Our peculiarly British obsession with gardens goes back a long way and the BBC Radio 4 series Plants: From Roots to Riches is going to take us back to where it all began. Across 25 vivid episodes, Kathy Willis, Kew's charismatic Head of Science, will show us how the last 250 years transformed our relationship with plants. Behind the scenes at the Botanical Gardens all kinds of surprising things have been going on. As the British Empire painted the atlas red, explorers, adventurers and scientists brought the most interesting specimens and information back to London. From the discovery of Botany Bay to the horrors of the potato famine, from orchid hunters to quinine smugglers, from Darwin's experiments to the unexpected knowledge unlocked by the 1987 hurricane, understanding how plants work has changed our history and could safeguard our future.
In the style of A History of the World in 100 Objects, each chapter in this accompanying book tells a separate story, but, gathered together, a great picture unfolds, of our most remarkable science, botany. Plants: From Roots to Riches is packed with 200 images in both colour and black and white from Kew's amazing archives, some never reproduced before. Kathy Willis and Carolyn Fry, the acclaimed popular-science writer, have also added all kinds of fascinating extra history, heroes and villains, memorable stories and interviews. Their book takes us on an exciting rollercoaster ride through our past and future and shows us how much plants really do matter.
Kathy Willis is director of science at Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. She is also professor of long-term ecology and a fellow of Merton College, both at Oxford University. Winner of several awards, she has spent over 20 years researching and teaching biodiversity and conservation at Oxford and Cambridge.
Carolyn Fry is the former editor of Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographic Society and has travelled the world in search of stories. She has written five successful books, including the acclaimed Plant Hunters.
"[...] an aesthetic, historical and scientific journey through the flowering of botany as a science. And for a reader, the beautifully illustrated book, replete with botanical plates, scientific engravings and fine photographs, is nearly as much of a treat as a visit to the gardens. [...] If the book and series are intended as botany propaganda, then all parties clearly understand their audience."
- Shaoni Bhattacharya, New Scientist, 23 September 2014