At the turn of the 20th century, gardening was changing. Where formerly the plant had been the servant of the gardener, now the gardener was the servant of the plant. At the same time, gardening was turning from the pastime of dukes, to the recreation of millions. This new kind of gardening needed evangelists, but got more than it bargained for in the impossibly egotistical Reginald Farrer, whose passion for the most difficult of all plants, alpines, would nevertheless inspire generations of gardeners with a love of flowers with their own intrinsic beauty. “Half-poet, half-botanist”, as Vita Sackville West described him, he became one of the very greatest in the last great age of plant-hunters, and wrote books of unforgettable method and style. Through their influence, he did for English gardening what half a century later Elizabeth David would do for cooking, and changed everything for ever. This life of Reginald Farrer offers a window on the opulence and the drama of the world of Edwardian horticulture.
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