1. Garden Plants of Japan


Garden Flora

The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants in Your Garden
by Timber Press
November 23, 2016

“Knowledge is power” said Sir Francis Bacon in his delightful 1597 classic, Meditationes Sacrae. (I’m sure you, like I, keep a copy on your nightstand.) And he’s right, to a certain extent. We gardeners are always checking references of all sorts in order to acquire the knowledge that will enable us to grow our plants successfully, or arrange them in a pleasing way, or make more of them. Without doubt, that knowledge is good and useful.

But there’s another kind of knowledge—the kind whose origin isn’t the desire to wield power or acquire a practical skill. It’s the kind that stems from curiosity, from wanting to connect with the world more closely, from the love of something (or someone) that we find beautiful.

That’s the kind of knowledge that’s at the heart of Noel Kingsbury’s new book, Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants in Your Garden. With a formidable erudition leavened with wit, Noel tells the stories of 133 plant groups—from popular standbys such as roses and rhododendrons to connoisseur’s plants such as orchids and meconopsis. In each entry, he identifies the geographic origins and ecological habitats of the most popular species, discusses how they were altered through selection or hybridization, and traces the ups and downs of their popularity in cultivation. Throughout, sumptuous contemporary photos and period illustrations help bring the stories to life.

In short, the knowledge you gain from Garden Flora is that most precious kind—the kind that brings you closer to, and increases your understanding of, the plants you love. As the holiday season approaches, I can think of no better gift for the gardeners in your life—or for yourself.

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