by David Stuart

Publisher: Frances Lincolns (2004)
ISBN  07112 2364 5

Paperback, £12.99


It seems to me that there has been a glut of books about plant hunters in recent years, each with its own angle on their stories.  Although David Stuart purports to take the plants they brought back as his starting point, this large paperback is actually a chronological history of plant collecting.  However, it does offer more.  Packed with information about the plant collectors, the plants and the countries they came from, and the development of gardens, it encompasses a history of garden design and styles and shows how garden elements have evolved in response to incoming plants.

I found that Stuart writes in a very interesting and readable way and I was delighted by the colour and black and white illustrations that appear on almost every page many being taken from historical plant directories, old drawings and paintings.  He includes many quotes from the letters and diaries of plant collectors and from gardening publications, but preceded by ‘He wrote.’  I should like to have known the sources.

The book mentions the suitability of Cornwall for growing many of the new plants, but I could find no reference to any individual garden in Cornwall.  My search wasn’t helped by the rather inadequate index.

The price, good stories and illustrations of this book aim it at the general  public.  It will be of interest to Gardens Trust members, but like me, they may find the lack of references frustrating.

Shirley Barnes