Author(s): Alison Syme
Reaktion Books | No Category
Haunters of waterways and guardians of hedgerows; jewels of the garden and common companions in the fields: willows are at once the most poetic and practical of plants. For millennia they have played a key role in cultures across the northern hemisphere, forming baskets, furniture, fences and walls; treating illnesses; and becoming objects of artistic celebration in Monet's paintings and Shakespeare's tragedies. The genus Salix is now increasingly used for soil stabilization and biofuel, highlighting willows' continued importance in the present day. Willow tells the rich tale of this many-sided plant, exploring its presence in literature, art and human history. Linked with life and death, grief and joy, toil and play, necessity and ornament, the willow has, in different times and places, functioned as a mirror of and participant in almost every facet of human existence. Although willows have been put to manifold practical uses, Alison Syme argues powerfully that we must also heed their poetic lessons: willows have much to teach us about living, dying and loving, hybridizing and enriching our world and protecting the environment. This well-illustrated book leads us from Monet's willows to Tang poetry, and from uses in medicine to environmental protection, in a seamless account of the special place this tree holds in world culture. Willow will appeal to anyone interested in gardens, the environment or the cultural history of plants.
“This book feels good in the hand in every way. . . . Combined with the quality of information inside, this makes it a collector’s item for the serious tree lover as well as a hard-wearing handbook for the professional. One in a series of titles, each describing a single species in depth, Willow is highly informative yet still a pleasure to sit down and read, chapter by chapter. . . . Syme is an able author as well as a profound authority. Her writing style conveys a huge amount of information in a readable, even entertaining format, and her researches into willow in world culture span the globe, reaching into idiosyncratic creations in smaller countries as well as the famous cultural leaders. . . . Anyone interested in trees, or even just in willows, cannot fail to be entertained, informed, and satisfied with everything this book offers. I can thoroughly recommend it.”
- Living Woods Magazine (JC BookGrocer)
Alison Syme is associate professor in the Departments of Art and Visual Studies at the University of Toronto.