Monday, April 6, 2015

Featured Author: Jennifer Potter

Author Jennifer Potter is primarily known as a horticultural historian, although she has written fiction. Perhaps her most famous work is Strange Blooms, a dual biography of the John Tradescants, the elder and younger, who were botanists, naturalists, and gardeners between 1570-1660. She is also a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow - the RLF is a British charity which promotes and supports writers - and tutors higher education students in "enhancing their writing practices." Her horticultural microhistories have been called "expert" and "all-encompassing but precisely focused" [Booklist] with "readable style and interesting stories." [Choice Reviews] Just in time for spring, revisit some of your favorite flowers!

Drawing on sources both ancient and modern, and featuring lush full-color illustrations and gorgeous line art throughout, Potter examines our changing relationship with these potent plants and the effects they had on civilizations through the ages. The opium poppy, for example, returned to haunt its progenitors in the West, becoming the source of an enormously profitable drug trade in Asia. In the seventeenth century, the irrational exuberance of the Dutch for rare tulips led to a nationwide financial collapse. Potter also explores how different cultures came to view the same flowers in totally different lights. While Confucius saw virtue and modesty in his native orchids, the ancient Greeks saw only lust and sex. In the eye of each beholder, these are flowers of life and death; of purity and passion; of greed, envy and virtue; of hope and consolation; of the beauty that drives men wild. All seven demonstrate the enduring ability of flowers to speak metaphorically--if we could only decode what they have to say. ~from the library catalog

Ever since Sappho planted roses at the shrine of Aphrodite, no flower has captured the imagination in quite the same way. Here, the acclaimed horticultural historian Jennifer Potter sets out on a quest to uncover the life of a flower that has been viewed so heterogeneously by different cultures in different countries across the centuries. Beginning her story in the Greek and Roman empires, she travels across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas to unravel its evolution from a simple briar of the northern hemisphere to the height of cultivated perfection found in rose gardens today. Whether laying bare the flower's long association with sexuality and secret societies, questioning the Crusaders' role in bringing roses back from the Holy Land, or hunting for its elusive blooms in the gardens of the Empress Josephine at Malmaison, Jennifer Potter reveals why this flower, above all others, has provoked such fascination.~from Google Books

From the sacred groves of Ancient Greece, to the secluded outside rooms of Sissinghurst, this work is a history of secret gardens. A wide variety of secret gardens is explored, from intimate retreats to treehouses, caves and grottoes. Five case studies demonstrate how design principles can be turned into reality. Practical advice, from planting to the skilful use of water and ornaments, aim to help the reader realize the potential of their own garden. A comprehensive plant directory is included. ~from Google Books

Want to learn more about horticultural history? You might also enjoy: The Tulip by Anna Pavord; Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart; My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love edited by Jamaica Kincaid; Weeds: In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants by Richard Mabey; Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales by Marta McDowell; and The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean.

Are you a gardener? Have you visited our Seed Library?

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