Hobhouse ( Gardens of Europe ), a sort of green grande dame, has a rather grand gardening opus here: while she demurs that ``no actual records exist of garden layouts before the second millennium BC,'' she does her best to trace the history of gardening from its assumed Egyptian sources to the present. (The Egyptians, like all gardeners, had their problems. In 1470 B.C., Queen Hatsepshut moved 31 frankincense trees to her temple from Somalia. They died.) The virtues of this book are precision, modesty, detail, scope, good design and great illustrations--the full-color reproductions of the Unicorn Tapestries, where small flowers entwine dark shadows, and of Botticelli's La Primavera , adorned with 40 blooming species, are superb. And it's refreshing to see North American gardens featured, as well as exemplary Continental and English kinds. Hobhouse works chronologically, taking a chapter each to discuss Islamic, medieval, Renaissance, Italian, French and English traditions, and finally one aimed at the achievements of our century. Her book will entice those who don't garden and confirm those who already do. (Mar.)
This is a lush survey of gardening from ancient Egypt to the present by one of England's foremost gardener/writers. This book differs from other garden history surveys in its emphasis on plant introductions and their influence on garden styles, country by country and century by century. Profusely illustrated, it is beautiful, well reasearched, and entertainingly written. However, its content is weighted toward British gardens and gardeners, with the final two chapters covering North American horticulture (not thoroughly enough). Also, the garden history of the Far East is not included. In content and scope, this most resembles (yet surpasses) Julia Berrall's The Garden: An Illustrated History (Viking/Penguin, 1966. o.p.) A worthwhile addition for most public and horticulture libraries.-- Laura Lipton, Miller Horticulture Lib., Seattle
It seems that Penelope Hobhouse's books are endless. Her new one--as the subtitle says--is an illustrated history of plants and garden styles, tracing the evolution of styles by focusing on the plants. This elegant book has 200 color and 175 black-and-white illustrations and photographs. The author begins with the origins of gardening in the West more than 4,000 years ago in the Mediterranean basin that stretched from the desert of North Africa to the valley of the Euphrates, the so-called cradle of civilization. From there she focuses on such times and places as the gardens of Islam, medieval gardens of Christendom, gardens of the Italian Renaissance, eighteenth-century English landscapes, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century horticulture. A coffee-table book to be sure, but truly the definitive account of gardening through history.