Gleanings from Old Gardening Books

I explored Google Books this evening, an evening that is rainy, damp and cool and more like the end of September than the eve of September. Brrrrr… I am wearing long sleeves!

A few days ago, Google announced that they have added a download feature for books that are in the public domain. That drew my interest and I started searching through some of the books. I’ve just started looking and here are some of my finds:

Gleanings in Old Garden Literature by William Carew Hazlitt (1892). He writes in the “preliminaries” : “We know how some of the wisest and best of mankind have delighted in gardens.” I do think gardening adds to one’s wisdom and makes you a better person!

“Forget Not Mee & My Garden...": Selected Letters 1725-1768 of Peter Collinson, R.R.S.” He writes in a letter dated March 27, 1732: “We are now in Great Want of Rain for the Gardens & for the Summer Corn.” Sounds like a familiar lament of gardeners today living in areas that aren’t getting much rain. And not to be morbid, but who thinks that "Forget Not Me and My Garden" would be a nice epitaph on a gardener's tombstone?

Then there is “The Garden Month by Month describing the appearance, colors, dates of bloom, and cultivation of all desirable, hardy plants for the formal or wild garden, with additional lists of aquatics, vines, etc.” by Mabel Cabot Sedgwick (1907). She dedicated her book to W.C.C. and E.R.C., perhaps her parents? Here’s a link to the Preface, which is too long for me to transcribe in its entirety, but is quite interesting. (Given the length of her title, does it surprise you that she would have other long sections in her book?) Here’s one sentence: “Yet he who truly loves his garden will not relinquish altogether the happy task of creating it.” How many gardeners would willingly sit by and watch someone else work their garden? Not too many!

And then there is “Cyclopedia of American Horticulture” by L. H. (Liberty Hyde) Bailey, Wilhelm Miller (1902). In the Retrospect, he describes how to undertake a project as large as writing a “cyclopedia”, and the words still ring true today on how to approach any large project. “The most difficult part of the making of a cyclopedia is to project it. Its scope and point of view must be determined before a stroke of actual work is done… One must have a mental picture of the entire field and must calculate the resources.” Project management is still “plan your work then work your plan” even after over a hundred years.

Time to stop. I could lose a lot of time searching old gardening books with Google Books. All online, some searchable, some downloadable. Look for "full view" books. I think I’ll save this activity for long winter nights!


  1. Wow, that's a neat find. I'll have to check it out. By the way, I've joked about what I want as an epitaph on my headstone: "I've weeded them, I've watered them, now I'm pushing them up!". But "Forget not me and my garden" does sound more dignified.

  2. What a fantastic resource! I'll try to save it for the long winter evenings but I fear I may be hooked already.

  3. Wow, I had heard the hoopla about Google books, but never imagined they would have gardening books. I just learned a new way to make time disappear :-).

    If you're into old botanical picture books, the Missouri Botanical Garden library has a number of them online:


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