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review 2018-04-21 10:06
The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search the World's Rarest Species
The Plant Messiah: Adventures in Search of the World's Rarest Species - Carlos Magdalena

This book is mostly what it says on the tin, anecdotes about Magdalena's travels seeking out the world's most endangered plants, and his subsequent conservation efforts to stave off their extinction.

 

It starts off a little rocky, as my first impression of Magdalena was more evangelical than messianic, and the mini-biography at the start sometimes ventured into very self-satisfied prose.  The biographical information was helpful, though probably could have been edited a bit.

 

Once chapter 2 begins though, all of that is quickly forgotten.  As someone who is deeply interested in conservation of both plants and animals (except roaches), I was enthralled as I read about efforts to save species plants on Mauritius and Rodrigues Islands, in Bolivia, and Australia (water lilies!).  As the daughter of an orchid grower who very often had to MacGyver solutions for tricky breeding problems, I genuinely enjoyed the parts where he had to think on his feet, or think outside the box to overcome perceived roadblocks to cultivation.

 

There's no denying his enthusiasm and his passion for his work; neither is there any denying the need for it, in a world where 2000 unknown plants can be identified in a given year, only to have many of them go extinct before they can even be named.  I learned a great deal reading this, and hesitated to put it down, always wanting to know where he was going next and what he'd find when he got there.

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review 2018-02-02 03:07
Bella Tuscany
Bella Tuscany - Frances Mayes

Very much more of the same from Under the Tuscan Sun but with more travel and more poetry and more philosophical musings.  

 

I really just wanted to hear about the house and their village, so I found myself skimming whenever the chapters covered their travels.  I usually love the travel bits, but a combination of my mood and her tendency to write about their trips within Italy the way academic historians write about battles made it all feel too tedious.  But I loved hearing about the house, the restoration, re-building the gardens, and harvesting the olives.  That took up about half the book, so I went with a down the middle rating of three stars.

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review 2018-01-27 10:07
The Bee Friendly Garden: Easy Ways to Help the Bees and Make Your Garden Grow
The Bee Friendly Garden: Easy Ways to Help the Bees and Make Your Garden Grow - Doug Purdie

I think I mentioned in a post just after Christmas that MT got me bees for Christmas.  An old schoolmate of his runs a beehive management business, and either Tuesday or Wednesday next week, after dark, he's delivering our hives to us.  MT has decreed that all the bees will be named Barry.  I've pointed out that all the worker bees are female, which temporarily stumped him.  I'm sure by the time I finish this review he'll have rallied.  Stay tuned.

 

Anyway, my garden is pretty close to jungle status as is, but I'm always looking for excuses to plant new things, and our bees need to feel welcomed.  But I know not all flowers are bee friendly (size, shape, and whether or not they make pollen/nectar), so I wanted a list of particular plants the bees would love.  Our bee guy recommended this book, and MT bought it for me for my birthday, and I guilted him into giving it to me a day early, because he also gave me this cold.

 

The Bee guy did not steer me wrong.  This is a great book for anyone who just wants to attract more bees to their garden.  It's a tiny bit preachy - he's (rightfully) passionate about NOT spraying your garden - but there's a lot of compelling reason to preach it.  Without bees we can kiss about 80% of our food goodbye and bees are in serious decline world wide.  

 

The Bee Friendly Garden is strongly geared toward Australia, primarily in the chapters where he discusses native bees (some of which are SO cool), but more than half the book would be useful to anyone, as a lot of the suggestions are geared toward the European honey bee and the plant lists are almost universal in their availability.

 

I now have a list of plants to look for at the nursery.  Now I just have to find a place to put them.  

 

Update:  MT has named all the bees Betty.

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review 2017-02-17 07:15
The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms
The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms - Amy Stewart

Yep.  Earthworms.  Unsung heroes.

 

Amy Stewart has become one of the few authors I'd wait in line for a signature for - have I mentioned that before?  She makes a great spokesperson for these unfairly maligned little earth movers.  In a chatty but informative style she covers the earthworms' role in history, agriculture, backyard gardening, forestry and even sewage treatment and soil reclamation.

 

Did you know that Australia has an earthworm that grows over 3 feet long, and when it moves around under the earth, farmers can hear a gurgling sound?  They're native to a farming area called Gippsland, here in Victoria, so of course I want to go and stand in the middle of a pasture like an idiot in hopes of hearing them gurgle along beneath me, while trying not to think of the movie Tremors.

 

There's no denying this is not a book for everyone.  But gardeners, environmentalists, and armchair scientists will all find something interesting and fascinating here.

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review 2017-02-06 05:21
From the Ground Up
From the Ground Up: The Story of A First Garden - Amy Stewart

There are not many authors out there about whom I can say I enjoy everything they write.  Amy Stewart is one of them.  She first came to my attention via Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities.  It was pretty interesting; enough so that I bought Wicked Bugs which left me with a few mental images I'm never going to be able to un-see, but it was worth it.  Then came The Drunken Botanist which I recommend to both gardeners and drinkers.

 

By this time I qualified as a fan, but when she came out with her first work of fiction: Girl Waits with Gun, I was hesitant.  I like to box my authors in - fiction or non-fiction - and tend to assume (wrongly, I know) that I'll enjoy one or the other, but not both.  But I loved Girl Waits with Gun and at this point, I figured she could write no wrong, so I searched out pretty much everything she wrote and ordered it.

 

From the Ground Up is one of her earlier works, (2001) and it's a pleasant little tome; a memoir of her first garden.  New to gardening and with a small back yard of bare, packed, clay, she decides to jump in with both feet and build a garden.  From the Ground Up is a chronicle of that first year.

 

This is truly a memoir for gardeners; nothing more or less.  She isn't trying to entertain her reader, or search out a greater meaning, or instruct fellow garden newbies (although each chapter ends with a small 1-2 page section of suggestions pertaining to that chapter's subject).  It's a pleasant read and the joy of it is in relating to her experiences with starting a garden from scratch; the impatience that bypasses rational thought and planning, and the angst over first experiences with garden pests.  Later chapters turn a shade more philosophical, which is perfectly fitting as a garden winds down for the winter.

 

If you'd call yourself a gardener - let's say a laid back gardener (competitive gardeners would find this book tedious) - and you see this book, it's worth taking a look.  Stewart is a wonderful writer and she captures that first year garden perfectly.

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