of a Rose
The Secret Lives of Flowers
Sharman Apt Russell
DEFINITELY the best gardening
read to hit our desks in recent months, Anatomy of a Rose is
an unexpected delight. Part modern science, part old-fashioned nostalgia,
it aims to "unveil the secret life of flowers, from their diverse
fragrances to their nasty deceptions".
Author Sharman Apt Russell
is an intelligent writer, combining her innate love of gardening
with a fascination for how plants work in a scientific sense. For
her, studying even basic plants is a sensual experience - and one
that can be experienced in extraordinary detail. Looking at a group
of plain daisies, she writes: "I lie down in the green grass, cuddling
up to a patch of daisies, their centres the colour of egg yolk,
their petals a soft, milky white. Nearby, a red skyrocket (Ipomopsis
aggregata) flaunts its long, trumpet-like, fused petals that
end in a five-pointed, star-shaped opening. I only have a few minutes.
Ants will begin to crawl up my ankle. Spiky leaves will tickle my
skin. I will feel a growing uneasiness so close to the ground, less
than a foot high. I will feel, soon, the desire to stand and reclaim
my bipedal perspective." This examination of a white daisy leads
into a discussion about colour's role in flower pollination.
There are no photographs
- Russell crafts pictures from words instead. Take the unusual aesthetics
of a passionflower: "The passionflower in my neighbour's yard looks
constructed, designed by an engineer who has heard about flowers
but never actually seen one, designed by a woman in love with helicopters."
Anatomy of a Rose
is cleverly wrought, mixing complex research with lavish descriptions
of the nuances of gardening. Entertaining and informative, you'll
be surprised how much you can learn from this book - and how enjoyable
the lesson is.
Gardener, Issue 106, September 19-October 2, 2002, Page 30
Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH