Old Books

It’s a rainy day in the upper Midwest.  My favorite time to read.  Of course, I should be writing papers, grading papers, or setting up seminars for next semester.  But instead I’m drawn to my bookshelves.  In most professors offices that I visit the shelves are an odd mix of old and new books that focus on the particular subject which that professor works on, along with the scientific journals that relate to that discipline.  It’s no different in my office, except that I tend towards older books and my tastes are just a little bit more eclectic than most.  I have a particular fondness for old entomology texts and I also like books on garden remedies — whether old or new, academic or not.

In a future post, maybe next week or so, I’m going to go down a rogues gallery of books that I don’t care for, old or new.  But today I’m going to do something a little different, I’m going to tell you the three books that I think are must reads for any gardener or horticulturist.  But the catch is that none of these books are currently in print and so you’ll need to search for them or go to Amazon.com where you can often find dealers who have used copies.  These books aren’t listed in any particular order, except the order in which they came to my mind when I put this post together.

Best Reading Book — The World was my Garden, written by David Fairchild, is one of the best horticultural reads of all time.  I’ve heard Fairchild called the last of the great plant explorers as well as the father of modern plant exploration.  Either title works.  I wouldn’t call him the greatest plant explorer of all time (though it’s no stretch to say that he was one of the best), but he is certainly the most skilled writer (at least in my mind).

Best Informational Book(s) — The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture edited by L. H. Bailey is a series of three (or more depending on the edition you get) books which is basically a humongous encyclopedia of everything horticultural.  The beauty of these books is the amount of information they deliver along with the appreciation that the writers (and especially the editor who many consider the father of modern horticulture) had for the art and science of horticulture.  So often we, as professors, want to explain things “scientifically.”  Sometimes gardeners just want to talk about horticulture as an “art”.  This cyclopedia does a great job of appreciating horticulture from both sides.  My favorite section is one called “horticulturists” where an overview of some of the greatest horticulturists of all time is offered, one of the saddest being E. G. Lodeman who died young, but not before writing another of my favorite books of all time, “The Spraying of Plants” — which I won’t include here because it’s a book that will only appeal to a very small audience (those who want to know about pesticides used before1900).

Best Book on Insect Control — Destructive and Useful Insects is a classic text on insect control which has seen many editions dating back to the 1920s.  The best edition, at least in my mind, is the 2nd edition.  The second edition of this book was out before the widespread use of DDT and so, while lead arsenate is recommended a little more than I’d like, there are lots of cultural remedies for controlling insect pests listed also.

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite out-of-print books also — anything from general horticulture to plant pathology and entomology — Let me know what your must-haves are!