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on 15 November 2001
This is a lovely book that makes a perfect present for anyone who is interested in history, or plants or art. Some of the illustrations are quite exquisite.
Each century from the 11th to the 20th has its own chapter with significant dates listed at the beginning. The history of England is then intertwined with the history of plants and the stories of the people who discovered them. In the chapter on the Normans, for instance, Maggie Campbell-Culver tells us that the Wild Carnation or Clove Pink is thought to have been brought over from France after the Norman Conquest with the building stone brought from Caen for the construction of William's castles.
The illustrations range from engravings, through beautifully reproduced illuminated manuscripts to exquisite pen and inks and watercolours.
I have already bought two copies for friends and now intend to buy one for myself.
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This is an extensively researched and well-written book that investigates how garden plants arrived in England. The writer, a respected garden historian and fellow of the Linnean Society, has chosen to divide her material into centuries. She sets the scene with a look at Roman and Anglo-Saxon approaches to gardening and plants, then gets into more detail about plant immigrants, starting with the first century of the second millennium.
To put the reader more clearly in the picture the writer starts each chapter (century) with a list of significant dates so we can see how historical events influenced the arrival of plants. In the twelfth century, for example, plant introductions were influenced by the Crusades as plants were brought to Britain from the eastern Mediterranean region.
But this is not just a book about plants; it’s also about the people associated with them. Sir Thomas More, for example, who in his book Utopia envisaged a town where everyone had a garden around their home.
New plants are still arriving in England from around the world. A “living fossil” tree was discovered in Australia in 1994. Its Latin name is Wollemia nobilis (it was found by David Noble) and it is known as the Dinosaur pine. Plants have been arriving from every continent for centuries and shared back and forth especially to Europe and the US. Just as many new plants went from the New World to brighten English gardens, so seeds and plants were taken to North America by English settlers to create gardens in their new homeland.
If you enjoy reading about the background and history of plants, who found them and how they came to us, you will enjoy this book. It has a very decent bibliography and deserves a place in every plantsman’s (and woman’s) library.
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on 27 May 2009
Such an interesting subject and I have laboured on with this book because the facts are fascinating. However, it has taken me over a month (forever in terms of how quickly I read) and I typically can only read short chunks here and there because the fascinating subject has been rendered pretty dull by the writing style.

What it lacks is fluid, colourful writing that weaves the facts into a compelling narrative, and where anecdote is introduced it feels very jarred - like the author isn't comfortable moving away from the facts in their driest sense.

I think it is more successful as a factual reference book than as an entertaining light read - you have to be pretty into the subject to keep turning the pages of this one.
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on 2 March 2010
An informative and interesting book which makes a delightful gift for anyone interested in gardening.
It is probably not a book to read through in one go but is an ideal 'coffee table' book or for bedtime reading.
It has been well researched and the format makes reading easy. Overall first class.
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on 7 September 2013
I already own this book and bought this one for a friend. We are both keen gardeners and trained botanists and we found this very interesting. The book is superbly researched, well written and very well organised. It proceeds by century, and at the end of each chapter is a list of events and introductions of plants to Britain in that century.

Fascinating to learn of the trials and tribulations of early plant collectors to bring the Britain plants we now take for granted
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on 28 June 2014
Great details on some of the key horticultural people and plants throughout the centuries. Reads well and builds a good picture of key developments in gardening history and culture in Britain. Needs time to read through and absorb. Got this second hand at a bargain price.
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on 3 February 2014
This is a good read, if you are interested in how plants came into this country. However I it didn't use British references often enough for me, but you will find out when known in Italy [for example] or elsewhere and will probably get hooked on it like me!
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on 28 September 2009
GREAT BOOK . GOOD CONDITION
LOVED IT AM DIPPING INTO IT ALL THE TIME
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on 12 May 2010
Maggie Campbell -Culver has achieved a balance between an extremely sound knowledge and understanding of plants, history and approachable writing style. Britain's garden history is a work of high scholarship and expertise combined with a style that is entertaining and very readable. Very very interesting... go for it.
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on 30 March 2016
A fascinating read. One to keep dipping into. Written in an easy reading style, not a text book. A lot of interesting facts I never knew. So pleased I got it for my gardening book shelf.
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