A Garden of Marvels

A Garden of Marvels

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

Book - 2014
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"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 combating 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.'"--
Publisher: New York, NY : William Morrow, ©2014
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780062048998
Branch Call Number: Science & Nature 580.92 Kas


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NYPLRecommends Sep 04, 2014

NYPL Staff Pick
Everyone likes a book about sex. Kassinger gives us a scientific look at the subject and how it involves plants, as well as plant anatomy, and generally how plants grow in layman's terms. It is an interweaving of history, science and gardening that will have you buying more houseplants.
- Jessica Cline, Mid-Manhattan Library

lshapir2 Apr 23, 2014

Good read, lots of interesting facts and anecdotes that made me appreciate my own garden and gardening efforts a bit better. She does tend to get somewhat technical in places (when explaining scientific processes involved in photosynthesis for example) and she throws a lot of historical names out when going into the early history of botany, and I found I kept having to flip back pages and remind myself who did what and why it was important. Overall, I enjoyed it and would recommend to any gardener or anyone interested in learning more about our relationship with the plant life all around us.


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lshapir2 Apr 23, 2014

lshapir2 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


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