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BOOK REVIEWS

Discovering Herbs
No. 89 in the 'Discovering' Serie
s


By Kay N. Sanecki
Published by Shire Publications, UK, 1993
ISBN 0-7478-0198-3

Reviewed by Marian Jones

Discovering Herbs gives sensible advice on the growing of herbs, evidently taken from first-hand experience.

It is a soft-cover book of A5 size. It begins by describing what constitutes a herb, and traces the history of herbs to the present day. General growth requirements, propagation methods, and planting ideas follow. Thorough and detailed descriptions are given on how and when to harvest and store herbs.

The main body of the book consists of 78 pages devoted to 118 individual herbs and their related species and cultivars, with suggestions for their growth and use. The book finishes with short sections on cooking with herbs and making potpourri. A section entitled 'Herb Gardens Today' describes gardens to visit around Britain, and includes a surprising number of disparaging remarks.

Addresses of sixteen Collections of herbal relevance under the auspices of the National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens are given, followed by a list of further reading.

The index is quite inadequate, as it does not list botanical names. This is astonishing, considering the horticultural background of the author.

Herbs are currently in vogue, and the market is flooded with books on the topic. So many of these are 'coffee table' books, full of glossy pictures but very little useful information, with botanical accuracy and cultural advice in particular often lacking. However, Kay Sanecki's emphasis is on growing herbs, and accounts of associated myths and legends are avoided.

Botanical names are used throughout the text, including family names (although many of these are now obsolete). Forty-one photographs illustrate the 120 pages of text. They are acknowledged to the Iris Hardwick Library of Photographs, and would benefit from being either larger or in colour.

Most of the listed plants are available and may be grown in New Zealand. Also, most of the cultural information is relevant, provided the seasons are reversed for the Southern Hemisphere.

Kay Sanecki gives up-to-date information on modern drug uses and research involving herbs, and states which practices are now obsolete. I was glad to see a caution on the need for correct identification and preparation methods for herbs, especially for medicinal purposes. She also rightly advises against depleting wildflower populations by collecting in the wild.

The most valuable features of this book are the cultural advice and the herb growing ideas. However, Discovering Herbs is probably of most use to beginners. Experienced New Zealand gardeners wanting a book on growing herbs would do better buying a book written for growing N.Z. herbs under N.Z. conditions.

Horticulture in New Zealand: Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture 1993 4(2): 19

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