Frank Kingdon Ward was born in Manchester, England, in 1885. He was a professional plant collector and explorer for more than forty years and the author of more than twenty-five books, including The Riddle of the Tsangpo Gorges, recounting his journey into the world's steepest river gorge. He died in 1958. Michael Pollan is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Botany of Desire (available from Random House Trade Paperbacks) and Second Nature, named one of the best gardening books of the twentieth century by the American Horticultural Society. He is a contributing editor to Harper's magazine and a contributing writer at The New York Times Magazine.
The "Modern Library Gardening Series" is an American gem of a find - reprints of gardening classics written and published long before today's flurry of overly bright garden books. These are true garden works, not just a photographic procession of perfect plants. Here, you'll find excitement, love, commitment and die-hard horticulturalists imparting their knowledge and experience in a way that makes learning enjoyable. From playwright Reginald Arkell's "Old Herbaceous" hilarious novel to Frank Kingdon Ward's diaries of daring-do in the Far East, American Eleanor Perenyi's pert comments and asides to Margery Fish's late-found desire to build a garden of her dreams in Devon. The passion and ardour with which these writers embrace the subject is sorely missed today. Frank Kingdon Ward was a real Indiana Jones, not a celluloid figment of the imagination but a man fuelled by his plant hunting, a fervour that takes him across the Far East from mountain ranges to tropical jungles, in search of the never-too-elusive for him "new" plant. A quiet reclusive man who drove his expedition companions mad with his prolonged periods of silence, he was never happier than when battling with the elements be it snowstorms, snakes or rapids. Undaunted, he would continue his journey taking these "inconveniences" in his stride. Discoverer of the renowned Tibetan blue meconopsis, introducer of innumerable rhododendron species and seed collector extraordinaire, most gardens today hold a plant touched by this great planthunter in the past. A prolific writer, his journals are full of what many would view as adventure stories from a novel. This carefully selected collection of his writings is ideal for gardeners and adventurists wanting to escape a wet, windy winters day outdoors. Immerse yourself in his world of the early decades of the twentieth century in Asia with baggage handlers and servants all traipsing in the wake of one of the world's greatest adventurers and learn the origins and ordeals of the plants your garden holds. - Lucy Watson