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Tales of the Rose Tree: Ravishing…
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Tales of the Rose Tree: Ravishing Rhododendrons And Their Travels Around…

by Jane Brown

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371465,092 (3.8)4
A wild and wonderful exploration of the history of the Rose Tree -- or RhododendronFrom the giant, long-lived Rhododendron falconeri, with its peeling cinnamon bark on sculptured trunks to the delicate potted azalea on the garden patio, almost everyone has a rhododendron within reach of their daily lives. But who knows anything about this mysterious plant?Two hundred years ago the rhododendron was dragged to Britain from the dizzying heights of its natural habitat in the Sino-Himalayas by avaricious British collectors. Some of the species mutated; others proved hardy and easy to hybridise. Today the rhododendron has made a greater impact on the English landscape than any other plant. Jane Brown uncovers the rhododendron's story which reaches back hundreds, some say thousands, of years (the dove returning to Noah's ark was, apparently, carrying the leaf of a rhododendron). The Aztecs favoured it for their pleasure gardens (although the Jesuits believed they discovered it); the Chinese use it in medicines; mariners used it as ballast cargo; it has excited royal passions (Edward Prince of Wales surrounded himself with them at Virginia Water in the 1920s) and been the source of persona… (more)

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A fantastic read, charting the history of discovery and dissemination of one of the most spectacular of our garden plants. Jane Brown takes us back to the world of 18th and 19th century plants hunters with ease - that era of explorations and the rewards and dangers that attended the often eccentric individuals who weer attracted to them. From there we move to the great gardens and nurseries and those who lovingly tended the transplanted plants and susequently crossed and popularised them.

As much as this is about the species rhododendron in all its wonderful variety (and even the much-maligned ponticum is given its rightful place), it's also about the people whose lives intersected with it. At times the bewilderding list of crosses and varieties is almost challenged by the relationships and links between those responsible for making this Himalyan scrub plant what it is today.

Jane Brown never lets the pace of her narrative drop and the technical details of plant breeding are kept to minimum and explained where necessary for the casual reader. Although aimed squarely at the rhododendron enthusiasts, it is also a fascinating read for its placing of the subject in the social and political backdrop through the centuries. It also deals etensively with the rhododenron discoveries and history in North America and should also appeal to U.S./Canadian readers. ( )
  antisyzygy | Sep 22, 2009 |
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