Garden Gear - Gardening Books

Book Review: Making More Plants

Making More Plants: The Science, Art and Joy of Propagation,
by Ken Druse; Clarkson Potter;
hardcover; 256 pages;

The animal researchers busy cloning sheep, goats and cows have nothing on plant scientists, if Ken Druse's new book is any indication. It seems there's practically no part of a plant that's not amenable to making more plants.

Druse is a popular American gardening author and photographer, and he utilizes both skills in his new book, based on his experience during the past five years spent propagating plants on a property outside New York City. His writing is accessible and personable, and there's plenty of detail in the lengthy captions with his clear and occasionally stunning photos, many of which serve as step-by-step illustrations of various techniques.

After an overview of the science of propagation, Druse begins with a discussion of flowers and seeds. In separate chapters, he discusses methods of collecting, conditioning and sowing seeds. However, seeds are only part of the story. Most of the book deals with the range of reproduction practices, including layering, grafting and dividing, using cuttings, geophytes (bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes) and roots.

Throughout, he enlivens his discussion with numerous examples of common plants and his experiences as well as those of other propagators. Wary of trying to peg specific dates, Druse refers only to "early spring" or "midsummer," trusting readers to know enough about their local climate and their garden to judge when the time -- and the plant -- is ripe.

Particularly useful is Druse's guide to propagating more than 700 plants, including techniques and cultural information on conditioning, temperature and timing. His information usually applies to all members of a genus, although he includes special cultural notes for such genera as Hibiscus, whose species may be hardy, tender, woody or herbaceous.

The book also contains a common-Latin name cross reference list, a propagator's glossary and a bibliography. Referring to the latter, Druse writes, "No book seemed to capture the beauty of plants and their propagation, or to impart the sense of wonder that comes from participating in nature's schemes." Those words might sound arrogant, except that Druse has indeed succeeded in conveying both beauty and wonder in this new volume.
-- Andrew Vowles

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