Plantsman's Paradise (Travels in China), Roy Lancaster
Roy Lancaster’s journeys in China were described in ‘Travels in China’, which appeared in 1989, a milestone publication and one of the most sought-after plant-hunting books of all time. The book under review is a new edition under a new title but the reader would be quite wrong to imagine that this is the same work in disguise. Instead we have a wholly new and updated version, much expanded and with a great deal more fresh material. It is a magnum opus in every sense and no lightweight read, for it is a hefty tome. Throughout it is illustrated with hundreds and hundreds of enticing photographs of views, people and plants, the great majority taken by the author.
All those who know the author personally or who have attended one of his packed lectures will have met a charming and companionable person with boundless enthusiasm, numerous anecdotes and, above all, a great passion for his subject. All this comes across in this breath-taking volume, which is not only an absorbing read, but also an important source of reference, as well as a monumental record of journeys made and plants seen. The journeys described in China are enticingly entitled ‘The Hills of Beijing’, ‘Sacred Emei Shan’, ‘City of Eternal Spring’ (Kunming, Yunnan), ‘In the Footsteps of Forrest’, ‘The Peak and the Poppy’ (Minya Konka, Sichuan), ‘North of the Yangtse’ and ‘The Long White Mountains’ (Changbai Shan, Jilin, NE China). These, forming the heart of the book, are followed by various appendices (the ones on ‘Chinese Place Names’ and ‘Botanists, Plant Explorers and Others Associated with the Chinese Flora’ are particularly useful) and indices covering plants, arboreta and gardens, people, locations and general information.
Everyone who enjoys travel, has a passion for plants, or likes a good and enjoyable read will want to own this weighty, yet very reasonably priced book. It is a mighty record of endeavour and will be a source of wonder for years to come.
Plantsman’s Paradise (Travels in China) by Roy Lancaster. 511pp, 1000+ photos, 7 maps. Garden Art Press, an imprint of The Antique Collector’s Club Ltd, 2008. ISBN 978-
1-85149-515-3. Price £39.95.
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