The Four Best Books for RHS Level 2

By Tom Cole

If you’re undertaking the RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture there are a number of potential book titles to choose from.

At times this can seem a huge mine field. To help you, tutor Tom Cole picked out FOUR key publications that have stood him in good stead since he started studying. It just so happens they remain a perfect accompaniment to the course. Rest assured they have been republished several times with key updates as principles and practices have changed.

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If you're looking for supplementary reading around the RHS Level 2 course in preparation for the exam, here are Tom Cole's top four recommendations.

The Four Best Books for RHS Level 2

1. RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardening

My first choice has got to be the RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardening by Christopher Brickell: this one-stop-shop of a weighty tome covers all things to do with gardening.

There’s even a little section on plant and soil science and plant health, however, I have other more suitable guides to use for these important subjects. Each chapter clearly and logically sets out to cover a key topic, e.g. roses, by looking at a brief input into the history of the plant, followed importantly by an informative section on the establishment and maintenance of the entire group, including the pruning and training of these key plants.

What I specifically like is that techniques are backed up by very striking visual aides in the form of step-by-step guides; great for the visual learners out there. As a starter for ten, this publication more than meets the needs of the majority of the complete RHS L2 syllabus.

2. Level 2 Principles of Horticulture

As an addendum to my first choice, I would definitely grab a copy of the Level 2 Principles of Horticulture by Charles Adams, Mike Early, Jane Brook and Katherine Bamford.

This is ideal for the course as it introduces the fundamentals of horticulture by covering the key principles that underpin the growing of plants. Logically set out to cover plant science, propagation, soils and the root environment and plant health. Photographic images, diagrams and tables are all set out clearly to help support the informative text. An ideal companion for anyone undertaking the RHS L2 Certificate in Plant Growth, Propagation and Development

3. Collins Guide Pasts, Diseases & Disorders of Garden Plants

As a fan of all plant problems...sorry challenges, nothing beats the excellent Collins Guide Pasts, Diseases & Disorders of Garden Plants by Stefan Buczacki and Keith Harris.

This is invaluable to anyone undertaking the Plant Health module (study online today) as it gives sound and accurate advice and guidance on a number of challenges that a plant may face. Starting out with a very clear, and much needed introduction to the use of the book, it proceeds by running an A-Z Key ordered by plant example and pages linked to key pests, diseases and or disorders. This provides a very quick reference point where specific problems need to be explored further. As you then move through the guide the various sections of pests, diseases and disorders unfolds to reveal the flesh on the bones.

Each challenge is explored in depth using a standard format; name of problem, followed by a section covering symptoms of attack, its biology or lifecycle and then treatment. For treatments, ALL are considered, that is to say, physical, cultural, biological and chemical are highlighted. All I would say is that where reference is made to chemical usage, take care as products may have been removed from sale after the publication date of this version.

With this in mind, always refer to the RHS for their superb chemical approval guides. Head to the RHS website for further information on the safe use of chemicals and a link to those invaluable guides. This publication will also be useful to anyone completing the modules covering choice, establishment of garden pants and lawns, fruit & vegetables and plants grown under protected structures.

4. A Handbook for Horticultural Students

For my last choice, whilst we are all on the current syllabus, it is worth considering the purchase of Peter Dawson's A Handbook for Horticultural Students as a very useful revision guide for those taking the exams. Peter has updated the handbook, however, the syllabus has had some slight changes since the last update.

This isn't an issue, more a warning to always refer to the syllabus to check that you are covering the most relevant points. For me, this is great for ALL aspects, however, it is especially good for plant science images such as the cross sections of roots and stems...an area that could be asked for during an exam. The diagrams are very simple and clear to follow, as are the links to all the key plant principles. However, as I have already stated, not all of the topics are relevant to the current syllabus, such as heredity and breeding. Although, they make for an interesting read.

The Royal Horticultural Society's Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture is an internationally recognised qualification designed for those just starting out in gardening as well as experienced gardeners.

Book your place on our online RHS Level 2 course today and study with Tom Cole and Dr. Noel Kingsbury, who will set you assignments and give you detailed feedback to fully prepare you for the exam.

The fantastic RHS Level 2 gardening course greatly increased my knowledge and helped me pass my exams. The content is extensive, easy to follow and the questions reflect those in the exams. - Anna

Recommended course

RHS Level 2 Online Course

Everything you need to know to help you pass the RHS Level 2 Certificate in the Principles of Horticulture.

View courseAll Gardening courses

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