Carol Gracie – you may remember her from those two fabulous books of hers, Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast and Summer Wildflowers of the Northeast – has just written the perfect book for that impossible-to-satisfy gardening nerd in your life. This is a book which has across the board – I suppose I should say “across the borders” – appeal for it is a perfectly general collection of bits and pieces, a compendium of botanical snippets, that will inform, amuse and entertain anybody with an interest in gardening, botany or nature in general.
The more than 100 entries, all quite short, all snappy and interesting, are arranged alphabetically beginning with “Achlorophyllous Plants” – plants that have no chlorophyll, no green, and the plant chosen to illustrate this phenomenon is Yellow Bird’s Nest which I admired a few years ago in Co. Wexford. Notes on people feature regularly – John Bartram, Margaret Mee and Georgia O’Keeffe among many others. As might be expected, entries on plants: Lotus, Kiwi, Pineapples, Jack in the Pulpit and Jimsonweed, for example, are sprinkled throughout with interesting botanical terms explained so that you will never again be confused by Hemiepiphyte, Thigmotaxis or Zygomorphicism – the last entry, by the way – and they will drop off your tongue to the amazement of your friends. Along the way, you will encounter amazing facts, interesting stories of people and places, plants and countries and at all times be delighted and entertained by the author’s selections.
This is a take-it-up-at-any-time book, one to put in the side of your travelling bag for that five-minute delay or to read with a cup of coffee. It is of a size to slip into a pocket or handbag, a perfectly convenient size in an attractive cloth-bound cover. Yes, the perfect gift for that hard-to-please friend!
[Florapedia, A Brief Compendium of Floral Lore, Carol Gracie, Line drawings by Amy Jean Porter, Princeton University Press, Princeton & Oxford, 2021, Hardback, 189 pages, $16.95, ISBN: 978-1-691-21140-4]