Tim Richardson

Beauty And The Beasts

Weeds: How Vagabond Plants Gatecrashed Civilisation and Changed the Way We Think About Nature


Profile Books 324pp £15.99 order from our bookshop

The Rose: A True History


Atlantic Books 544pp £75 order from our bookshop

Both of these books have impossibly ambitious subtitles. Richard Mabey's book about weeds is essentially a straight history of these unloved denizens of both garden and wasteland, notwithstanding his extravagant contention that these are plants which have fundamentally changed the way we think about nature. Jennifer Potter's thick book about roses is not necessarily much 'truer' than other recent histories of the flower, though with its gilded fore-edges (an extravagance usually reserved only for Bibles), it resembles a gold bar and possibly weighs almost as much (a less lavish edition is available exclusively through Waterstones for £30). Yet both volumes have much to commend them.

Mabey's argument is that weeds are a paradigm of society's (and by this I think he means Western society's) attitudes towards nature. He suggests that our antipathy towards these 'plants in the wrong place' – as

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