Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Monday, 6 January 2014

Book Review: RHS Botany for Gardeners

If your Christmas present stash included a book token or two, then you might like to consider RHS Botany for Gardeners as a suitable present to yourself. It's a very readable account of the subject and is beautifully presented.

The RHS's Lindley Library has been plundered extensively for lots of superb botanical drawings with which to illustrate the text.

It's a dippable book in terms of telling the story of botany rather than a dry reference (though see my caveat in the Weaknesses section below). It's perfect for curling up with on a dark night and will help to chase away those winter blues.

  • Tells the 'story' of botany and the people who developed its thinking - such as Mendel and Linnaeus
  • It's not a dry tome - good at relating botany to gardening/'botany in action' e.g. pruning; use of a plant's natural defences to deter pests
  • The science of plant breeding is explored, though it stops short of GM
  • Beautifully illustrated
  • A high quality hardback with an integrated bookmark ribbon
  • A good set of references and websites are given for further exploration

  • A poor index means it's not a dippable reference. It can be hard to look up specific terms if the reader is unsure in which part of the book they'd be found. Perhaps it's assumed the reader would Google these instead?
  • Some of the diagrams could be better e.g. flower structure. A diagram of each leaf shape would be a useful addition to their descriptions.

A very readable text, plus the illustrations makes this book a wonderful gift for keen gardeners. Horticulture students however, will still find Brian Capon's book Botany for Gardeners the better reference for their studies, particularly those studying for the RHS's qualifications.


  1. It looks lovely, just the thing to read in a long dark winter.

  2. Being a plant geek, I started with Brian Capon and then bought this RHS book as an early festive pressie for myself (it was on offer from the Book People at a price hard to resist - well I couldn't, anyway!). Also v good (and bought at the same time) is the RHS What Plant Where… ) Both proving to be a good investment for both gardening and college activities!

    1. I have Roy Lancaster's version of that book - very useful it is too :)

  3. Looks good. Been meaning to get down to reading a bit more about the nitty gritty, but doesn't the lack of good indices in books nowadays drive you up the wall? I don't think it's anything to do with Google; rather a way to save money by not employing a proper indexer.

    1. I didn't appreciate how hard an index is to do until tried it for myself when writing my Blurb book about Chippenham. Now I get very irritated at the lack of good indexing. I'm sure you're right, it's a cut in budget which is the culprit rather than the almighty Google :(

  4. Good review. Thanks for mentioning the quality of the index in your review. If more people find inadequate indexes perhaps there will be better ones in future.

    1. Fab - a comment form a real-life indexer, thank you :)

  5. Despite having far too many books already, this one looks right up my street. I may have to investigate further, thanks for the review.

    1. I too have a surfeit of books - even the one in, one out rule doesn't appear to be working...

  6. I have this book and am looking forward to reading it...sounds great


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