books: cheap but priceless

IN GARDEN BOOKS, oldies are often goodies. Every gardener should have a copy of each of these non-courant garden books, even though they are so badly out of date. Good news: you can often get them really inexpensively (look carefully among the copies available for the best bargains).

Wyman’s Gardening Encyclopedia
Donald Wyman (1971; last revised in 1987)
Wyman, who died in 1993, was for 35 years the horticulturist for the venerable Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, and a leader in his field in the last century. His one-volume book, sized like a chunky dictionary, is way out of date, devoid of photos—and absolutely fabulous. In one volume, everything I need to know except the latest varieties, but you can track those on websites and in nursery catalogs for free (see my References and Sources, in the right-hand sidebar of the blog page, for some possible authorities on that score).

Crockett’s Victory Garden
James Underwood Crockett (1977)
The star of the PBS series “The Victory Garden” was also the author of a series of books on how to garden, and this is my favorite of his. It was my first garden book ever, given to me by my sister, so maybe that’s why, but I think its value far exceeds the sentiment attached. Dated (meaning chemicals are used and cultivars are passé) but the best beginner’s book there is, taking you month by month through all the basics of growing food and flowers.

Green Thoughts
Eleanor Perenyi
Though more than 25 years old, Eleanor Perenyi’s “Green Thoughts” is so great that it’s still in print and remains a must vintage bedside companion for every gardener. Each essay, on topics from “Magic” to “Hybrids” to “Help,” is a gem, and I go back to it over and over for an escape, and a smile.

A Way to Garden
Shameless, I know, but nothing for me to gain by hawking it here, as it’s old and out of print. But maybe you will score a used copy out there in webland? Funny how little a garden there was then at my place, I think, when looking at it today. But the original “A Way to Garden” philosophy lives on, intact, here on the blog. (In February 2011, I published a new book, by the way, a dropout memoir called “And I Shall Have Some Peace There,” from Grand Central Publishing. More on that here.)

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