Did you know that would-be brides used to run around holly trees to make their husbands magically appear? Or that the cowslip flower is said to have bloomed after St. Peter accidentally dropped the keys to heaven? What about the unexpectedly dark and twisted legend behind the delicate, starry blossoms of the forget-me-not? Floriography, authored and gorgeously illustrated by Jessica Roux, is one of those rare finds that's packaged as a light, novelty gift, but is secretly a one-of-a-kind read that's both enlightening and a bit coquettish. Each page introduces a different flower: its scientific and colloquial names, origin myth and historical uses, and what to pair it with to express everything from "newfound affection" to "displeasure at an outcome."
What is a garden? Is gardening a visual art? And can a place, in all its dynamism, be captured forever in a still image? Just as gardens are a "tame" form of nature, so is photography, it must be admitted, a cultivated form of reality. It's this prodding of beautiful artifice that makes The Photographer in the Garden one of the most arresting explorations in the visual arts to be published this year, as thought-provoking as it is lush and suited to a pleasant armchair amble.
Rodale's 21st Century Herbal serves as a handy encyclopedia with a variety of history, therapeutic and culinary uses, and harvesting guidelines aiming to promote the inner gardener or herbalist. Expanding on the resurgence of herbal interest, Balick addresses the rapidly-growing Western involvement with centuries-old plants and its contemporary uses. Whether a casual enthusiast or an experienced herbalist, this collection can be used as a handy reference on a daily basis in terms of the plants and remedies addressed.