A Year in the Life of Kew Gardens
Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
FIRST it was Richmond Park. Then came the town of Richmond itself. Now, in A Year in the Life of Kew Gardens, it’s the world-famous botanical gardens that get the Joanna Jackson treatment. And this latest work is everything we’ve come to expect from a young lady who clearly loves what she does – why else would it be so good.
With over a million visitors each year, Kew Gardens are undoubtedly one of London’s most popular attractions. But they’re more than just an inspiration for gardeners. The Royal Botanical Gardens are also steeped in history and more importantly perhaps, they hold an unchallenged position as the world’s leading botanical research institute.
A Year in the Life of Kew Gardens explores each of these three very different aspects without ever losing sight of its promise to view the entire year, season by lovely season. And what better way than through Jackson’s superb images.
Starting with Winter and snowy gardenscapes guaranteed to make you shiver even in the comfort of your own armchair, Jackson takes us on a magical journey through Spring, Summer and finally Autumn with its vibrant foliage and golden sunsets .
But what makes A Year in the Life of Kew Gardens so striking, is Jackson’s stylish layout, particularly with regards to colour. Take, for example, Spring. Here, she has matched, rather than mixed, her colours and to great effect – as pages of blue (grape hyacinth, anemone and scilla), yellow (daffodils) and white (cherry blossom and wisteria) testify.
It’s difficult to believe now but in the late 1830s Kew was falling into disrepair through neglect and lack of funding. Its road to recovery, begun in 1841 when Sir William Hooker was employed as the first full-time Director of Kew Gardens, makes fascinating reading.
As for its research programme, did you know that Kew was responsible for transporting cinchona trees from the Amazon to India? On the surface, it might seem frivolous but delve a little deeper and you will discover that quinine, which is used to prevent malaria, can be extracted from the bark of the trees. This was, of course, particularly important in the 17th century when many European troops were stationed in the tropics.
A Year in the Life of Kew Gardens is a beautiful book and a fitting tribute to these wonderful gardens. And with Christmas coming, you couldn’t ask for a nicer present.
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