07 April 2014

Book Review: RHS Botany for Gardeners by Geoff Hodge

When I first moved to Wiltshire I came across the word 'lush' for the first time. It's just not something I ever remember hearing where I come from in North Lincolnshire. It's current urban usage means something that's really pleasing, desirable, or even ultra-nice. Of course the current usage can be traced back to various sources but tended to be in reference to the luxuriance of plants. A great example being Shakespeare's Tempest: "How lush and lusty the grasse lookes?", but goes even further back to the Latin, luxuria for luxury. To this book, both definitions well and truly apply.

This book follows on from the previous year's RHS Latin for Gardeners and is similarly not just a book, but a work of art.

Geoff Hodge has a wonderfully readable way of describing various aspects of botany from cell division to how plants sense the environment around them. But this isn't just a reference book, where possible the book delves into the practical benefits that an understanding of botany can provide gardeners, from soil pH to a chapter on pruning.

Along the way we meet some of the botanists and botanical artists that have made a big impact on the history of botany, from Barbara McClintock to Richard Spruce and from Matilda Smith to John Lindley. We learn briefly about their lives and the importance of their work as well as the lasting legacy they left behind.

This book is made ever more lush, page by page, with the inclusion of wonderful illustrations of plants. Some illustrate concepts such as phyllotaxis, others are just plain gorgeous, all are botanically accurate.

This book was a pleasure to read. It's one that not only looks epic on the shelf next to Latin for Gardeners, but it's a book that I will continually be dipping into. I can only hope that the series will continue and I've even cheekily asked for an RHS Ecology for Gardeners (only time will tell)!

If you're interested in gardening, but haven't read a botany book before, then start here - it's a wonderful introduction that will prepare you for more indepth books on botany if you choose to go deeper down the rabbit hole.


  1. Another book I would like to own!

    I grew up with the word lush - meaning luxuriant, dense, sappy, green growth. The secondary meaning came . . er . . . second!

    Wondering how you are getting on with the two garden trees you might be taking note of for the Loose and Leafy Tree-Following. If you would like to take part in April - the box for links is open till 7pm tomorrow (14th) - http://tinyurl.com/nvuy7ze Even if you are only able to post a picture of what they are looking like now - that would be great and keep us up to date. (But only if you have the time, and are well, and feel like it. Really.)

    1. Hi Lucy, sorry I've not been on the blog for a while. Been struggling a bit of late. It's a really good book. I wrote the review a few months ago, but only just got around to publishing it! Places like The Book People often have books like this quite cheap! I hope you're well.


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