Harper Collins Publishers, March 2015. 416 pages, paperback, black and white illustrations.
Combining both curiosity and a playful spirit, this engaging book provides an anecdotal tutorial on the fascinating science of plants. After pruning a kumquat tree with the best of intentions, Kassinger watched as it proceeded to turn 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. This 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 combating 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.