Book Review – The Cabaret of Plants by Richard Mabey

The Cabaret of Plants Botany and the Imagination
By Richard Mabey
ISBN: 978-186-1976-62-8
Published by Profile Books

The Cabaret of Plants Botany And The Imagination by Richard Mabey is published by Profile Books.
The Cabaret of Plants Botany And The Imagination by Richard Mabey is published by Profile Books.

Throughout The Cabaret of Plants, Richard Mabey’s eloquent and detailed descriptions illuminate the beauty of the plant world for the reader. With reflections from Richard’s own lifetime of experiences of the plant world, together with references and information about the findings and studies of other botanical researchers through time, Richard Mabey has gathered together stories of interest and fascination to delight every reader.

Prepare to be enlightened as to some of the interesting and exciting developments as they unfold throughout time, in the understanding of plants and plant science, from the earliest maize breeders to plant scientists; learn about the magical significance of some plants, discover more of the impact of the studies and the resulting discoveries of specific plants and their amazing, surprising capabilities, including water lilies, passionflowers, carnivorous plants, yew trees, orchids, the Titan arum and others.

The beautiful photographs in 'The Cabaret of Plants Botany and The Imagination' will excite and enthuse the reader.
The beautiful photographs in ‘The Cabaret of Plants Botany and The Imagination’ will excite and enthuse the reader.

The Cabaret of Plants is an intriguing book, with much of the information and anecdotes included, as you’d expect given the book’s title, to amuse and excite the reader; it is also poignant, touching, and tenderly written. Richard Mabey gives us a personal insight into his relationship with his friend and colleague, the late Tony Evans, describing how they worked together to achieve the often long-awaited attainment of the most symbolic photographs, after searching for the very best examples of each plant species to achieve the fruition of their works which they created together.

The accompanying artwork featured in 'The Cabaret of Plants Botany and The Imagination' beautifully illustrates the text. Here an image of a seventeenth century illustration of the 'Vegetable Lamb' by Matthäu's Merian the Younger depicts a mythical plant of the era.
The accompanying artwork featured in ‘The Cabaret of Plants Botany and The Imagination’ beautifully illustrates the text. Here an image of a seventeenth century illustration of the ‘Vegetable Lamb’ by Matthäu’s Merian the Younger depicts a mythical plant of the era.

The reflections of the many types of art featured in The Cabaret of Plants, from the earliest known art works featuring plants, art works illustrating myths and plant legends, to the ‘Company Art’ style created by the East India Company in the seventeenth century, following their desire to gather scientific knowledge of the unrealised economic importance of plants, repeatedly demonstrate the significance of plants and the varying relationships and obsessions that surround them.

'The Cabaret of Plants Botany and The Imagination' is beautifully illustrated with a variety of different styles of accompanying artwork, each of which illustrate a particular story, this image is of the giant sequoia which was felled to create a dance floor.
‘The Cabaret of Plants Botany and The Imagination’ is beautifully illustrated with a variety of different styles of accompanying artwork, each of which illustrate a particular story, this image is of the giant sequoia which was felled to create a dance floor.

In The Cabaret of Plants, Richard Mabey charts some of the more remarkable encounters between people and plants, including those that detail some of man’s destructive, far reaching, often catastrophic, impact on the plant kingdom.  For example, the story of the giant sequoias: the witnesses who first discovered these ancient trees were astounded by their majestic size and beauty, but despite this many of the giant sequoia trees were cut down soon after their discovery.  One ancient sequoia tree was felled, in order for the stump to be smoothed so that it could become a dance floor on which thirty-two people danced, another ancient sequoia was cut down, and this time the stump was planed so that it could become a two-lane bowling alley. I hope that stories such as these will evoke a desire within each reader to protect and respect the beautiful, plant kingdom and encourage future generations to take inspiration from the beauty of nature, but to act with caution and refrain from causing damage to the natural world in which we are so lucky to live and to be able to share with plants.

Throughout The Cabaret of Plants, Richard Mabey demonstrates how humans have tried to make sense of the plant kingdom by comparing it to our own world, to our identity, looking for similarities or human features in a plant that can be identified with or recognised, and finding where connections can be made.  Often plants with similarities to parts of the human body have been taken to signify that it is this very area of the human body that they were destined to treat, as if this is the very purpose of the plant’s existence, to help and heal humans.  Throughout time similar connections have been made – night fevers were often treated with plants that flowered at night, or by plants that were gathered and collected at night.

In The Cabaret of Plants, Richard Mabey discusses whether plants have their own intelligence, relaying details of the chemical communication between plants as well as the sensory communications between plants and insects.  Interesting studies of the sensitive plant, Mimosa, are recounted, all of which will intrigue and fascinate the reader.

The Cabaret of Plants is a beautiful book in every sense of the word; the dust jacket is illustrated rather splendidly with depictions of exotic plants, the artwork, photographs and illustrations chosen to accompany the text are delightful, and the book itself is interesting, intriguing and absorbing, it’s rich in content, which will enchant you from beginning to end.  I love this book, I hope that you’ll love it too.

The beautifully illustrated inside cover of 'The Cabaret of Plants Botany and The Imagination' by Richard Mabey, details such as this and the splendidly designed outer dust cover add to the beauty of this book.
The beautifully illustrated inside cover of ‘The Cabaret of Plants Botany and The Imagination’ by Richard Mabey, details such as this and the splendidly designed outer dust cover add to the beauty of this book.
The Cabaret of Plants Botany And The Imagination by Richard Mabey is published by Profile Books.
The Cabaret of Plants Botany And The Imagination by Richard Mabey is published by Profile Books.

Other links and articles that may interest you……………………….

For more information on ‘The Cabaret Of Plants Botany And The Imagination’ by Richard Mabey, please click here.

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If you’re looking for reputable suppliers of snowdrops, sold ‘in the green’, please click here.

For gardening advice of what you could do at your allotment or in your garden from mid-November until mid-December, please click here.

For gardening advice of what you could do in your garden or at your allotment from mid-December until mid-January, please click here.

To read my interview with David Neale, an award winning Garden Designer based in Guildford in Surrey, please click here.

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