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A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants

by

A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants Cover

 

Staff Pick

A lively botanical excursion: from the world's largest pumpkin to a truly black petunia, this is a delightful romp through the world of plants.
Recommended by Mary Jo, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 recounts with grace and humor her journey from brown thumb to green, sharing the lessons that she learned from building a home conservatory in the wake of a devastating personal crisis.

In A Garden of Marvels, she extends the story. "This book was born of a murder, a murder I committed," she begins. The victim was a kumquat tree. Though she diligently did her best — watering, fertilizing, repotting, and pruning — the plant turned brown and brittle. Why did the kumquat die when other plants in the garden that received the same attention thrived? she wondered. It was an experience that offered invaluable insight.

While she knew the basic rules of caring for indoor plants, Kassinger realized that she understood very little about plant physiology — how roots, stems, leaves, and flowers actually function. Determined not to repeat her failure, she set out to learn the fundamentals of botany in order to become a better gardener. A Garden of Marvels is the story of her wise and enchanting odyssey to discover the secret life of plants.

Kassinger retraces the progress of the first botanists — including a melancholy Italian anatomist, a renegade French surgeon, a stuttering English minister, an obsessive German schoolteacher, and Charles Darwin — 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 goes out into the world as well, visiting modern gardens, farms, and labs to discover the science behind extraordinary plants like one-ton pumpkins, truly black petunias, ferns that eat the arsenic in contaminated soil, biofuel grass that grows twelve feet tall, and the world's only photosynthesizing animal. Kassinger also introduces us to modern scientific research that offers hope for combatting climate change and alleviating world hunger.

She then transfers her insights to her own garden, where she nurtures a "cocktail" tree that bears five kinds of fruit, cures an ailing Buddha's Hand plant with beneficial fungi, and gets a tree to text her when it's thirsty. Intertwining personal anecdotes, accessible science, and little-known history, A Garden of Marvels takes us on an eye-opening journey into Kassinger's garden — and yours — offering us a new appreciation of this exquisite gift of nature: "Our garden is more than a marvel. It's as close to a miracle as there is on Earth."

Review:

“[A] pleasant ramble through the world of plants....Kassinger weaves a huge amount of information into what still feels like a personal memoir, and by the end of this effortless afternoon stroll with her, readers will be startled to realize how much they have learned.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Review:

“A self-taught, infectiously enthusiastic home gardener…intrepid journalist and indefatigable plants woman, Kassinger ferrets out the most entertaining and educational aspects of plant science with a researchers fervor and a collectors zeal…Kassinger has a knack for uncovering horticulture's quirky side.” Booklist

Review:

“A delightful book, fun to read and share.” Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Synopsis:

Combing the curiosity of The Botany of Desire and the playful spirit of Wicked Plants, a witty and engaging history of botany and gardening memoir from the author of Paradise Under Glass — an easy-to-follow, anecdotal tutorial on the fascinating science of plants.

In Paradise Under Glass, Ruth Kassinger — a self-described "wanton killer of plants" — recounted with grace, humor, and poignancy her moving journey from brown thumb to green, sharing the lessons she learned building a home conservatory in the wake of a devastating personal crisis.

In A Garden of Marvels, she enhances and extends her story. While Kassinger successfully created her dream conservatory and rectified her initial gardening mistakes — the over-watering and under-fertilizing that often kill plants — she realized she had no idea what to do to help them thrive. Until she completely understood how plants actually worked, she couldn't know exactly what they needed.

In her friendly and reassuring voice Kassinger introduces the basic botany of plants — flowers, roots, stems, and leaves — and explains how they function together. Combining science and botanical knowledge with reflections on her personal quest to become a better gardener, and illustrated with more than two-dozen black and white drawings, Garden of Marvels is a journey of discovery that offers fresh and unexpected insights into the natural.

Synopsis:

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.

About the Author

Ruth Kassinger's science and health writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, National Geographic Explorer, Health magazine, Science Weekly, and other publications. The author of numerous award-winning science and history books for young adults, she lives with her husband, Ted, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780062048998
Subtitle:
How We Discovered That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants
Author:
Kassinger, Ruth
Publisher:
William Morrow
Subject:
Biography - General
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Publication Date:
20140225
Binding:
Hardback
Language:
English
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 x 0.89 in 22.8 oz

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Related Subjects

Biography » General
Biography » Literary
Featured Titles » Staff Favorites
Home and Garden » Gardening » Botany
Reference » Science Reference » General
Science and Mathematics » Botany » General
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Botany

A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered That Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants New Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$25.99 In Stock
Product details 416 pages William Morrow - English 9780062048998 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

A lively botanical excursion: from the world's largest pumpkin to a truly black petunia, this is a delightful romp through the world of plants.

"Review" by , “[A] pleasant ramble through the world of plants....Kassinger weaves a huge amount of information into what still feels like a personal memoir, and by the end of this effortless afternoon stroll with her, readers will be startled to realize how much they have learned.”
"Review" by , “A self-taught, infectiously enthusiastic home gardener…intrepid journalist and indefatigable plants woman, Kassinger ferrets out the most entertaining and educational aspects of plant science with a researchers fervor and a collectors zeal…Kassinger has a knack for uncovering horticulture's quirky side.”
"Review" by , “A delightful book, fun to read and share.”
"Synopsis" by , Combing the curiosity of The Botany of Desire and the playful spirit of Wicked Plants, a witty and engaging history of botany and gardening memoir from the author of Paradise Under Glass — an easy-to-follow, anecdotal tutorial on the fascinating science of plants.

In Paradise Under Glass, Ruth Kassinger — a self-described "wanton killer of plants" — recounted with grace, humor, and poignancy her moving journey from brown thumb to green, sharing the lessons she learned building a home conservatory in the wake of a devastating personal crisis.

In A Garden of Marvels, she enhances and extends her story. While Kassinger successfully created her dream conservatory and rectified her initial gardening mistakes — the over-watering and under-fertilizing that often kill plants — she realized she had no idea what to do to help them thrive. Until she completely understood how plants actually worked, she couldn't know exactly what they needed.

In her friendly and reassuring voice Kassinger introduces the basic botany of plants — flowers, roots, stems, and leaves — and explains how they function together. Combining science and botanical knowledge with reflections on her personal quest to become a better gardener, and illustrated with more than two-dozen black and white drawings, Garden of Marvels is a journey of discovery that offers fresh and unexpected insights into the natural.

"Synopsis" by , 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.

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