Saturday 8 December 2012

The Plant Hunters for Kindle

Joseph Banks, the father of modern plant hunting by Sir Joshua Reynolds (1773)
 "Good God.  When I consider the melancholy fate of so many of botany's votaries, I am tempted to ask whether men are in their right mind who so desperately risk life and everything else through the love of collecting plants."

So said the famous Carl Linnæus in 1737.  

And in many way I think he was right, but also very glad that these men undertook the challenges, for gardens would be far duller places had they not.

The cover featuring Ernest Wilson's beautiful Lilium regale in the Min valley, Sichuan
Back in the 1990s I spent a year researching the history of the Lost Garden of Heligan.  During the course of this fascinating work I got up close and personal with so many of the plants introduced by those most brave and forgotten heroes of horticulture - the plant hunters.

Ernest Wilson, one of the most successful plant hunters employed by the Veitch Nursery
Inspired by the men, the tales of their adventures and both 'their' plants and the impact that they had had on garden fashions I, together with good friend and colleague Chris Gardener and brother, Will penned a tome entitled The Plant Hunters.  It did well, but after two hardback and two paperback the publishers decided not to reprint.

Discovered by Joseph Hooker, Rhododendron hodgsonii in the Zemu valley, Sikkim
Then came the wait for the rights to return.  Now we have re-edited the text   and are delighted to announce that today The Plant Hunters is published as a Kindle version.

The Plant Hunters features 10 of the most influential of all the plant hunters:  Sir Joseph Banks, Francis Masson, David Douglas, Sir Joseph Hooker, William and Thomas Lobb, Robert Fortune, Ernest Wilson, George Forrest and Frank Kingdon-Ward. 

Sir Joseph Hooker whose arrest in Sikkim changed the map of the Empire and whose Rhododendron discoveries kick-started 'rhododendromania'
Together these men discovered and introduced literally tens of thousands of new plants that revolutionised gardens all over the world.  Yet for the most part they did not make much money, but they surely suffered hardships and ill-health, occasionally giving their lives for the love of plant hunting.

Meconopsis lancifolia on the Daxueshan mountains of Yunnan
The Plant Hunters pays tribute to these men.  It tells their stories as people, it follows them to remote parts of the globe which had often times not been visited by Westerners before and tells of their adventures in the field.  It reveals the beautiful plants they discovered and explores how 'their' plants revolutionised garden fashions.

Even if I say so myself, these are damn good stories - and the book will  make the perfect Christmas read!

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