘If you have a garden and a library, you have all you need’. This blog is about my garden but I’m also a reader. I’ve often found myself bookless and made a desperate dash to a library or charity shop to pick up a book to keep me going on a bus or train journey. As with gardening equipment, I prefer to read ‘preloved’ books rather than buy them new. I know I should be a prime target for an e-reader but I haven’t been converted yet.
Anyway, what does this have to do with gardening? Well, I read a lot of novels but I also love gardening books, the older and more tattered the better. My gardening bookshelf groans with gems that I have collected over the years, some new, some given as gifts but many, many picked up second hand. So I thought I should share some of my favourites on this blog. I’ll try and give you full publication details should you want to track copies down yourself.
My oldest gardening books relate to indoor plants, from the days when I didn’t have an outdoor garden. I have a very well thumbed copy of the ‘Houseplant Expert’ (D Hessayon, 1980, pbi Publications). I used to grow houseplants fanatically, propagate their cuttings and babies and sell them at fundraising events for various causes. This book taught me the basics as well as the fundamental rule that if a plant is unhappy then it is probably too dry, or too wet, or too hot or too cold – and probably not getting enough light. Given that you can’t do much about the light, you should cross your fingers and hope it gets better and then, when it doesn’t, start again with a different plant.
My oldest houseplants are an umbrella tree which is over thirty years old and a pomelo (a kind of grapefruit) which I grew from a pip. This was inspired by ‘The Pip Book’ (K Mossman, 1973, Penguin).
It is still flourishing although it has never flowered and will never fruit. I have returned to ‘The Pip Book’ several times to find out how to grow all sorts of things from pips and seeds. Some more successful than others – and some way too successful but I’ll tell you about those in another post.
Another of my oldest books is ‘Indoor Farming’ (D Wickers, 1978, Julian Friedman Publishers) . This is fantasy gardening at its best and has wonderful illustrations of vegetables growing in bedrooms and offices, in attics and under stairs. You can of course grow some vegetables inside and I do – well herbs mostly and some chilli peppers on a windowsill – but this book is really optimistic. I don’t follow its advice very often but I keep it to inspire me.
So those are my oldest gardening books and they are all about indoor gardening. I’ll tell you about some of my other favourites and some other weird finds in charity shops in future posts.