Vintage gardening books

You know me by now, right?

Lover of plants, books and all things vintage.

So you’ll understand why I just had to share some photos of my latest haul with you. A haul of… wait for it… vintage. gardening. books. I know!

Book stack and sweet peas
Sweet peas and books. Heaven

On our recent visit to Wisley, I couldn’t resist the lure of a second hand plant books stall and came away with some real beauties.

All for the grand price of £2.50.

The first is my favourite, this unassuming little green book:

Gardener's Chapbook | Wolves in London
What’s inside this little book?

It’s called The Gardener’s Chapbook…

The Gardener's Chapbook
Could an inside cover look any more appealing?

“What’s a chapbook?” I hear you cry.

And I can reply, “I haven’t got a bloody clue.” There’s nothing within the pages that explains its bizarre title (the woman on the stall who, I assume, is something of an expert in gardening books also said she’d never come across the expression before…)

It’s not, as you might imagine, a book of gardening for chaps (“First, twirl your moustache, second prune the apple tree” etc etc) but contains an anthology of gardening prose and verse, followed by a few recipes and a few rather delightful black and white illustrations like this one:


Gardener's Chapbook | Wolves in London
Everyone needs a few garden proverbs in their lives

The Book of Wild Flowers is another absolute winner in my eyes. I am a complete sucker for illustrations of plants and I am massively into “native planting” at the moment too (hard though it is to define what’s genuinely native) so these illustrations of British wildflowers are wonderful to me.


Illustrations of wild flowers | Wolves in London
A gorgeous fritillary on this page…
Wild flowers illustrations
…and a perennial sweet pea here

Finally, this one smacks of another era of vintage.

Trees and shrubs
Those colours are, erm, appealing…

Such a very bold front cover! Published in 1979, this little book is one year younger than me. And for the grand sum of 50p, I now have a guide to help me with the tree identification I’ve pledged to carry out this summer (you can read more about that here: A love of trees).

I’m tempted to set myself the challenge to recognise everything within its covers by the time the year is out…

So, what do you think? £2.50 well spent?

Vintage children’s book covers

First an apology. I’ve somewhat lost my writing mojo over the last week.

I was reading through my last few posts this morning (mmm, I know, surely there are better things to do with my time) and thought they were somewhat lacking in a little je ne sais quoi (except I do sais quoi: it was sparkle, verve, wit, elan, not to mention, on occasion, some good grammatical construction).

So, to anyone checking in regularly, my apologies. I hope the mojo reappears soon, but I’m not sure today’s the day.

(Just for your interest, the missing literary mojo (and every other mojo in my life right now) is down to sleep deprivation. The little sproglet is having serious sleeping issues, which of course means we are too. But I don’t want to bore on about that here…)

Sleepy Book, vintage book cover
How I feel, all day, every day

(Book cover found on Pinterest, from my vintage book collection blog.)

So, instead of trying to conjure up a witticism or three, I thought I’d share some amazing pictures with you instead.

I’ve just been strolling round Pinterest and had the most incredible discovery: galleries and galleries of vintage children’s book designs.

Straight hair, curly hair, vintage book design
Not only curly hair, but lovely ginger hair too — so we can teach the sproglet what it means to be a red head!

(Found at present and correct, an amazing online shop I’ve only just discovered, that also has a physical London store as well. Definitely need to go and visit soon.)

Being a serious bibliophile, a lover of vintage and mid-century design and with a bambino to read to, I don’t think I could have found anything more inspiring on a weary Wednesday afternoon.

Here, then, are some of my favourites.

Water All Around, vintage children's book
Illustrated by Bernice Myers

Found at the Retro Kids Pinterest board

This child, on the front of the brilliantly titled Water All Around, looks extremely happy for someone who appears to be in a swirling vortex of water, with at least one distinctly evil looking fish.

Mud, Mud, Mud, vintage book covers
Mucky pup

Another cheerful looking child on the front of the equally brilliantly named mud! mud! mud! and it seems to get even better once you’re inside the book:

mud illustration, vintage children's book covers
“They liked mud better”… Who wouldn’t?

(Found at the Etsy shop bibliocycle. That book has sold, but there are lots more to browse…)

And one last one, with a little lesson for us all:

Be nice to spiders, vintage book covers
I promise I will!

(Found at Elwood and Eloise on Etsy. Again, that book has sold but there are loads more to look at…)

You can see many many, more appealing covers on my brand new Pinterest board Book covers.

NB: I’ve tried to only include images here that are okay to reproduce, but it’s not always easy to check. If you think I’ve posted something that I shouldn’t have, please do get in touch and I’ll remove it asap…

Related articles

Okay, I’m something of a vintage illustration addict right now. I’m clearly having a little phase. But here are some other articles and projects that relate to vintage illustration one way or other…

  • A DIY gift box (template and tutorial included) using a vintage feather illustration
  • Some printed T-shirts, with vintage images transferred as logos
  • A few vintage gardening images, shared in celebration of the start of my horticulture course
  • Print your own vintage bookplates – perfect to go inside any books you’re buying: old or otherwise!

Bibliophiles present: bookplates

I think it’ll give you an idea of the sort of child I was if I tell you I used to think bookplates were glamorous. The height of desirability.

Homemade bookplates
Of course, I didn’t have this sort of bookplate when I was little. Instead, I distinctly remember a purple bookplate with a little bespectacled mole on it. This one’s more my cup of tea now

Not for me a sandpit or a doll, no, I could think of nothing better than a quiet corner and a new book, with the pleasure of sticking a bookplate to the front and filling in my name under “this book belongs to” in my neatest possible handwriting.

To be honest, not so much has changed in the 30 odd years since then. That still sounds a pretty auspicious start to any Saturday.  (Not least because, with a six-month-old, there isn’t a hope in hell that I’d get to start a Saturday in that way…)

But having rather forgotten about the existence of bookplates in the intervening years, I’ve been pleased to notice them popping up all over the shop recently…

You can buy them from a few different places, but of course they’re really simple to make too.

I whipped up a few sets for my Mum and my sister-in-law (both voracious bibliophiles as well) as mini presents back at Christmas.

There are quite a few different templates available out there on the internet (oh, internet, how I love you), but I settled on favourites from three places:

Print your own bookplates
All my lovely bookplate designs, printed out and just waiting to be chopped up

From Design Sponge, these lovely snake, head and hand designs.

From Besotted Brands, these old-school profiles.

And from the Graphics Fairy, these children reading.

To see some more designs, as well as lots of other great vintage images, check out my Pinterest board Free Graphics.

Once you’ve selected your pictures, just print them out and cut them to size (I did this with a craft knife and ruler, which shows the level of care I give to my books, where I would normally just stick to good ol’ scissors).

As these were a present, I decided to make some cute little envelopes to house each of the sets. I made a basic template and then cut each envelope from cardstock and glued together.

As a final touch, I traced round the envelope tip and cut a liner out of some printed out hat images. (Which you can find here on Vintage Printable, if you’re inclined to do the same…)

Lined envelope
Little old hats to welcome you to the inside of your bookplate envelope

I then stuck a bookplate to the front, so you know exactly what’s inside in each envelope.

Print your own bookplates
Lovely big open mouth on the outside of the envelope, lovely big open mouth inside the envelope…

And held each set of four envelopes together with ribbon.

Print your own bookplates
Stick a ribbon round anything and it suddenly looks a hundred times better

I’d love to say this was really quick to make, but actually the envelopes and all the finishing touches took a little while. But hey, the devil’s in the detail, right?

Of course, you’ll also need some glue (or double-sided sellotape) to put the bookplates inside the books once you want to use them.

Simple, inexpensive and sure to put a smile on the face of any booklover (especially my eight-year-old self)…

Related articles:

Yes, if you’ve checked in to these parts before, you’ll know I have a great love of projects that use vintage images. Here are a few more: