Synopses & Reviews
Drooping lazily over waterways, shading gardens, guarding hedgerowsand#151;the willow tree is a poetically formed plant, but also a practical one. For millennia, the wood of the willow has been used for baskets, furniture, fences, and toys, while finding its place in the watercolors of Monet, Shakespearean tragedies, Hans Christian Andersen, andand#160;The Lord of the Rings
. Telling the willowand#8217;s rich and multilayered tale, Alison Syme explores its presence in literature, art, and human history.
Syme examines the manifold practical uses of the tree, discussing the application of its bark in medicines, its production as an energy crop that produces biofuel and charcoal, and its employment for soil stabilization and other environmental protection schemes. But despite all the functional uses of willows, she argues, we must also heed the lessons they teach about living, dying, and enriching our world. Looking at the roles that willows have played in folklore, religion, and art, she parses their connections to grief and joy, toil and play, necessity and ornament. Filled with one hundred images,and#160;Willowand#160;is a seamless account of the singular place the willow holds in our culture.
and#8220;Willowand#8217;s many roles and stories is Alison Symeand#8217;s subject here. Spanning from fencing and cricket bats to Monetand#8217;s painting and The Wicker Man, Symeand#8217;s book plots the path of the and#8216;most poetic and practical of plants.and#8217; Contemporary craftspeople Lise Bech, Joe Hogan, and Markku Kosonen make an appearance.and#8221;and#160;
andldquo;Symeandrsquo;s lavishly illustrated Willow is an encyclopaedic history of the species. . . . As someone who enjoys planting and caring for trees, I can strongly recommend [this book] as a Christmas present.andrdquo;andnbsp;
andldquo;Those of us who despair of garden writing being reduced to picture captions or to 140-character long snippets can raise a cheer for the appearance of two new books in Reaktion Booksandrsquo;s Botanical series, a compelling collection that allows knowledgeable writers to explore the social and cultural impact of plants alongside their botanical and horticultural significance. . . . Willow is both fascinating and revelatory. . . . The books are well-produced; each illustration and photograph is carefully chosen and illuminates the text. . . . Both books are magnificent works: breathtaking in their sweep and dazzling in their research and reflection. More like this please.andrdquo;andnbsp;
andldquo;Willow tells the rich tale of this many-sided plant, exploring its presence in literature, art, and human history. This well-illustrated book leads the reader from uses in medicine to environmental protection, giving a seamless account of the special place these trees hold in world culture. . . . Syme articulately conveys the lessons the willow has to teach us about living, dying, loving, enriching our world, and protecting the environment.andrdquo;andnbsp;
andldquo;This book feels good in the hand in every way. . . . Combined with the quality of information inside, this makes it a collectorandrsquo;s item for the serious tree lover as well as a hard-wearing handbook for the professional. One in a series of titles, each describing a single species in depth, Willow is highly informative yet still a pleasure to sit down and read, chapter by chapter. . . . Syme is an able author as well as a profound authority. Her writing style conveys a huge amount of information in a readable, even entertaining format, and her researches into willow in world culture span the globe, reaching into idiosyncratic creations in smaller countries as well as the famous cultural leaders. . . . Anyone interested in trees, or even just in willows, cannot fail to be entertained, informed, and satisfied with everything this book offers. I can thoroughly recommend it.andrdquo;andnbsp;
andldquo;The beauty of this book for me lies in the way that all the exposure we have to everyday objects and works, such as willow-patterned china, books (like The Wind in the Willows), films (like The Wicker Man), and even wicker furniture can be put into a larger historical context. We can see characters and objects in a different light when we understand the use of willows and willow imagery as a deliberate choice to convey certain elements associated with this plant. . . . After reading this book, I can never look at a basket or tombstone in the same way.andrdquo;andnbsp;
Haunters of waterways and guardians of hedgerow; jewels of the garden and common companions in the fields: willows are at once the most poetic and practical of plants. For millennia they have played a key role in cultures across the northern hemisphereand#151;forming baskets, furniture, fences and walls; treating illnesses; and becoming objects of artistic celebration in Monetand#8217;s paintings and Shakespeareand#8217;s tragedies. The genus Salix
is now increasingly used for soil stabilization and biofuel, highlighting willowand#8217;s continued importance in the present day.
This well illustrated book leads us from Monetand#8217;s willows to Tang poetry, and from uses in medicine to environmental protection, in a seamless account of the special place which this tree holds in our culture. Willow will appeal to anyone interested in gardens, the environment, or the cultural history of plants.
About the Author
is associate professor in the Departments of Art and Visual Studies at the University of Toronto.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Natural History
1. Rites of Spring and Mourning
2. Willowy Forms
3. Pattern of Romance and Mystery
4. Tree of Prose and Poetry
5. Brushes with Fame
Conclusion: Willow in the World Garden
Associations and Websites