Richard Milne is a senior lecturer in the school of Biology at the University of Edinburgh. He is a keen field botanist with an interest in creative writing.
An enlightening and accessible account of a sometimes maligned genus, covering its evolution, cultural significance, and social impact. . . . Filled with engaging anecdotes about the exploits of early plant collectors and the motley group of plant breeders who fed the public appetite for rhododendrons. . . . Milne has the skill to communicate his knowledge clearly. He writes with a light touch and with a passion that makes the book accessible to gardeners who do not share his botanical background. --Gardens Illustrated For most of their existence, rhododendrons (and azaleas--their better-known brethren) have been the botanical equivalent of wallpaper. Milne provides 235 color photographs; yet so seductive are the money shots that not one shows a plant not in bloom. The urgency of the demand for such images is driven home by two facing pages that show 40 different blossoms. After a slow but necessary explanation of hybridization and taxonomic protocols, Milne methodically takes the reader through the plant's history in Britain; the creation of cultivars ('he crossed everything with rhododendrons except the chickens'); the story of weary collectors battling ocean-going pirates, recalcitrant bureaucrats, spies, armies, and monsters (although Milne cheekily admits that 'true monsters are, and always have been, human'); and the literary and artistic legacy of these plants in Asia and Europe. The author makes 527 referenced citations, provides an index with 401 entries, and lists associations and websites for those whose appetite for rhododendron flowers is not yet sated. Recommended. --Choice