A while back I idly wished for two of my gardening books to breed and produce the ideal combination of desired features. A sort of benign hortological literary eugenics. Well, what scandal! Carol Klein’s book and Peter Thompson’s book clearly had an illicit affair some time back, I think I have found the resulting lovechild. Or, perhaps more topically, I’ve found the F1 hybrid, containing the best features of the parent plants, I mean books. Propagating Plants is one of the RHS DK series. The subtitle is “The Fully Illustrated Plant-by-Plant Manual of Practical Techniques”. It is a large book, A4 size, and jam packed full of colour pictures and illustrations, how-to instructions and advice about hundreds of specific plants. These days, if I’m unsure how to proceed with something propagation-related, this is the book I turn to by default.


The book begins with an introduction to propagation, history of, types of, then other related information such as tools, equipment, facilities, compost and much more. This section is almost 50 pages, it’s pretty comprehensive. As with all DK books, the illustrations are excellent, and many in number, there must be thousands in the book all told, all colour.

The rest of the book is structured by plant type, ranging from garden trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs, annuals, vegetables and so on. Each chapter goes into some detail about techniques and types of propagation applicable to that plant group.

Each chapter ends with a lengthy A-Z section listing plants and a brief precis of suitable techniques, referring where needed back to the relevant, more detailed section earlier in the book. Hundreds of plants are detailed in this way, with yet more dealt with more briefly in a closing section of each chapter.

It’s a very good resource, and at 350 pages, very comprehensive. My copy is a first edition from 1999. It has been revised at least once since then, in 2003. The book is edited by Alan Toogood. I got my copy very cheaply second hand, via abebooks.co.uk. I think I paid £2.80 including shipping, which is excellent value for a great book in very good condition.

My one and only bugbear with this book is that some of the text is quite small, I find myself moving to sit under a good light to read, and feeling glad of my varifocals (evidence, if any further were needed, of my slide into middle age).

Aside from that, I heartily recommend this book, both as a reference and as an interesting read. I haven’t yet relegated my other propagation books to secondary shelves, but neither do I refer to them often anymore. I’ll be looking out for an inexpensive copy of the 2003 revised edition of this book, but otherwise I can’t see any other book on propagation toppling this one off its perch. Truly, it’s a fab book.

ISBN: 0 7513 0365 8

I’ll be back, with more propagation news and tips.