by Suzanne Treseder

Publisher: Alison Hodge (2004)
ISBN   0 906720 37 0

Hardback, 120p, £12.95


Following a Foreword by Sir Richard Carew Pole, the first chapter is entitled ‘A Cornish Family’s Passion for Plants’ and is an excellent introduction to the book.  Chapters 2 to 5 are devoted in turn to Suzanne’s great grandfather, John Garland Treseder, her grandfather, Ira Garland Treseder, her father, Neil Garland Treseder, and her brother, Andrew Garland Treseder with a sad ending.  There are seven Appendices ranging from lists of plants exported to Cornwall from the Treseder’s Sydney nurseries in 1890-93, to lists of plant introductions, followed by a Bibliography and a general index.

I had been looking forward to reading this book ever since I knew Suzanne was collecting information for it and I was not disappointed.  This is a lovingly and meticulously researched account of the Truro branch of this ancient Cornish family who had such an impact on horticulture, in not only Cornwall but also elsewhere in Britain and overseas.  I know from my own experience how difficult it is, when faced with huge amounts of documentation, to distil the salient facts.  Suzanne has done this with great skill.  She recounts the good times as well as the bad (including some of the disasters that befell Treseder’s nurseries).

Suzanne tells us that ‘Camellias became one of Neil’s leading specialities’ but in the early 1950s he also became captivated by the stunning beauty of magnolia flowers in many of the Cornish estate gardens.  In particular he will be remembered for his Magnolias (N.G. Treseder, 1968), a scholarly history and description of all the magnolias known at that time.  I read the book from cover to cover when researching the text of Magnolias in Cornish Gardens (V.S. & J.A. Paton, 2001) and shall always be grateful for his comprehensive accounts.

It is not only for the fascinating history of this talented family that I can recommend A Passion for Plants to all garden lovers.  The Treseders were responsible for so many of the wonderful plants we grow or admire in other people’s gardens, and here we have the added interest of their origin.  These were indeed exciting times.  In the 1924 catalogue, Ira claimed that, ‘it may be said we have ransacked the world to enrich our English gardens’.  We all owe them a big thank you.

The production and layout of this very readable book is pleasing with the quoted extracts clearly differentiated from Suzanne’s text.  However, the subheadings are rather lost without a line space below each one, and why change the font?  The addition of a family tree would have been very welcome.

Jean A Paton