Thursday, March 29, 2007

1st Review of Tropical Horticulture and Gardening

Three months after publication, the first review of Tropical Horticulture and Gardening has been published. It is by JF Veldkamp and MMJ van Balgooy of the University of Leiden, in the Flora Malesiana Bulletin Vol 14 of March 1007, pages 60-62. Unusually for a joint review, the two authors wrote separate opinions. They pointed out several errors and took issue with the author over several points. But their verdict was favourable. Veldkamp thought my history of plant domestication was 'brief but informative', my introduction to nomenclature 'clear and helpful' and my chapter on morphology 'lucid'. Nomenclature and morphology are what students in botany sleep through in botany class. Of course, Veldkamp and Balgooy are professors, not students, but it is good to know that the professors approve of what I wrote. Balgooy says "In my opinion this is the best and most complete treatment on tropical gardening in SE Asia ever written."
Thank you, thank you.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Gardening for Beginners

My son John has moved into a new house in Kuala Lumpur. He used to live in a condominium. Now he has land for gardening: a strip in the front and a rectangle in the back. John's neighbours are doing their gardens, and it is interesting to see all the different kinds of ideas being implemented by proud houseowners who are probably gardening for the first time.

John complains that my book Tropical Horticulture and Gardening is of little use to him and other absolute beginners. I have to confess I did not write the book for absolute beginners. I also found that house builders do not provide for gardeners. I had to have a water tap installed at the back, drainage holes drilled through the back wall, and a proper soil mixture spread over the ground, not to mention the stones we had to dig out. We bought stone slabs for a garden path and John laid a path with the slabs arranged left and right in two parallel lines. I told him normal people walk by putting one foot in front of the other, and rearranged the slabs in a single line. For an instant garden, we bought flowering plants at their peak. Among them were the daisy-like Melampodiun paludosum, which, I warned, would only last one or two months, but would produce seeds and seedlings. A month later as the plants started to fade, John complained about the weeds he was having to pull out from the flower bed. The 'weeds' turned out to be seedlings of Melampodium paludosum.

OK, so a book for beginners has to be very different from the one I wrote. Also, Melampodium paludosum is too much of a mouthful, and needs a suitable nickname. Maybe in a year's time we will have something ready for testing on beginners. By that time, John will have graduated to the next level.