Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden

Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden

by Noel Kingsbury
Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden

Garden Flora: The Natural and Cultural History of the Plants In Your Garden

by Noel Kingsbury


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“A beautifully illustrated reference book covers the origins, ecology and history of popular garden plants.” —Shelf Awareness

The oldest rose fossil was found in Colorado and dates to 35 million years ago. Marigolds, infamous for their ability to self-seed, are named for an Etruscan god who sprang from a ploughed field. And daffodils—an icon of spring—were introduced to Britain by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. Every garden plant has an origination story, and Garden Flora, by noted garden designer Noel Kingsbury, shares them in a beautifully compelling way. This lushly illustrated survey of 133 of the most commonly grown plants explains where each plant came from and the journey it took into home gardens. Kingsbury tells intriguing tales of the most important plant hunters, breeders, and gardeners throughout history, and explores the unexpected ways plants have been used. Richly illustrated with an eclectic mix of new and historical photos, botanical art, and vintage seed packets and catalogs, Garden Flora is a must-have reference for every gardener and plant lover.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594156253
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 10/05/2016
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 1,040,285
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 11.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Noel Kingsbury is a researcher, writer, and teacher. A gardener since childhood, he has run a nursery, designed gardens and public spaces, and done doctoral research at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Landscape on the ecology of ornamental perennials. He lives and gardens in the Welsh Borders near Hay-on-Wye.

Read an Excerpt

Every garden plant comes from somewhere. It will have ancestral species growing on a mountainside or deep within a forest, or be part of some great remaining grassland. These ancestors may well have been put to some use by the local community, as food, medicine, or source of materials; they might have played a part in local mythology or spirituality. But at some point in history they were taken into cultivation and then truly become part of the human story. Some plants have been transformed by cultivation—selected, crossed, and bred to a level where their wild ancestors can hardly be recognised. Others have stayed remarkably similar to what might still be found in the world’s diminishing wild spaces. But when were these plants introduced into cultivation? Where, when, and how did we end up with the range of cultivars we currently have down at the garden centre or nursery? This book is intended as an overview of the most widely grown genera of temperate zone garden plants, answering not just questions about origins and habitats but offering a broad outline of their history in cultivation as well.

Books on how to cultivate garden plants are plentiful, and many of these (as well as an increasing number of online sources) discuss the basic botanical characteristics of genera common in cultivation. These are two areas which are not dealt with here. What is much more difficult to access is information on the ecological aspects of garden plants and on their history in cultivation—areas that this volume focusses on. In addition, to help fill out the picture and provide some extra colour to our experience of garden plants, some reference is also made to the mythological and folklore aspects of garden plants, where relevant, and to their traditional and modern uses outside the garden.

The information available on the ecological and historical aspects of garden plants is very patchy: there is a lot on some genera, very little on others. This is partly a reflection of geography and development; it is easy, for example, to find material on the ecology of European plants, very difficult for Chinese. In some cases very detailed studies have been made of some genera, whereas others have been ignored. What I have tried to do is the classic “standing on the shoulders of giants”—reflecting upon and making available scholarship that is not available elsewhere, in one volume. In most cases, the genus is the unit of discussion; the exceptions are a number of headings that discuss a larger taxonomic unit or a cluster of genera (e.g., asters, gesneriads, heathers).

This introduction is aimed at talking the reader through some basic concepts, using keywords, which are here emphasised in bold. These keywords will then be used throughout the book as a shorthand. In many cases these concepts can only be understood in a wider context; consequently, the content here will act as a very basic primer in plant ecology and in garden plant history. Certain key personalities (plant hunters, botanists, etc.) who are repeatedly referenced, often by surname only, will also be indicated here in bold. Readers should be able to refer back to this introduction to find explanations of keywords.

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