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A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered that Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 25, 2014


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A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered that Flowers Have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants + Mister Owita's Guide to Gardening: How I Learned the Unexpected Joy of a Green Thumb and an Open Heart
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Whether debunking the myth of the “vegetable lamb” borametz plant or cooing over the rippling lettuce-like appearance of the green sea slug, Kassinger proves that it truly is a jungle out there. A self-taught, infectiously enthusiastic home gardener, Kassinger nevertheless realized that a more formal understanding of botany would be necessary if she were to prevent turning her horticultural hits into misses. But who said such a pursuit had to be boring? There were all manner of great stories hidden in the cabbage patch, from the daredevil biographies of botanists of yore to the mysterious manifestations of plant sex. An 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. From instructions on how to grow a giant pumpkin and then convert it into a regatta-worthy sailing vessel (along with discovering why someone would even want to), Kassinger has a knack for uncovering horticulture’s quirky side. --Carol Haggas

Review

“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 andphloem 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)

A Garden of Marvels is a delight.” (Bookslut on A GARDEN OF MARVELS)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow (February 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062048996
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062048998
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

When I'm not writing about the history, science, and pleasures of gardening, I'm taking care of the dozens of plants -- citrus trees, figs, coffee bushes, pineapples, and lots of other tropicals -- in my home conservatory. In the background of my author photo is my living wall, an eight-foot tall vertical garden of tropicals that waters itself four times a day. (Instructions are in the appendix to Paradise Under Glass.) Contact me via my Facebook page or visit my website. Looking for a speaker for your gardening club or garden-related event? Look for me on GreatGardenSpeakers.com.

Customer Reviews

A well written book that educates while it entertains.
Edward Alexander Gerster
As an amateur gardener who has learned how to grow some plants by killing many ... I have always resisted learning the science behind gardening.
Beverley C. Lumpkin
Kassinger opens with a brief overview of how the sciences had tackled more out-of-reach topics, like constellations and orbits.
M. GERARD

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By J. Hartley on March 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Ruth Kassinger has done a great job of exploring the mysterious internal workings of plants in a way that is both engaging and entertaining.

I received it as a gift from my local library and was skeptical at first as to how much I'd get out of it. I'm an educator for a public garden, so I rather arrogantly assumed most of what I would find here would be old news to me. I can, after all, correctly use words like xylem and phloem in a sentence; if this book is the laymen's first peek into botany, I fully expected to be bored.

I was clearly due for a serious humbling, which is probably obvious. Ms. Kassinger was just the woman for the job. She hooked me immediately with an exploration of botanical myths and an overview of why botany -- which mankind has at least understood to be fundamental to all life on some level for centuries -- went largely misunderstood and under-explored for a long time. She weaves wonderful personal accounts in and out of her exploration of plant tissues and their workings, and touches on issues that may not have yet fully hit the public consciousness -- like the use of perennial crops instead of annuals -- but should and hopefully will very soon.

I highly recommend this book to everyone -- even if it means I'm no longer the only one in the room who knows the difference between collenchyma and sclerenchyma and I lose my Look-How-Plant-Smart-I-Am edge in cocktail party smalltalk. This was a fun read, full of great stories and information worth thinking about.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By D.Landon.Felix on December 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a landscape architect student who was looking for a book to read why taking a plant identification course. I'd saved a sample of this book after reading a New York Times book review a year or more ago. The time was right so I downloaded and read it. Kissinger kept me interested in plants and their scientific history; thus, even keeping my class more interesting. She sometimes rambles on about her life history in trying to introduce some concepts - I skipped these chapters, but otherwise the book is very easy to read while packed with a lot of information I didn't know. If you're a botanist or a plant geek, this book isn't for you (too basic), but if you're looking to start increasing you knowledge of plants, this is a decent place to start.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Life is a continuing mystery in every facet of detail. The author has punctuated this fact through a compelling account of her personal journey of research from being a black-thumb novice plant lover, to one of the world's foremost self-trained botanists. Her journey is both fascinating and, at the same time, highly informative. From the novice home-gardener to MBS botanists, this book has something of interest for everyone concerned.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By kathleen krasity on July 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am a retired biology teacher and an avid gardener. I already know a lot about plants. However, Ms. Kassinger has expanded my knowledge in many areas,
I enjoyed learning about the evolution of the first flowering plants
Much closer to home, I found interesting the techniques used in Ontario greenhouses that grow the vegetables I eat all winter.
Of greater importance for us and our children, are plants being developed for biofuels that may well change our future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Thompson on April 28, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Ruth Kassinger has written a delightful book that is both accessible to the casual plant-lover and fascinating for the expert botanist. She opens with a brief overview of how the sciences tackled more out-of-reach topics like constellations and atomic stucture before ever approaching the study of plants, yes, its true. This history of botany is covered well in Anna Pavord's The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants, which I read a couple years ago and loved, so I was briefly worried that this book would simply re-tell that story. Thankfully, "A Garden of Marvels" covers enough scientific discoveries that were new to me, many about plant sex.

Kassinger is a wonderful storyteller like Pavord and Ruth Stout, particularly in teh way that she shares her personal taste for gardening indoors. While I treasure Stout's advice for mulch gardening in Gardening Without Work, Kassinger has had an amazing experience with exotic plants, which I hope to enjoy some day!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By kadonne on June 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like a college botany course but a lot better. The author offers personal anecdotes that make the life of plants very interesting.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. GERARD on May 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a delightful compendium of botanical discoveries — and how they’ve shaped human history. Kassinger opens with a brief overview of how the sciences had tackled more out-of-reach topics, like constellations and orbits. Ancient Greek attempted to understand atomic structure. But plants had been left out of much of the study.

She writes:

Uncovering the laws of celestial mechanics, where measurements and equations reveal truths, was easier than understand an onion. ~ Loc. 167

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By laura on September 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I thoroughly enjoyed this book about unique plants and Learned quite a bit about early scientists too. I like the fact that you can read a few chapters and then put it down without worrying about forgetting what you read, as each chapter is unique. The author definitely did her research before writing this book and is very knowledgeable. Would highly recommend!
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