A Garden of Marvels

A Garden of Marvels : How We Discovered that Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants

3.83 (321 ratings by Goodreads)
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Combing the curiosity of The Botany of Desire and the playful spirit of Wicked Plants, a witty and engaging history of botany and gardening memoir from the author of Paradise Under Glass-an easy-to-follow, anecdotal tutorial on the fascinating science of plants.

In Paradise Under Glass, Ruth Kassinger- a self-described "wanton killer of plants"-recounted with grace, humor, and poignancy her moving journey from brown thumb to green, sharing the lessons she learned building a home conservatory in the wake of a devastating personal crisis.

In A Garden of Marvels, she enhances and extends her story. While Kassinger successfully created her dream conservatory and rectified her initial gardening mistakes-the over-watering and under-fertilizing that often kill plants-she realized she had no idea what to do to help them thrive. Until she completely understood how plants actually worked, she couldn't know exactly what they needed.

In her friendly and reassuring voice Kassinger introduces the basic botany of plants-flowers, roots, stems, and leaves-and explains how they function together. Combining science and botanical knowledge with reflections on her personal quest to become a better gardener, and illustrated with more than two-dozen black and white drawings, Garden of Marvels is a journey of discovery that offers fresh and unexpected insights into the natural.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 416 pages
  • 135 x 203 x 24mm | 296g
  • William Morrow Paperbacks
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Reprint
  • black & white illustrations
  • 0062049011
  • 9780062049018
  • 1,603,331

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Back cover copy

"This book was born of a murder, a murder I committed," Ruth Kassinger begins. The victim was a beloved kumquat tree that she decided to prune. The result? The tree turned brittle and brown. Why did the kumquat die when a rose bush and a crape myrtle similarly clipped had thrived? 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 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 combatting climate change and alleviating world hunger. She then transfers her insights to her own garden.

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.
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Review quote

"A sumptuously written history of greenhouse horticulture." -- Entertainment Weekly "Ms. Kassinger's writing is chatty and intimate, but she has clearly done her library research." -- International Herald Tribune on Paradise Under Glass "The book [PARADISE UNDER GLASS] vividly chronicles her [Kassinger's] initiation into the world of indoor gardening as well as the fascinating and unlikely histories of greenhouses and the flamboyant gardens they have housed...Kassinger's lush writing and exotic stories will delight the armchair gardener and historian." -- Publishers Weekly "[M]y favorite gardening book of the year...But be warned... you might feel a need to start acquiring houseplants, or even a greenhouse." -- Boston Globe "Ms. Kassinger's writing is chatty and intimate, but she has clearly done her library research." -- New York Times Book Review on PARADISE UNDER GLASS "[A] pleasant ramble through the world of plants . . . Kassinger weaves a huge amount of information into what still feels like a personal memoir, and by the end of this effortless afternoon stroll with her, readers will be startled to realize how much they have learned." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review) on A GARDEN OF MARVELS "A self-taught, infectiously enthusiastic home gardener... intrepid journalist and indefatigable plants woman, Kassinger ferrets out the most entertaining and educational aspects of plant science with a researcher's fervor and a collector's zeal... Kassinger has a knack for uncovering horticulture's quirky side." -- Booklist on A GARDEN OF MARVELS "A delightful book, fun to read and share..." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review) on A GARDEN OF MARVELS "Kassinger has a knack for explaining without oversimplifying, so that xylem and phloem finally make sense, and the discovery of photosynthesis becomes an exciting event." -- Columbus Dispatch on A GARDEN OF MARVELS "Garden is a lively alternative to traditional botany books..." -- Discover magazine on A GARDEN OF MARVELS "...if you told me I was going to find a book on the history of plant physiology fascinating, I would have snorted. But there you have it: truth is stranger than fiction." -- Cold Climate Gardening on A GARDEN OF MARVELS "That [Kassinger] makes botany so approachable is a feat; that she makes it downright enthralling is almost as miraculous as an adorable photosynthesizing sea slug." -- Shelf Awareness on A GARDEN OF MARVELS "This is a delightful compendium of botanical discoveries." -- Meaghan Walsh Gerard of A Cineaste's Collection on A GARDEN OF MARVELS "...gardeners, if you're looking for a good read, I recommend the book. Yay science!" -- My Garden Group on A GARDEN OF MARVELS "This is an entertaining, sophisticated primer on botany itself..." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer on A GARDEN OF MARVELS "This delightful book is jammed with revelations on plant physiology, biology, and an array of botanical yarns that read like a Gothic page-turner... [a] fast-paced,highly readable book." -- The American Gardener magazine A Garden of Marvels is a delight." -- Bookslut on A GARDEN OF MARVELS
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About Ruth Kassinger

Ruth Kassinger is the author of Paradise Under Glass, as well as a number of award-winning science and history books for young adults. She has written for the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Health magazine, Science Weekly, and other publications.
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Rating details

321 ratings
3.83 out of 5 stars
5 26% (85)
4 38% (123)
3 28% (91)
2 6% (18)
1 1% (4)
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