cloth, 325 pp., $22.95
This entertaining book is fast–paced, following Queen Elizabeth (1533–1603) and her adventures with Robert Dudley (1532–88), Earl of Leicester, and William Cecil (1521–98), Baron Burghley. Thanks to Martyn’s inventive tale, gardens, plants, and trees play a large part in the history of these characters, including the notable efforts of John Gerard (1545–1612), the most famous Elizabethan plant specialist most closely remembered for his work on Burghley’s gardens. This book, which was first published in 2008 by Faber and Faber in London as Elizabeth in the Garden, is wide-ranging, discussing the influences of Italian garden design and the introduction of exotic plants like the potato into England, all at breathtaking speed. Certainly, this reissue could have improved with a few illustrations from William Turner’s (d. 1568) or Gerard’s herbals, both of which were well known to Elizabeth and her companions and colleagues. For a quick introduction to the state of plants, gardens, and the Court, this book will suffice. For those needing less excitement, they may prefer to consult Margaret Willes’ The Making of the English Gardener: Plants, Books and Inspiration 1560–1660 (Yale University Press, 2011).
— Edward J. Valauskas, Curator of Rare Books, Lenhardt Library, Chicago Botanic Garden