Dr. D. G. Hessayon, I presume?
The simple formula of THAT title really appealed to me, so I snapped up The Bedding Plant Expert, followed by The Tree & Shrub Expert and then many others. Today, 17 sit on a shelf in my office, along with several earlier ‘flatties’ (slim volumes that were stapled together) that I‘ve unearthed in second hand book shops. This includes a 1967 edition of Be Your Own Houseplant Expert and the Vegetable Plotter from 1977.
Despite falling under the spell of the Expert series, I doubted the existence of the man himself. For many years I thought that Dr. D.G. Hessayon was a name made up by the publishing company or a nom de plume for a ghost writer. After all, Dr.D.G. Hessayon never appeared on television or in magazines, the name simply appeared on those instantly recognisable books. However, any doubts were extinguished when I worked for Amateur Gardening back in the late 1990s – I spoke to the Dr or Dave (as he signs his name) on the telephone for a story I was putting together about him landing a Guinness World Record for becoming the best-selling living author of the 1990s.
Anyway, why am I waxing lyrical about the enigmatic Dr H? Well, at the weekend his latest book, The Best of Experts, landed on my doormat. Essentially a ‘Greatest Hits’, this compilation is jam-packed with his favourite bits chosen from all of the books published over the years (I’m not sure how many that is, but there’s a whopping 23 titles still in print).
Flicking through the book I noticed that my favourite item hasn’t been included. This appears in the 2000 version of The Vegetable and Fruit Expert. Back then garlic was relegated to a short paragraph in the herb section, with the good Doctor warning the faint hearted: ‘If you are a beginner with garlic, you must use it very sparingly or you will be put off for ever’. Blimey. Gord knows what the Doc would have made of chilli peppers. Well, as luck would have it, the answer is provided in the very same volume. ‘Take care – these hot peppers can make your throat burn, eyes water and skin sting if you’re not used to eating or handling them’…What??? Were chilli peppers really considered such an exotic veg just a decade ago?
Despite nannying like this a little too often for my liking and still making use of pictures taken in the 1970s (those in The House Plant Expert Book Two, published in 2005, are sooo dated, featuring homes with swirling paisley carpets), I love the Expert books. They are dependable, honest and a constant in a rapidly changing world.
Over to you…
What was the first Dr. D.G. Hessayon book you ever brought? Do you have a favourite bit from an Expert book? Is garlic dangerous? Have you ever met Dr. D.G Hessayon? Please share your thoughts by posting a comment below.