Published: 04 November 2013
'Cultivar' The Story of Man-Made Plants
In his second book, Peter Thoday takes us on an eleven thousand year journey to tell the fascinating story of how humans have manipulated plants for our own benefit.
In his second book, Peter Thoday takes us on an eleven thousand year journey to tell the fascinating story of how humans have manipulated plants for our own benefit.  
Throughout the story there are glimpses into the developments of both edible crops and ornamental species; from medieval farmsteads to city show benches and scientific genius’s to intrepid plant hunters. This is a great work giving an insight into an important part of our great horticultural heritage. 
In the introduction of ‘Cultivar – The Story of Man-Made Plants’, Peter Thoday gives an overview of what is to follow with many references to specific activities and time periods. There is a time line showing how humans have influenced key crop developments which indicates that humans have been pretty busy during the past few thousand years.

Changing Fashions

In chapter two he states that ‘Every civilisation has produced its plants people from among its growers, botanists and just plain plant admires’. When referring to plant collectors in relation to the changing fashions of plants and plant uses Peter quotes, ‘Such fashions both encourage the cultivation of cultivars and stimulates the breeding of more’ This concept can be applied to both edible and ornamental plants for human consumption, garden displays and the show bench.
Chapters three, four and five may appear technically daunting for many new gardeners; however the enormous amounts of useful information written on plant naming and classification, the introduction to the biology of cultivars and the development of early crops. When these chapters are read together readers will get a better understanding of how different aspects of the plant world fit together.  
The historical aspects of what we grow and the developments achieved by man are explained in chapters six and seven. Readers will see lists and details of plants grown and used from medieval times through to the 16th century, this information may appear of little use to many, however when seen in the context of the increasing number of historical sites now being planted up as ‘authentic’ interpretations of their period these details are invaluable to those involved or to those visiting to see the results. 
The opening up of the global movements and trading in plants has had a major impact on the greater diversity and increased  numbers of plants available to an even wider audience and markets and these points are examined in chapter ten.

Invaluable Reference

Plant conservation issues are raised in chapter fourteen, these will be of interests to everyone involved with and interested in the survival of plant species.
The Bibliography covers fourteen pages and contains the titles that Peter Thoday has quoted from, or referred to in order to write this book. It should be seen as an invaluable reference source for anyone wishing to study further the fascinating story that Peter has compiled for us.
Title: Cultivar – The story of man-made plants
Author:  Peter Thoday
Published by: Thoday Associates
ISBN: 978-0-9557033-1-7
Price: £15.00 inc. P & P
Availability email:
Peter Thoday’s first book ‘Two Blades of Grass’ was reviewed by The Gardening Times on 13/09/2013
Reported by Chris Allen  

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