For the last few weeks I have been reading a really interesting book. Not so much a gardening book more of a who’s who and a what’s what. Confused ? You won’t be.
The book in question is ‘Geranium by Kasia Boddy ‘ Reaktion Books ISBN 978-78023-048-1
This beautifully written book charts the discovery, rise and fall and rise again of the red geranium as we know it today.
We all know the Pelargoniums, a diverse plant with many species and cultivars. This book however takes us through the history of the ever popular pot geranium, through poems, writings, art and of course the ubiquitous bedding that you either love or hate.
There are around 100 images, ranging from botanical drawings to seaside advertisements.
One picture caught my attention though. I had seen this before.
The picture showed an image of Pelargoium Fulgidum. It had been made by a Mary Delany in 1772. More on this in a moment.
For anyone interested in history, art and gardens this book would really appeal. I have certainly learned a lot from reading it. It is not just a book about facts and figures, it’s amusing, emotional and the sort of book you could read again, as there is such a lot to take in.
Now back to Mary Delany.
I think you would agree, she looks a formidable lady.She was born in 1700, survived being married off to a 60 year old drunken squire at the age of 16. On his death she only received a widows pension, but eventually picked herself up to marry again at 46. She had no children. She devoted her time to lots of crafts, as ladies of note usually did. So after her 2nd husband died in 1768, she embarked on her ‘Life’s Work ‘ at the age of 72.
The Paper Garden, Molly Peacock, Bloomsbury, ISBN978-1-4088-2938-7
Mary had seen the petals fall from a ‘Geranium’ Pelargonium Fulgidum, and noticing that they perfectly matched some chinese paper she had, started to snip away and cut petal shapes. These she pasted to a backing paper and so she started what became a collection of nearly 1000 botanical collages. Mary went to great pains to get the colours right, dyeing her own paper, even getting actual specimens from the plant hunters of the day.
Magnolia Grandiflora, August 26,1776.
Passiflora Laurifolia, August 1777.
I think you will agree that by looking at just the two pictures here, that Mary had great talent, and a good eye for the subject. The book contains around 10 of her pictures all so technically correct and with so much detail.
Today all the work of Mary Delany can be seen by appointment at the British Museum.I think you will agree that Mary had great fortitude, to start this work when perhaps she was frail and arthritic, at this great age of 72. Mary only stopped when her eyes failed her.
These two books, linked as they were, have given me inspiration and information by the bucket load. Maybe you have books that have given you something to think about. I’d like to know.