The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 with aims “to collect every information respecting the culture and treatment of all plants and trees” and to disseminate this information to it members. How this information was disseminated has changed but little over the course of the society’s history from “The Transactions of the Horticultural Society of London” (it became the RHS in 1866) to “The Journal” to “The Garden” from 1975 onwards. It has always been an especially good publication with a great emphasis on quality of content and service to members. Over the years it has strived to serve the interests of its members with reports on the latest scientific discoveries which are of interest to gardeners, comment on the latest plant introductions, on gardens to visit including the society’s own three regional gardens and it provided a forum for comment, opinion and criticism. Such a well regarded publication, and one with such a large distribution, has enticed the greats of the gardening world to contribute to the magazine: E.A.Bowle, Anna Pavord, Hugh Johnson, George Forrest, Matthew Wilson, John Brookes, Stephen Lacey, Tony Kirkham, Graham Rice, Nigel Colborn, Helen Dillon, Nigel Dunnett, Val Bourne, Joy Larkcom and on and on and on, including Ursula Buchan who took on the task of selecting from this enormous volume of material a representative selection of material for this anthology. It is inevitable when such a selection is made that some people will be pleased with some entries and not with others but it is fair to say that the selection will appeal to most people and that everybody will find much of interest in the collection. The entries are organised thematically and presented under the following headings: Seasons & the Weather (no surprise that this would feature in an anthology for gardeners!), Gardens, Wildlife & Wildflowers, The Environment, Plants, People, Garden Design, The Kitchen Garden, Practicalities, Science & Innovation, Pests & Diseases, The International Dimension and Inside the RHS. There is a final section which gives pen picture biographies of the contributors. One dimension of the book which is somewhat different is that the original photographs and illustrations which accompanied the articles have not been used but have been replaced with illustrations by Jenny Bowers and these give a design unity to the book. These are an unobtrusive accompaniment to the text but, as I read the book, I often reflected on the great value a good photograph adds to an article. Certainly, articles on gardens, plants and garden design would be all the more enjoyable if well illustrated. The nature of the book is such that the reader can dip into it for a few minutes and leave it without losing the thread as there is, in fact, no thread other than the grouping of articles under the selected themes. I have found it a pleasant book bringing back authors I haven’t read for a while, reminding me of topics of previous years and presenting a quick scan of interests over years of the RHS journal.
The Garden Anthology,Edited by Ursula Buchan and illustrated by Jenny Bowers, Royal Horticultural Society, Published by Frances Lincoln, London, 2014, Hardback, 220 pages, UK£16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7112-3485-7
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