Extraordinary Leaves


A stunning collaboration between a master nature photographer and a horticulturalist.

Leaves are everywhere, appearing in an astonishing variety of shapes, colors and textures. They are the unappreciated gifts of nature, worthy of far more extensive study by all.

Extraordinary Leaves is a celebration of one of nature's miracles. As Dennis Schrader explains: "To prepare this book, I have been obligated to take a more intimate look at all aspect ...

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A stunning collaboration between a master nature photographer and a horticulturalist.

Leaves are everywhere, appearing in an astonishing variety of shapes, colors and textures. They are the unappreciated gifts of nature, worthy of far more extensive study by all.

Extraordinary Leaves is a celebration of one of nature's miracles. As Dennis Schrader explains: "To prepare this book, I have been obligated to take a more intimate look at all aspect of leaves -their many uses, their place in history, the science behind what's going on in a leaf and the unadulterated, simple beauty of the leaf itself."

Photographer Stephen Green-Armytage discovered the beauty of leaves while browsing in a greenhouse. The more he looked at the intricate patterns, the more fascinated he became. His photography in this book is the result of years of study, and it is strikingly beautiful.

Through words and images, Extraordinary Leaves provides an insightful tour. Topics include color, pattern, texture and shape. Among the specific plants covered are coleus, kale, caladium and ferns.

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Editorial Reviews

The National Gardener
Stephen Green-Armytage has captured through his camera lens the astonishing beauty of leaves in this colorful volume celebrating the diversity of plant foliage.... The fascinating text by the knowledgeable horticulturist and landscape designer Dennis Schrader that accompanies each chapter is informative... His narrative causes the reader to think more deeply about the importance of leaves in raising the quality of life on the planet.
Outdoor Photographer
Leaves are one of nature's more underappreciated gits. The 225 color photographs displayed on these pages show them off in full glory with close-ups revealing their incredible diversity of shapes, colors and textures. Accompanying the photos is an insightfully written guide explaining the physical qualities, uses and science behind leaves.
Science Books and Films - Oval Myers
The photographs are attractive and interesting, and collectively, they present the diversity of plant leaves... This is a book suited for home coffee tables, for waiting rooms of businesses or hospitals, and for school and public libraries. It would also be useful in public schools as an example of the types of leaves that might be a part of a biology student's leaf collection assignment.... Often, a book reviewer finds the task onerous, but this was certainly not the case for Extraordinary Leaves.
Winnipeg Free Press - Harriet Zeldman
Flowers get most of the attention in a garden, but it's the leaves that provide the setting for their grandeur. Their quiet beauty is showcased in this stunning collection of more than 225 close-up photographs with accompanying text....Soothing and artistic, this book will stand the test of time.
SciTech Book News
Published in an oversized format (9.25 x 11.25)...and filled with full-page color plates of outstanding quality, this book offers an extended meditation on the many aesthetic qualities of leaves. Carefully lit portraits of single leaf examples are arranged into sections such as pattern, edges, kale, texture, shape, and autumn, interspersed with one-page essays about individual plants by Schrader.
The Globe and Mail
Exquisite photographs get you up close and personal with poinsettia, holly, lettuce, tobacco, moss and marijuana. This is an inspired celebration of colour and pattern, form and texture that will make you see leaves in a whole new light.
National Post - Marjorie Harris
I had no idea that I would lust after a coffee-table book, but then I saw Extraordinary Leaves.
The Washington Post - Joel M. Lerner
Extraordinary Leaves will encourage you to examine the leaves on your plants as they emerge next season.
Newsday (NY)
A celebration of foliage in its many forms.
Times-News (Twin Falls ID)
Extraordinary Leaves will encourage you to examine the leaves on your plants as they emerge next season.
The Ottawa Citizen
This is an endlessly pleasing, frequently astonishing celebration of shape, colour and texture from one of nature's common little miracles.
Chicago Botanic Garden - Marilyn K. Alaimo
Stephen Green-Armytage has captured through his camera the astonishing beauty of leaves in this colorful volume, which extols their individuality.
Patriot-News (Harrisburg PA) - George Weigel
An artistic, mostly photographic celebration of the glorious diversity of leaf forms, shapes, colors and textures.
Chicago Tribune - Barbara Mahany
In a world where we often seem to run too fast, pay too little attention, I am a wholesale subscriber to whatever comes my way to make me slow down and take notice. Thus, I cannot get enough page-turning as I pore--slowly--over an extraordinary and beautiful book, called simply, "Extraordinary Leaves," with photographs by Stephen Green-Armytage and text by Dennis Schrader. It is a coffee-table tome, to be sure, one that beckons you to turn the page reverently, to stop and marvel at the magnificence of something so simple as produce-aisle chard, or even red-leaf lettuce. To behold the poetry of unfurling ostrich fern. To realize the architecture of banana leaf. Through the lens of Green-Armytage's camera, we look at the leaf from nearly every imaginable angle: color, pattern, edge, texture, shape and size. How glorious that this work of art invites us to spend even a few blessed passages of time paying close attention.
Photo Life
This is a fresh hint of green against the white backdrop of winter.
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
With the surprisingly arresting photos by Stephen Green-Armytage, "Extraordinary Leaves" does what many books can't: It gives you new appreciation for the extraordinary in the ordinary things around you.
blog.oregonlive.com (The Oregonian
You don't need to be a foliage aficionado to appreciate "Extraordinary Leaves".... You don't need to be a botanist or a gardener. What you do need is a love of beauty and an appreciation for plant particulars.... Besides the gorgeous photos, you'll be treated to nuggets of knowledge... This book gives one a newfound appreciation for leaves.... Whether you are looking for a holiday gift or just appreciate plants and beautiful photography, this is a relevant book.
Garden Design
The collaboration between writer Dennis Schrader and photographer Stephen Green-Armytage on Extraordinary Leaves offers an abundance of color, texture and shape that will forever change your view of foliage.
The Olympian, WA - Sharon Wootton
An extraordinary book. These are more than 225 leaves at their finest, captured in artistic moments, with as complementary amount of text. The photographer groups them by color, edge, pattern, texture, shape, size and other categories. Against a black background, the sharp, bright orange thorns of the porcupine tomato protect the leaves, the Chictori red flowering kale leaves are reminiscent of coral; a close-up of the gradations of reds in a Canna Pretoria leaf is a work of art, and the mimosa silk tree leaves present an extraordinary pattern.
Metro (Toronto, ON) - Stephen Westcott-Gratton
Dennis Schrader's informative text plays second fiddle to Stephen Green-Armytage's ravishing photographs of leaves -- some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. From cannas and cannabis to lettuce and lotus, with chapters on colour, pattern, shape and texture, the diversity of plant material is sensational.
DC) Washington Gardener (Washington
Extraordinary Leaves will open your eyes to appreciate a world of beauty that you might never have stopped to look at before... Rich photographs of both common and exotic leaves on thick glossy pages paired with valuable horticultural text... This unusual collaboration of professional, beautiful photography with stories, data, and historical reference makes for an unusual coffee table book that is both a pleasure to look at and read.
Shutterbug - C.A. Boylan
A fresh view of leaves. Simply taking a close look a their color, shape, and texture reveals that these deceptively ordinary things are, in reality, extraordinary. Schrader provides the highly informative text while Green-Armytage fills each page with crisp and vivid images that are certain to spark your imagination.
I Can Garden.com
Extraordinary Leaves is a celebration of one of nature's miracles... Photographer Stephen Green-Armytage discovered the beauty of leaves while browsing in a greenhouse. The more he looked at the intricate patterns, the more fascinated he became. His photography in this book is the result of years of study, and it is strikingly beautiful.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554073870
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 9/12/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,222,664
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Green-Armytage's previous book, Extraordinary Chickens, proved that there is much unappreciated beauty in the natural world around us. His photographs have appeared in many other books and such magazines as Sports Illustrated, Life, Fortune and The Smithsonian.

Dennis Schrader runs a major greenhouse on Long Island. A professional horticulturalist and a regular guest on Martha Stewart Living TV, he has also worked on The Today Show, Better Homes and Gardens TV and HGTV. He is the author of Hot Plants for Cool Climates: Gardening with Tropical Plants in Temperate Zones.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

introduction Stephen Green-Armytage introduction Dennis Schrader

poinsettia cotton


canna rex begonia

hellebore marijuana holly tetrapanax


hosta solanum

insectivorous amorphophallus lotus mulberry artemisia



banana victoria amazonica tobacco moss

poison ivy golden hops argyreia nervosa

grape leaves japanese maple gingko decline

climbing patterns

acknowledgments index

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Introduction -- Stephen Green-Armytage

MY EYES WERE OPENED to the potential of foliage as a book subject when I visited a nursery near Cleveland, Ohio. While my wife and a friend were shopping for some specific plants, I wandered into some greenhouses and saw row upon row of Coleus, Caladium, Heuchera and more. I had always liked the shapes of certain leaves, but until then I had not properly registered that some leaves were not only wildly colorful, but also had beautiful patterns. In addition, there seemed to be several hundred of them in this nursery alone.

As I explored the greenhouses in Ohio, I very soon had the idea there should be a well-illustrated book that displayed these wonderful plants. My next thought was that I would like to take the photographs for such a book. I became curious to know if it had already been done -- it seemed to be a subject crying out for a handsome book. In my research I
found books that were instructional or scientific rather than being celebrations of the beauty of leaves. There are fine pictorial volumes displaying flowers such as orchids and roses, but not leaves. Much later we did find a book that had a similar agenda to this one, but it was published decades ago and was long out of print. Some of the pictures were very handsome, but others were rather dull, and the printing quality and layout design were well below today's standards.

For my previous books, I had done the research and writing myself, but I never considered doing so in this case. The subject was clearly far too large for me. A friend of a friend put me in touch with Dennis Schrader. Dennis has an academic background in botany, horticulture and landscape design, and now owns and operates a marvelous nursery that breeds and nurtures a large number of exotic plants. In addition, he is a well-respected author and lecturer, and has been seen frequently on television, giving practical advice as well as information that is as interesting to casual gardeners as it is to professionals.

We have not set out to do an encyclopedic book, but have concentrated on leaves that are beautiful and interesting. Knowledgeable readers may look through the book and wonder why some of their own favorites have not been included. As I was introduced to more and more plants, I found that even a large book like this could not include all of my own favorites, let alone all of the other leaves suggested by professionals.

At an early stage I decided not to photograph palms. Although their fronds are their leaf elements, the individual fronds are not particularly photogenic. (I made an exception for the Fishtail Palm, since instead of fronds it has neat rows of small triangular leaves.) Similarly I ignored succulents, cactus plants, needles and grasses, although a few broad-leaved grasses may have slipped in.

By chance, the cultivation of ornamental foliage is becoming increasingly popular. I had not set out to be a cheerleader for this growing trend, but am glad that more and more people are aware of the decorative potential of foliage. I am seeing increasing numbers of handsome leaves in private and public gardens, in window boxes and in street planters. While we will always love the seasonal appearance of flowers like tulips and chrysanthemums, it is great to have beauty that endures for many months, and in some cases even year round in mild climates and indoors.

Our acknowledgments will show how many people helped to make it all possible. I particularly appreciated the experts who entered into the spirit of what I was doing, drawing my attention to plants I might have overlooked and communicating their own enthusiasm for beautiful leaves. I hope they will be pleased with the book, proud of their contributions and feel I have done justice to the subject. At the same time, I hope that readers who had never given much thought to leaves will now be appreciating them with fresh eyes.

Introduction -- Dennis Schrader

I HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN PLANTS as far back as I can remember, for some reason I always gravitated toward the rare, exotic and hard-to-grow plants. The ones with green leaves were okay ... but add a stripe of white or a hint of red or yellow and my pulse would quicken. But, as every type of collector realizes later on in their obsession, you can't have it all. The same thing is true for plant collecting.

When we started our wholesale greenhouse business, we had 17 acres of land and planned one 30' X 100' greenhouse. Once the greenhouse was built, it seemed so huge we wondered how in the world we would ever fill it. Within days the greenhouse was overflowing with just the collection. Hardly any space was left over for growing plants. We had to make some tough choices in order to commandeer a production area. Soon we were building more greenhouses and filling them as quickly as they were completed. Sixteen years and three acres of growing space later, I still have an intense appreciation for exotic plants, especially those with colorful foliage.

My first book touched on all subjects dealing with growing non-hardy plants in temperate gardens as well as interesting hardy plants that portray a "tropical style." The majority of foliage plants mentioned in that book are colorful -- sometimes outlandishly so. While working on Extraordinary Leaves, however, I gained a new appreciation for all leaves, not just the peacocks of the plant world but the sparrows as well.

When Stephen first contacted me and asked to come to Landcraft to photograph some leaves (a request we get many times a year), I agreed, thinking it would be a brief business acquaintance of a few days. I had come across one of Stephen's previous books, and enjoyed the photographs immensely. On subsequent visits we developed a friendship and mutual respect, and made plans to collaborate on Extraordinary Leaves. I found it interesting working with a non-horticultural person. Stephen had a different way of looking at things. He would often gravitate to the simplest solid green leaf and see its interesting vein pattern. Initially I was unimpressed. But on closer examination of a leaf he may have picked from our fields -- or even the most humble of weeds that he pulled out of a crack in the pavement -- the details of shape, venation or texture would surprise me and give me a deeper appreciation for his vision. The subtle details, characteristics and intricacies of simple leaves are indeed astonishing, and with the addition of some color, a few well-placed indentations or possibly some thorns or hairs, a leaf morphs into an entirely different thing. These are the leaves we love ... and through the process of working on this book, my fascination with leaves has once again peaked. Recently, I have been adding to our collection; plants that I have known about for some time but had overlooked have grabbed my attention anew, Sarrancenia, Nepenthes, hundreds of Caladium hybrids and some new species of Amorphophallus and Alocasia have all found new homes in our greenhouses.

Writing this book has been a pleasurable learning process as well. I have greatly enjoyed researching the plants, finding out their stories, interpreting data and adding my own personal experiences, and then compiling the information in a way that would complement Stephens's images. I have also had an excellent motivation to take a deeper, more intimate look at all aspects of leaves, their many uses, their place in history, the science behind what's going on in a leaf, and the unadulterated, simple beauty of the leaf itself. And I hope by looking through these pages will lead you to a new-found appreciation as well.

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