by Christian Lamb

Publisher: Bene Factum (2004)
ISBN  1 903071 08 9

Hardback, £17.99


Every so often, an extraordinary person comes along who makes me think ‘I would like to be like that when I’m older’.  Christian Lamb is one such woman.  Not only has she created a beautiful garden with specimens as true to the original species as possible, (I haven’t seen it – perhaps a Trust visit one day?), but she has also researched all the plants, followed in the footsteps of the plant hunters who collected them, written her first book in her 80s, and then published it herself.

Christian has become a prominent figure in the media, featured on Radio Cornwall, Radio 4 and in Country Life.  I was lucky enough to hear her talk and see her slides at Ottakers Bookshop in Truro last November.  She revealed to us then how her literary adviser suggested she needed a focus for what she had written, leading to her comparing the original paintings of the plants with photos of what are actually growing in her garden. This, plus information ‘wrestled’ out of our best botanical libraries, adds to the historical interest of the book.

However, Christian hasn’t just given us a history of plants.  She writes in an informal chatty style, introducing friends and fellow-gardeners, describing failures as well as triumphs, and giving her cultivation techniques. It is a book that necessitates keeping a pen and notebook nearby to jot down ideas. I found myself carried along by her enthusiasm for her ‘vision, and ambitious fantasy, recording my favourite plants and seeing them grow before my very eyes’. Some of her exploits, like travelling alone to the doomed gorges of the Yangtze Kiang, almost rival those of the early plant hunters.

There is an index and a helpful plan showing her garden arrangement, but no bibliography though the text contains many attributed quotes.  Unfortunately, there are a couple of photographic and typographic errors in my copy.

About reading old gardening magazines, Christian writes ‘there lies inspiration, and of course temptation’. I found both of those in this delightful book.

Shirley Barnes