The Garden Plants of China

Peter Valder

Published by Timber Press, Incorporated, 1999
ISBN 10: 0881924709 / ISBN 13: 9780881924701
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Synopsis: It is hard to imagine gardens without peonies, flowering peaches, camellias, gardenias, azaleas, wisteria, forsythia, crabapples, and the host of other ornamentals that were introduced first in Chinese gardens. And the development of the modern repeat-flowering roses would not have occurred had the so-called monthly roses not been brought to Europe from China. In spite of the romance and excitement generated by the discoveries of the famous plant hunters in the wilds of China, the Chinese plants with the greatest impact on the gardens of the world have actually come from Chinese gardens and nurseries.

Review: Gardens have long been an integral part of Chinese culture, written about by scholars and prized by emperors and priests; think of Chinese scrolls traced with plum blossoms and wood-block prints etched with pine branches or bamboo. The West has not only received a great number of fine plants from China, it's also been influenced by the Chinese appreciation of plants, by their ideas on striving to have something in bloom year-round, and by their treasuring shape as well as bloom. A surprising number of our showiest and favorite plants are native to China, brought to the Western world by early plant explorers. Many varieties of crabapples, chrysanthemums, lilacs, wisteria, azaleas, rhododendron, camellias, and peonies originated in China, where they have been important in gardens, literature, and art for centuries.

Peter Valder's discussion of more than 400 garden-worthy plants includes color photographs, history, information on native habitat, and cultural suggestions. The photos are large and lovely, the information thorough and useful, and to help us remember the origin of each plant he has included the Chinese letters and common names, which are charming. The Chinese name for mock orange (Philadelphus) translates as "peace and tranquility flower"; "beautiful woman banana" is the translated common name for canna lilies. No matter what the name, Chinese plants deserve space in our gardens, and Valder has written a book that intrigues us with their history and educates us about how best to grow them. --Valerie Easton

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Title: The Garden Plants of China
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication Date: 1999
Book Condition: Fair

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