From books to botany

I am a librarian. I’ve always been a librarian. I love being a librarian!

However, having worked at the Lindley Library, Harlow Carr for just over three years, the inevitable has happened.  I’ve been bitten by the bug of horticulture and want to know more…

So, with the support of the RHS, I have embarked on the RHS level 2 Certificate in Principles of Horticulture. The course is one of a number of horticultural courses and qualifications available to study at Harlow Carr, being provided by Craven College, Skipton, our local provider of RHS qualifications. But because of my work commitments I have decided to study as a distance-learner over a two year period. It’s a theory-based course, which means access to the resources at the Lindley Library at Harlow Carr will be invaluable.

I have been studying the course for three months now, and I am delighted at how my horticultural knowledge is expanding. I have had great fun familiarising myself with our library stock as a user and have headed straight for two key text books available to borrow from the library:

The fundamentals of horticulture: theory and practice /ed. Chris Bird. Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Essential reading for all studying horticulture and keen gardeners. The book is a clear introduction to the principles underlying the practical applications of horticulture.
Principles of horticulture: Level 2 / C.R. Adams, Mike Early, Jane Brook and Katherine Bamford. Routledge, 2014.
Written alongside the new RHS specifications and other qualifications this colourful guide introduces you to the fundamentals of horticulture, whether you are taking a level 2 course of study, are a keen amateur or a seasoned gardener.
I’ve found it’s really helpful to look beyond the textbooks and read around the subject areas too, and am working my way through the less ‘academic’ works we have in the library, to supplement my knowledge: 

Digging deeper: understanding how your garden works / Paul Williams. Conran Octopus, 2002.
This is a particular gem I have found on our shelves. The author explains the fundamentals of horticulture covered in the course, but as it is written for all interested gardeners rather than specifically for students, the author conveys his knowledge in a very engaging way, sweeping the reader along with his infectious enthusiasm. I would highly recommend it as an entertaining guide to what happens beneath the soil and inside your plants.  

To keep myself abreast of all the latest developments, research and trends in horticulture, as I am required to do on the course, I am also making good use of the wide range of periodicals and journals we stock at Harlow Carr, both in paper and electronic format. My particular favourites are, of course, The Garden, the RHS’s own monthly publication, and Gardens Illustrated, with its stunning photography. But in addition, we stock many more specialised journals on specific plants and areas of horticulture that make for fascinating reading. The Alpine Gardener and the newsletter of the Yorkshire Gardens Trust are two such journals that I would recommend.

Cicero famously said: ‘If you have a garden and a library you have everything you need’. I couldn’t agree more. The inspirational quality of the garden here at Harlow Carr and the wonderful range of library materials housed in the garden library should be all I need to successfully complete the course. 

Wish me luck!



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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.