Flower Show - Create Your Own Enviable Work of Art in Your Garden

4 min read

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need. Marcus Tullius Cicero

The earliest recorded official flower shows first appeared in the 1830s. These shows developed out of competitions put on by English florists’ societies. Throughout the decades, these small exhibits flourished into large horticultural events like the Chelsea Flower Show.


The first Chelsea Flower Show took place in May 1913. Before moving to its current location in the heart of London, it was held at the RHS garden in Kensington as the Great Spring Show. Though the event suffered cancellations during the war years, it achieved huge success during the 20s and 30s and bounced back again after the Second World War. From then on, it became increasingly popular, soon becoming one of the most important events in the horticultural calendar.


  1. Rock Gardens by E.B. Anderson

    Rock Gardens by E. B. Anderson

    Rock Gardens were the first type of Show Garden to appear at the Chelsea Flower Show in the 1920s. In fact, the first garden to win a Gold Medal prize was a rock garden and their popularity swiftly began to increase. Today, rock gardens are still admired and work particularly well in smaller plots. E. B. Anderson’s Rock Garden guide gives advice on what plants, bulbs and dwarf shrubs work best out in the open. The text is accompanied by some wonderful photographs and line drawings to inspire the amateur rock gardener.

    GARDENING BOOKS AS GIFTS at country house library →

  2. Green Fingers by Reginald Arkell

    Green Fingers by Reginald Arkell (1934)

    This lovely little book contains a collection of garden themed poems. Many of the verses are delightfully humorous, combining daft images with rhyming couplets for comedic effect. Reginald Arkell is a brilliant writer and brings gardens and the countryside to life in his poems. The book also contains some wonderful illustrations pertaining to the garden. It is a charming read and as the cover states, is a perfect gift for gardeners.

    GARDENING & NATURE at country house library →

  3. Ornamental Trees for Amateurs by W.J. Bean

    Ornamental Trees for Amateurs by W. J. Bean (1958)

    W. J. Bean, formerly the curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, shares his extensive knowledge of ornamental trees in this informative vintage volume. First published in 1925, the book was the authority on ornamental trees for decades. Arkell includes advice on a variety of essential processes, such as cultivation, transplanting and propagation, as well as an alphabetized list of ornamental tree varieties. Many of these trees remain popular today and Arkell’s advice can still be used to guide amateur gardeners.

    vintage books on trees at country house library →

  4. The English Garden by Ralph Dutton

    The English Garden by Ralph Dutton (1945)

    Ralph Dutton, the last baron Sherborne, was famous for creating the beautiful gardens at Hinton Ampner in Hampshire. This decorative book shares a detailed history of the English garden from 1066 to the 20th Century. Dutton splits the book into sections using titles such as The Search for Sustenance (1066-1500) and The Return of Nature (1720-1900). Vintage volumes such as this are increasingly scarce and this historical account is perfect for readers with an interest in gardening and its history.

    collectable batsford books at country house library →

  5. Ornamental Shrubs at Country House Library

    Ornamental Shrubs by Edward Hyams (1966)

    Covering every aspect of ornamental shrubs, this book is a practical and intriguing read. Edward Hyams places his focus on plants best-suited to temperate zones that flower between July and August. He wrote several books like this, using each one to discuss a different time of year. Hyams was a British gardener and horticulturalist as well as a historian, novelist and writer. In this book, he writes in great detail about various shrubs and provides useful information about irrigation, propagation, compost and more.

    give a gardening gift from country house library →

  6. The Book of Garden Flowers by G.A.R. Phillips

    The Book of Garden Flowers, G. A. R. Phillips, 1953

    In this lovely pocket guide, G. A. R. Phillips describes 320 varieties of garden flowers. He divides them into perennials, annuals and biennials and offers his advice on seed selection, cultivation, propagation, disease prevention and more. Beautiful coloured plates, illustrated by Joan Lupton and scattered throughout the book, bring these descriptions to life. The book is the perfect reference book for gardeners, particularly those who need guidance on flowers bought at places like the Chelsea Flower Show.

    gardening books inspired by chelsea at country house library →

  7. The Vegetable Garden Displayed by RHS

    The Vegetable Garden Displayed, The Royal Horticultural Society (1964)

    In recent years, the edible garden trend has continued to grow and flourish. This trend involves growing plants and vegetables together in one space, an idea that is particularly practical for those with smaller gardens. If you do find yourself inspired to grow vegetables, this little book shares some brilliant advice. Alongside nearly 300 photographs of vegetable displays, it teaches readers how to grow their own edibles. The first edition came out during the Second World War as part of the ‘Dig for Victory Campaign’. It is a solid manual that remains one of the best for serious vegetable growers.

    vintage horticulture books at country house library →

  8. Wild & Garden Herbs by Kay Sanecki

    Wild and Garden Herbs by Kay Sanecki (1956)

    Last but not least, this book is intended for anyone with an interest in herbs. A herb garden can be a practical and artistic addition to an outdoor plot. Alongside a discussion of herbs and their uses in various medicines, Kay Sanecki shares tips on how to assemble herbs in gardens for best effect. While her descriptions are practical, they manage to capture the mysterious quality of ancient herbal lore. Having worked as editor for the Hardy Plant Society Bulletin and later a consultant editor for Reader’s Digest, Sanecki’s expertise shines through in her writing.

    vintage gardening books at country house library →

Cultivate Your Library – and Your Garden!

Flower shows inspire gardeners the world over, showcasing everything from plants, seeds and tools to unusual structures and design ideas. For amateur gardeners, the possibilities can be overwhelming. If you feel inspired to transform your garden but don’t quite know where to begin, our books can give you the help you need to create truly enviable works of art in your outdoor spaces.


Also in Must Reads by Genre

Getting Crafty this Summer with vintage books
Getting Crafty this Summer with vintage books

4 min read

Our guide to some arts & crafts to help you make the most of the long summer evenings.
Read More
The Little Mermaid and other Classic Fairy Tales
The Little Mermaid and other Classic Fairy Tales

6 min read

Celebrate the release of The Little Mermaid with some vintage fairy tales!
Read More
World Wildlife Day 2023
World Wildlife Day 2023

4 min read

A celebratory selection of vintage Wild Life books for World Wildlife Day
Read More