416 pages, illustrations
In the tradition of The Botany of Desire and Wicked Plants, a witty and engaging history of the first botanists interwoven with stories of today's extraordinary plants found in the garden and the lab.
In Paradise Under Glass, Ruth Kassinger recounted with grace and humor her journey from brown thumb to green, sharing lessons she learned from building a home conservatory in the wake of a devastating personal crisis.
In A Garden of Marvels, she extends the story. Frustrated by plants that fail to thrive, she sets out to understand the basics of botany in order to become a better gardener. She retraces the progress of the first botanists who banished myths and misunderstandings and discovered that flowers have sex, leaves eat air, roots choose their food, and hormones make morning glories climb fence posts. She also visits modern gardens, farms, and labs to discover the science behind extraordinary plants like one-ton pumpkins, a truly black petunia, a biofuel grass that grows twelve feet tall, and the world's only photosynthesizing animal. Transferring her insights to her own garden, she nurtures a "cocktail" tree that bears five kinds of fruit, cures a Buddha's Hand plant with beneficial fungi, and gets a tree to text her when it's thirsty.
Intertwining personal anecdote, accessible science, and untold history, the ever-engaging author takes us on an eye-opening journey into her garden – and yours.
"After 'murdering' a kumquat tree through hard pruning, Ruth Kassinger set out to understand plant physiology through the history of botany. In this scientific wonderland, we encounter Robert Hooke's exquisite drawings of plant structure in Micrographia (1665); arsenic-gobbling brake ferns; and the single eukaryote that, 1.6 billion years ago, engulfed a cyanobacterium and spawned the multitude of chloroplasts that made life on Earth possible."
– Barbara Kiser, Books in brief, Nature 507, 20 March 2014
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