"The best gardeners are the greatest readers"

Helleborus niger 'Josef Lemper' bud
Early this morning, before it was even light out, I found my copy of Gardens in Winter by Elizabeth Lawrence (1961) for the sole purpose of looking up information on the Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger.

I like to look up information in books as a change of pace from the "fast food" information that is often what you get when you do an online search. 

I was certain that Lawrence would have included information on this winter blooming treasure in her treasure of a book, Gardens in Winter, and she did.

As I read what she wrote about Helleborus niger, my eye was inexplicably drawn to another passage in her book. This passage turned out to be a giant rabbit hole where I found  the writings of Henry Nicholson Ellacombe, Vicar of Bitton, Gloucestershire, England.

Lawrence, who often wrote about when flowers bloomed in her garden, and then compared notes about bloom times with other gardeners, wrote in Gardens in Winter,  "After poking about among the fallen leaves in search of crocus buds or iris tips, I like to take In My Vicarage Garden and In a Gloucestershire Garden from the shelves to see what is going on at Bitton Vicarage."

Eliz. Lawrence's bookshelf
It didn't take me long to set aside Gardens in Winter to turn back to an online search to find out more about Henry Nicholson Ellacombe. Through Google Books, I found "In My Vicarage Garden" and stumbled upon this quote:

The short version is:

"I suppose no one who loves his garden is entirely without books on his favourite subject; and, indeed, I have always found that a lover of gardens and flowers is also more or less a lover and reader of books." (Henry Nicholson Ellacombe, 1901)

The longer version is:

"FOR nearly a month the garden has been completely closed; in such a December as we have just been passing through all out-of-door work is necessarily stopped. Yet the gardener is not, therefore, entirely without work, or without even pleasant work, and if he is fortunate enough either to have a good botanical library himself, or to have ready access to one, his time may indeed be pleasantly occupied, and in a way which will bring good results when he can again take up his usual work.

I suppose no one who loves his garden is entirely without books on his favourite subject; and, indeed, I have always found that a lover of gardens and flowers is also more or less a lover and reader of books. In our country villages the chief applicants for books from the lending library are the gardeners, and the more they love their gardens and their flowers the more they wish to read about them; and the more they get to know from books the more they desire to know; and when cut off from their gardens by snow and frost they still find plenty of employment and pleasant work in reading of their favourites; and the best gardeners are the greatest readers, for Sir Thomas Browne's saying holds good with gardening and botany as much as in other pursuits, "They do most by books, who could do much without them." (Henry Nicholson Ellacombe, 1901) (emphasis is mine)

As winter slowly creeps toward my garden and I stay indoors more often with my books on plants, flowers, gardens, and all things botanical, I'll now think of Vicar Ellacombe and his quote about gardeners being readers.

I'll also think about the vicar when three of his books arrive on my doorstep over the next several weeks.


  1. I found this to be so true of at least myself. I can,t image not having a book in my hand on something. Valerie

  2. I'm looking forward to hearing more from the vicar. He sounds like someone who'd endorse converting a dining room into a library for the garden books he ordered from near and far!

  3. Loved the quote, and can understand completely how you went down this rabbit hole.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts on gardeners as readers. Never connected the two before, but it does make sense to me. I too have a treasure of garden books that I often reference when questions arise.

  5. I love books by gardeners about their gardens. Two of my favorite garden authors are Allan Lacy and Henry Mitchell. Rev. Ellacombe sounds like another good one, let us know how you like his books.

  6. I can't find room enough on my shelves for all the gardening books I have or want to have.

  7. We have several shelves too. I love books and gardening books are the best. Thank you for introducing us to Bitton Vicarage.~~Dee


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