Title: The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World
Author: Michael Pollan
Fun Fact: A tulip grown from seed doesn’t flower for 7 years!
Review Summary: This was one of the most fun non-fiction books I’ve read, because of both the content and the author’s enthusiasm.
The author’s starting premise in The Botany of Desire has two fascinating parts. First, that plants benefit greatly from domestication, so our relationship with them could just as easily be viewed as them domesticating us. And second, that domesticated plants have evolved to meet some basic human desire, making plants of the past a great way to learn about what previous civilizations valued. The bulk of the book is devoted to stories of particular plants that illustrate this point. Although I expected more of a history of the plants in question (the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato), I very much enjoyed the collection of anecdotes presented instead.
Finally, a book review! Just for those of you who are new and were beginning to believe I don’t actually do those 😛 In fact, today I have several short book reviews for you, as I spent last week slowly absorbing information from a variety of books on container gardening.
The book I started with was Container Gardening for the Midwest, one of many books at my library which has caused me to be pleasantly surprised by the ability of even a small library to collect lots of region specific books. This book followed a layout typical of the books I read, starting with general information about container gardening. This included the benefits of different pot materials, different design elements (color pairing, shape, etc), how to plant your garden, and how to care for your garden. Following the general care section was a section on specific plants. Unfortunately, for gardening I think location north/south matters at least as much as what region of the US you’re in, so there was still some generality to this section. I don’t think it’s fair to blame the book for that though when the only way to improve that would be an even more specific focus. In fact, the plant specific section in this book was one of my favorites, because it had great pictures for every plant and I prefer to pick plants by appearance before determining whether or not I can really grow them. I think it was a good book to start with, since it didn’t provide overwhelming details, and the long, picture-filled plant section made it the book I used most to make a to-be-shortened list of plants I might like to include in my own balcony garden. Continue reading
This week I’ve been reading Welcoming Wildlife to the Garden and I can’t wait for warm weather so I can try some of their suggestions on my balcony! The first thing I noticed about this book was that it had a lot more in common with A Spring Without Bees than I expected, even knowing they’re neighbors in the dewey decimal system, because this book was incredibly eco-friendly. The authors counsel against using pesticides, suggest Integrated Pest management (using natural predators to get rid of unwanted bugs, as suggested in A Spring Without Bees), and clearly love all animals – even the creepy crawly ones. Personally, I’ve always loved all animals and even think flies are cute when they wash their faces with their legs, kind of the way cats do. So finding a book which seemed to see the best in all animals was like finding a kindred spirit. They even explain how to attract snakes and spiders, which I think a lot of people really wouldn’t go for. I was ready to draw the line when they started talking about Crocodilians, but fortunately the authors didn’t suggest attracting crocodiles and alligators to your yard! Instead they observed that if these animals visit your backyard “that may be wildlife enough”, which made me laugh 🙂 Continue reading