Walled gardens make great spaces for your special kitchen garden. Traditionally associated with larger estates, country houses and stately homes many were designed to provide a continual supply of fresh fruit, flowers and vegetables for the ‘big house’. It is the micro climate that walled gardens induce thus creating the facility to grow more exotic fruit trees against walls or with the aide of heated glasshouses.
There are many more discrete kitchen gardens where you can model your own food producing plot with ideas in this National Trust book. Even one well situated wall can provide shelter climbing space and support within a kitchen garden.
On this first of August 2020 I am resolved to winnow down my collection of books on gardening and related subjects. I want to separate the wheat from the chaff and boy is there a lot of chaff to sort, probably 500+ tomes plus related ephemera. Not all of this winnowing activity will lead to new posts on this site but my first effort has done.
The most recent book I have read from cover to cover was the entertaining ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben. To me it is a master piece of accessible writing about trees, what they feel, how they communicate and how nature interacts with them. It is based on years of experience as a forester. Peter has acute observational and analytical ability that is well reasoned and simply communicated. The main themes I have taken into my wider gardening and ecological understanding include:
Trees show we can take the long view and there is no need to rush, in fact time may create a far better and sustainable result.
There is a place for everything and with everything in its place we disrupt it at our peril.
We don’t know what we don’t know and there are more things in heaven and earth ( but what the Hamlet to mix my metaphors.)
If trees have social networking with many skills similar to human abilities and traits, then what else can our gardens teach us.
Look at what is easily visible and look again to develop understanding.
Fired with this enthusiasm I looked through for further enlightenment before I pass on the books to others as part of winnowing down from my book shelves. I came across a 1974 book ‘Plants and Environment’ by R F Daubenmire a self professed Textbook of Plant Autecology. The book’s definition of Autecology is wider than a dictionary definition claiming it considers: geology, soils, climatology, zoology, chemistry and physics which are connected to the welfare of living organism and evolution of species. Not dissimilar to Wohlleben’s offering. As I have only read the preface and introduction in detail some chapers have been dipped into to suit my mood at the time. These include; soil, water, temperature, light, atmospheric, biotic, fire, evolution and complex environmental chapters.
As a text book it is more detailed and less apocryphal than the Hidden Life of Trees but aims at ‘the intelligent management of plant life (and trees in particular) for the good on mankind’. Both books have excellent notes and references.
You are unlikely to be able to recreate the conditions and zones of Hawaii in your garden but you can still gaze at some of the exceptional plants and study their habitats. Isolated by thousands of miles of ocean for millions of years, the Hawaiian islands are home to many unique plants and flowers described with great photographs in this book
This book describes more than 130 indigenous (originating or occurring naturally) and endemic (native and restricted) species of many unique plants and flowers.
Interesting Facts to Delight Gardeners
The Hawaiian islands, isolated by thousands of miles of ocean. Prehistoric evolution may have resulted from seeds that have been dispersed by oceanic drift, air flotation but most probably by birds droppings and attachment.
There were an acknowledged prehistoric 26 plant species before Polynesian immigrants arrived and developed knowledge of medicinal and other uses of plants. They introduced breadfruit, mulberry, coconut, yam, sweet potato, banana, sugar cane and ginger among other useful species.
Species have adapted to colonise lava flows in vegetation called ‘kipuka’.
The diverse ecosystems found throughout Hawaii include coastal areas, rain forest, bogs, sub-alpine , mesic forest and dry shrub land.
The state flower of the Aloha State is the Yellow Hibiscus.
If you are lucky enought o visit one of the many volcanic islands of Hawaii get out and about to visit different ecoregions and botanical sanctuaries. If you stick to coastal and tourist areas you will miss a brilliant and unique horticultural journey. If you can’t visit you can still wonder at the photographs and reports of others that I have hinted at.
‘What else did the Romans do for us’ asks Monty Python. ‘All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us? ‘ Well if you include Latin as a language they gave us modern gardening nomenclature.
What can Latin Names Tell Gardeners
Latin names are full of information and can hide the secrets of where the plant is found or to which areas it is endemic. eg Cyclamen persicum, the Persian cyclamen.
The name can show the colour, albicans or albus flowers will be whitish, virdis or virens will be green.
A name prefixed with melano… caulon, melano… cococus, will be black, stemmed or berried respectively. Other plants with black features will follow this pattern.
Fragrans means propensity for scent often sweet-scented and the best fragrantisimus is likely to be very fragrant
Other horticultural information may include; flowering times,natural habitat or fruitfulness- fructifera.
Latin for a shady place sylvestris or woodland in the name ending will show where a plant will be happiest.
Plants that are named after the shape of their leaves like palmate.
The time of year that they flower as in vernalis of spring.
Melleus in the name pertains to honey and will likely attract bees and other insects.
There are numerous other identifiers and features in Latin based plant names but you just need a learn a few (and a book or PC) to enjoy the skills of plant selection.
So Monty Python was on the right lines but ‘he is a very naughty boy’ of he doesn’t learn some gardeners Latin.
Our transatlantic cousins still benefit from the Pilgrim fathers gardening knowledge taken to their shores centuries ago. The potato famine of 1845-50 caused Irish farmers to discover the Idaho potato. Now these and other horticultural favours can be returned by this book of organic homespun tips.
On the other hand did we contribute to the Hamburger and KFC? (That is kale, fennel and cauliflower). In return we got a Turkey!
2018 has been a remarkable year for tree books and the publishing trade has done a good job listing new and older titles. There is now a forest of books to acquire and collect and I hope they have been printed on paper from sustainable sources.
A ubiquitous book that has been a star seller on the shelves this year. The bright cover and eclectic mix of poems has hopefully started many saplings on a journey with trees. A compendium of National Trust History & Heritage. We can take pride in our tree history.
Fascinating facts that are hard to comprehend until you study what is going on with trees in groups. A clever update of another edition, a sort of sucker from the parent tree.
We are not alone in venerating trees and if you want an excuse to travel the world then this book will provide some inspiration. …
This week I revisited RHS Harlow Carr library for the first time in several years. I previously volunteered in the ‘old potting shed’ library before the new building was completed. Then I was part of the team that moved and reshelved all the books from one part of the garden to the ecofriendly new premises.
At the time of our relocation there had been a spate of thefts from the Lindley Library and some very valuable tomes had been taken. Good old artistic books with frameable prints were also susceptible to loosing pages to the ner-do-wells. So the powers that be decided to install anti theft devices in the spine of all the books at Harlow Carr. After much painstaking work we volunteers were told the exit was not compatible with the spine tags and another exit system had been purchased. As a consequence new RFID tags a couple of centimeters square had to be fixed inside all the books that already had a metal spine. Several good looking end papers were damaged or covered in this process. Imagine my ‘surprise’ (not) when the 3 books I borrowed this week were passed to my by the librarian in a way that circumvented the exit alarm because it wasn’t working properly.
The harlow-carr-library-learning-centre-is-eco-friendly as reported here eight years ago see’ library’
Named after botanist and artist John Lindley the library is a multisite operation with books, paintings, photographs and old documents at Wisley, London HQ and other RHS gardens. In addition to old and modern books the RHS has an extensive collection of paintings and photographs plus horticultural paraphernalia.
When I tried to visit the library last January it was closed for stock taking! Now I bother to check the website and warn you it is again ‘Closed: First fortnight in August’.
The library in Vincent Square London was saved from a proposed closure in 1995 by refurbishment of the downstairs area. Then in 2011 it was damaged by fire but reopened in 2012.
Bigger disaster occurred when a notable book thief stole 13 volumes published between 1848 and 1860 of ‘Une Nouvelle Iconographie des Camellias’ by nineteenth-century Belgian horticulturist Ambroise Verschaffelt.
William Jacques, also known as the ‘tome raider’ stole antique books worth £50,000 from the world-famous Lindley library and was jailed for three-and-a-half years after skipping bail and evading recapture for several years.
Jacques used a false name to sign in to the Library before stuffing valuable books under his tweed jacket and fleeing, Southwark Crown Court. I was shown how easy it was to circumvent the security gates by balancing items on your head (but keep that under your hats).
RHS as Hard Copy Publishers
The most popular RHS publication is probably ‘The Garden’ a members monthly magazine that often ends up in charity shops or NHS waiting rooms.
Also very popular are the annual Members’ Handbook, The Plantsman and the RHS Plant Finder
Coffee table books are produced regularly often in a joint venture with other publishers like Dorling Kindersly. This supplements the technical treatise on specific subjects under the RHS own imprint including Botany, Genealogy, Latin for Gardeners and encyclopedias.
I have cheekily chosen the following title to highlight because I am not sure ‘How Do RHS managers Work?’
What Others Say about RHS
RHS is a charity generating over £82m last year 2016/17. The accounts are silent on how much of this relates to publications, RHS enterprises ltd operates some commercial activities with profits gifted back to the charity.
The Lindley Library contains works dating back as far as 1514. It is widely regarded as one of the world’s most extensive horticultural collections, including books, journals, pictures and art concerned with botany, garden design and history, as well as practical gardening.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded £4.8 million in a first stage grant towards an overall project of £160 million 10 year development project. HLF said “Wisley is such an important site in the history of plants and gardens – a superb setting for some rare and fascinating plant specimens along with thousands of books, artifacts and photographs…….
I am almost as keen on books as I am on gardening so it is natural that I should combine the two by collecting books related to gardens and gardening. The attached pdf is a cold list of my current collection by title, authors, publisher and date of publication. The extra columns were for my amusement showing the number of pages ( over 100,000) and a score that I attributed when I first browsed the book. The collection is a bit eclectic as a result of acquiring what was available and affordable at the time augmented by family gifts.
Why Collect Garden Related Books
A good book with knowledgeable content is priceless as long as I apply the ideas in my own husbandry.
A good picture is worth a thousand words. Where would we be if we were not seduced by a good picture on a seed packet, plant label, magazine or more importantly inside a book.
A bit of history goes a long way and all plants and species have their own tale to tell. Keeping old seed catalogues and public garden brochures will remind us how things were. Books about plant hunters and patrons can highlight our social fabric.
Before the internet and google, knowledge was power and attracted a price for those who shared their know how via books, magazines and radio shows. Much of my collection was produced during of just after WWII when growing larger crops was vital.
If I was more industrious I would have recorded my books using the Dewy decimal system where all books have a classification number and reference. 580 is generally reserved for Plants with the following subsections
575 Science of parts of plants
581 Specific topics in natural history of plants
582 Plants noted for specific vegetative characteristics and flowers
583 Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledones
584 Liliopsida – Monocotyledones
585 Pinophyta – Gymnosperms
586 Cryptogamia – Seedless plants
587 Pteridophyta -Ferns
Some 20th century books will become more valuable as evocations of a bygone era. Good writing and art work, first editions and special books by key designers may lead the way.
One challenge for me has been to find a niche within the published gardening books where I do not currently have any coverage. There are some monographs and old classics where I would like to invest but for the time being I will content my self with a look at planting in accordance to the phases of the moon. This area, also called Biodynamic gardening, is often popular in the press and media at the turn of the year or following blue moons (both of which we have just experienced.)
New Books on Biodynamic Gardening
Anecdotally biodynamic gardening increases yields with quality, edible crops with a good depth of flavour. Science has not yet proved how this can be measured
These guides have been published annually for over 50 years to help gardeners choose the optimum days for sowing, pruning and harvesting various plants and crops.
Get help from nature – my garden needs all the help it can get and maybe just the sun is not quite enough so I’ll give the moon a go as well.
The moon garden is planted and tended in harmony with phases of the moon to take advantage of gravitational pull on the earth’s water table. Sow when the moon is waxing never plant anything when the moon is waning.
Expanding into growing beyond the garden is a book that includes tips and ideas on large-scale farming, livestock market gardening. cereal cultivation and commercial vegetable growing.
Food stuff is top of the list in Mazlow’s hierarchy of need.
‘Growing your own’ to feed the family has been a priority for centuries.
Farmers, market gardeners and smallholders all contribute edible stuff as do allotment holders and the majority of gardeners.
Windowsills, greenhouses, conservatories and sunny sheltered spots can be used to grow tomatoes and salad crops for example.
Herbs add taste to many dishes and basil, mint, parsley, rosemary and chillies, are all stuff you can grow quite easily.
Stuff called Curcurbits such as courgettes, squash, pumpkins and cucumbers are comparatively easy to grow with a bit of shelter and warmth.
Tasty specialties are now more commonplace but Pineapples were grown in special stove houses in the 17th and 18th centuries.
What Other Stuff You Might want to Grow
Man can’t live by bread alone so aesthetic stuff needs to be grown to feed the inner man.
Flowers and decorative plants come in all shapes and sizes. Cacti, Holly, Ivy and poinsettia are seasonal stuff you can try.
Stuff for indoors includes a range of bulbs and windowsill plants. Old Aspidistra and other evergreen leaved plants have a reputation of cleaning the air. A reputation probably earned when we all had coal fires.
Growing stuff in a formal manner from a large landscape to a small Knot garden can be time consuming but rewarding.
Organic and environmentally friendly grown stuff has its own reward.
Forestry, heath and heather, parks and pleasure grounds all serve a visual or emotional purpose.
Botany is the science of plant life. In other descriptions it is the study of plant science or plant biology. A botanist is one who studies botany.
A botanic is a drug or medicinal preparation obtained from a plant or plants.
“Botanic gardens are institutions holding documented collections of living plants for the purposes of scientific research, conservation, display and education.”
Oxford Botanic Gardens and Magdalen College Tower.
This garden, the oldest in the UK was founded in 1621 as a physic garden growing plants for medicinal research
The original Cambridge University Botanic Garden (CUBG) was founded in 1762 with the larger site opening in 1846. It provides inspiration for botanists, gardeners and the public with an array of 8000 plant species. As a university garden it has a resources for research and teaching based on a collection of living plants labelled with their botanical names. CUBG is one of 1600 heritage-listed gardens which are based on ‘designed’ landscapes, rather than on planting or botanical importance.
Chelsea Physic Garden was established as the Apothecaries’ Garden in 1673
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Durham University Botanic Garden plus other University led botanic gardens at Leicester and Bristol
Ness Botanic Gardens
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew
Sheffield Botanic Garden has been restored with different garden areas with plants from all over the world, this 19-acre Gardenesque-style botanical garden is a diverse one to visit. As with other good botanic gardens it holds National Plant Collections in Sheffields case Weigela, Diervilla and Sarcococca.
National Botanic Garden of Wales
Belfast College Park, Botanic Avenue
Jardim Botânico, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil contains exotic plants in a massive 137-hectare garden’
Singapore Botanic Gardens founded in 1859 has Singapore’s National Orchid Garden holding a collection of more than 1,000 species and 2,000 hybrids of orchids
Other large cities have notable botanic gardens including Sidney, New York, Kirstenbosch, Padova, Munchen and Montreal.
Botanic label and specimen containing the family name Myrsinaceae, or the myrsine family and origin S W Turkey. The species name Cyclamen Cilcium, the forma as two cultivars have been named but there are many similar wild forms. The number is the accession number 4 digits show the year the plant was first acquired then last four numbers are sequential numbers.
Myrsinaceae is a rather large family from the order Ericales, that includes Cyclamen among 30+ genera.