Vintage Gardening Books You Need on Your Shelves
For the avid gardener, classic gardening books are treasures. These books have inspired gardeners across the generations, and they still provide top tips and some of the most beautiful descriptions we’ve ever read of gardens near and far. On this list, we’ve included classic books by celebrated garden writers such as American editor Katharine S. White, Southern gardener Elizabeth Lawrence, and English writer Beverley Nichols, among many others. Most of these books were published during the 20th century, but some are much older and, thankfully, still in print.
Would you rather be working in the garden than reading? Then save these books for rainy days when the downpours keep you indoors, and let your imagination run wild with treasured stories of horticultural hijinks (as well as plenty of time-tested gardening tips you can put to use in your own plot). Add a few vintage gardening books to your shelves this year—you’ll love returning to them again and again.
A Southern Garden by Elizabeth Lawrence
Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katharine S. White
This book is a collection of essays by writer and editor Katharine S. White. Each of the essays was first published in The New Yorker in 1958, and they were collected and edited after her death by her husband, writer E. B. White, who also provides the introduction to the book.
The American Gardener by William Cobbett
The American Gardener: A Treatise on the Situation, Soil, and Laying Out of Gardens is one of the earliest American gardening books and was first published in the 19th century. While it has been out of print since 1856, it is available now through the Modern Library Gardening series.
Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden by Eleanor Perényi
Gardener Eleanor Perényi’s Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden was first published in 1981 and contains 72 essays on plants, gardens, and gardening history. The New Yorker called it “one of those dangerous reference works that you reach for at a moment of horticultural crisis or indecision only to find yourself an hour later browsing far beyond the page where you began.”
Down the Garden Path by Beverley Nichols
Amateur gardener Beverley Nichols published his much-loved gardening book, Down the Garden Path, in 1932. It's a wonderful read and one in which Nichols’ fresh perspective proves perennial. He writes, "The best gardening books should be written by those who still have to search their brains for the honeysuckle's languid Latin name.” (It’s Lonicera, if you were wondering.)
The Well-Tempered Garden: Wisdom and Advice from a Legendary Gardener by Christopher Lloyd
The Education of a Gardener by Russell Page
The Gardener's Bed-Book: Short and Long Pieces to Be Read in Bed by Those Who Love Green Growing Things by Richardson Wright
Rhapsody in Green: The Garden Wit and Wisdom of Beverley Nichols
The musings of writer and amateur gardener Beverley Nichols (1898–1983) are collected in Rhapsody in Green: The Garden Wit and Wisdom of Beverley Nichols, which gathers excerpts from his celebrated work. The book is at turns funny and frank, and it explores Nichols' favorite plants and varied gardening pursuits.