Having come from a legal (rather than horticultural) background, immersing myself in the bewildering array of information available at the RHS Lindley Library was a daunting and difficult task. However, since joining the RHS, I have discovered that - like many subject areas - there are some useful and often exhaustive quick reference sources to help you in your journey to making the best use of the collection. I believe it is more than worthwhile taking the time to explore these sources. Here are four of my essential titles:
Bibliography of British Gardens by Ray Desmond
This small tome is a valuable mine of information. It is a compilation of gardens in Britain and aims to provide all the references to a particular garden mentioned in literature. However caution should be taken as the book was published in 1984, and further references may have accumulated and not be mentioned. I have found that this is a great place to start when looking for information on a specific garden.
Dictionary of British & Irish Botanists by Ray Desmond
This is a slightly larger volume (also produced by Ray Desmond) and is a comprehensive list of prominent gardeners, botanists and even illustrators. As with his bibliography of gardens, he provides a great deal of information and sources about where to find articles, images and other mentions of individuals. Using these two books alone, a plethora of information is available to you and in many cases they provide the best place to start any research project.
RHS Plant Finder
Want to find the name of a plant? Or where you can buy it? The RHS Plant Finder is the place to look! This item aims to be truly comprehensive and lists more than 70,000 plants from A-Z. It includes a brief glossary as well as a classification of genera. Once you find the plant you’re looking for it helpfully guides you to a current list of nurseries and suppliers.
Know Your Common Plant Names by Brian Davis and Brian Knapp
This small volume allows you to easily discover and convert common plant names to their corresponding botanical names and vice versa! There is even a small section on pseudonyms and alternative names as well as translations. Although this book may have aged, much of it is still relevant and easy to use.
RHS members can borrow from the thousands of gardening books held in the Lindley Libraries – visit our online catalogue.
Even if you are not an RHS member, the Lindley Libraries are open to everyone and provide access to modern collections of books and journals on gardening and related topics. Our heritage collections of rare books, photographs, art and archives are accessible by appointment