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A Passion for Trees

Plant History

A Passion for Trees

"Maggie Campbell-Culver, like Pepys (though, of course, without the naughty bits) is fun. Her latest book, A Passion for Trees: the Legacy of John Evelyn, takes Evelyn's Sylva as its starting point and produces an entertaining monograph on each of the principal trees he discusses. Beautifully produced and illustrated, A Passion for Trees is Campbell-Culver at her best. Alder arcana, quirky facts about the quercus, plain truths on the plane - the book will prompt the reader to say "well, I never knew that" or "how on earth did 
she find this out?" 

Indeed, the reader will find an excellent life and assessment of Evelyn in the opening to Campbell-Culver’s book. What is more, ...., A Passion for Trees (while providing the necessary biographical framework) treats Evelyn thematically, discussing, for example, Evelyn’s work at Sayes Court, his fame as a garden writer and his influence as a garden adviser, as separate topics in a much more sensible way of dealing with a person who had a long life but one readily compartmentalised. Also, ...., Campbell-Culver includes succinct descriptions of the Royal Society (...) and the Council of Trade and Foreign Plantations, in both of which Evelyn played an important part. 

All the topics in Sylva, both the chapters on individual species and the chapters on arboreal husbandry, are treated first in Evelyn’s own terms and then historically, with emphasis on the development of knowledge and techniques since the 17th century. Even the law relating to trees is covered (handily, the author is married to a lawyer - often the case with garden writers). 

Even if you know nothing and care less about John Evelyn (or possibly, like 1066 And All That, believe that Evelyn was really Pepys's wife), A Passion for Trees will delight and fascinate you."
Review by Richard B Mawrey, August 2007.


A PASSION for TREES, there can be no better place to begin a celebration of our trees than with John Evelyn. This luminary of the seventeenth century was not only one of the founders of The Royal Society, gardener, diarist and royal adviser, but he was also the author of a number of exceptional horticultural works. The greatest of these is 'Sylva: a Discourse of Forest Trees', published in 1664. The product of the nation's urgent need for more timber, Sylva is also among the first books in English to show an appreciation of the decorative value of trees and the benefits of planting trees to shape the landscape.

Maggie Campbell-Culver's book could be described as a stroll through the woods in the company the great man, as between them they give us portraits of over thirty of our best-loved trees, their peculiar characteristics, history and uses. Evelyn's work speaks to us as much now as it did to his contemporaries; as his influence echoes down the centuries, he emerges as a precursor of the present-day environmental movement. While the practical and aesthetic uses of trees may have altered a little, our need to appreciate our trees and to preserve and manage our woodlands remains as crucial today as ever.

Written to celebrate the life and work of the famous diarist and in commemoration of the tercentenary of his death, A PASSION for TREES follows John Evelyn’s much acclaimed 'Sylva, A Discourse of Forest Trees' of 1664 and concentrates on the native trees that he introduced to the public.
A Passion for Trees
origin of plants, plant names, plant introductions, trees, tree planting, English gardens, origin of British plants, plant world, Mount Edgcumbe,  horticulture, john evelyn, charlemagne, gardening history, british flora The Eden Project, Garden Media Guild, Maggie Campbell Culver, trees
John Evelyn 1687
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