"A horticultural tale of love, lust, and lunacy."
This year I read Orchid Fever, by Eric Hansen, and it was a great way to see orchids in a whole new light as I went through the NYBG's annual orchid show this past spring.
Just as valuable as the books that teach us how to care for plants are the ones that teach us how to be fascinated by them. This is a great selection to bring along to the beach or the park this summer.
More on the book (and a few more cymbidium photos from the 2008 orchid show) after the jump...
"They have come twelve thousand miles to look at a flower?" Bati asked me in Malay.
"It is true," I replied.
"Can you eat this flower" Katong asked.
"Is it used for medicine?"
"What do they want to do with this flower?"
"Take photographs and measure leaves."
"And how much have these men paid to come look at the flower?"
"About $3500 each," I said.
Having established these basic facts, Bati and Katong retreated into a special Penan silence that suggests indifference or nonchalance, but in fact is an expression of profound disbelief.
The story starts with an excursion to see a rare orchid in bloom, the first example of the lengths people will go to for these jewel-like plants. And as each chapter unfolds the reader learns more of the heated politics and international law, the people that salivate over each variety, the conservationists, the growers - even perfume manufacturers. Character by character you learn another colorful (and often humorous) layer to the complex world of orchids. And woven through these accounts we learn fascinating traits of orchid varieties, from blossom descriptions that sound like they are ripped from the pages of romance novels to truly unique pollination methods.
You will never look at your orchid from Trader Joe's the same way again. The book was as entertaining as it was informative; even before I finished reading I found myself pushing it on many friends who have never expressed interest in the plant world (secretly hoping this might be the one book that hooks them!).
Random House has the book available, along with an interview with the author here.
Amazon.com also has the book, as long as many positive reviews, which you can read to find out even more.
And finally, you can also contact the author directly. Eric Hansen was kind enough to provide his e-mail here for anyone who would like to purchase an autographed copy.
matt at apartment therapy dot com