Cover Image: Orchid Muse

Orchid Muse

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Member Reviews

Only adds to the intrigue of these beautiful flowers

There is so much more to orchids than the flowers they are so admired for. Their stories are entwined with those of the people who took huge risks to find them and the people who grow and love them. 

It took me a while to get into the book as I didn’t find the first chapter or two very engaging but as soon as Erica got into the stories of the plant hunters I was hooked. Their tales read like botanical adventure mystery stories, think Indiana Jones and the lost orchid, and breathed life into the plants and the environments they were taken from for me.

Erica goes on to tell the stories of today’s growers and plant breeders who seek to conserve and preserve them to maintain biodiversity and for future generations to marvel at. John Hope Franklin’s story of orchids as a bridge across racial divides and his love for these plants is inspirational. And who would have thought Raymond Burr (yes, the Ironside actor) would have been such a huge admirer?

I was also interested to see all of the info about the plants themselves and how to grow them. They don’t all need tropical conditions to thrive. All in all I was glad I read the book and find myself remembering the plant collector’s tales and looking more reverently at orchids whenever I see them.

I was given this book from the author via netgalley only for the pleasure of reading and leaving an honest review should I choose to.
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A fascinating book on those mysterious plants, the orchids. She’s done a great job of making the history and research interesting and entertaining as well as educational. The illustrations and photos are wonderful, and for such a visual subject add hugely to the book. 

We get glimpses of other cultures as well, since it seems that orchids fascinated people across the world, and were valued then even more than in the present day. The Chinese, for example, have valued and bred them for more than 3000 years. 

Flowers, and orchids in particular are associated with emotions, whether sexual or solace. Their scent is still used in high end perfumes, and they can lend beauty and colour to rooms with their long lasting flowers. 

Their beauty has appealed to artists around the world and across time, including Frida Kahlo, and Proust wrote about the cattleya and it’s place in his characters’ love lives. 

This is an uplifting book John Hope Franklin, who rose from poverty and a near lynching, to become one of the great scholars, was passionate about orchids. There are other characters brought to life, fascinating in their own right. 

And she gives advice about how to grow and enjoy orchids, in this time, in this place, and to enjoy them just as others have across time and cultures.
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First, Orchid Muse is gorgeous, full of beautiful colour plates, it would make a wonderful gift for green-fingered friends. I’m not so green-fingered but I have managed to keep a few orchids relatively happy over the years and one of the reasons I got membership to Kew Gardens is its annual, often sold-out orchid exhibition. They are such fascinating plants and our relationship with them even more so as Erica Hannickel’s excellent book shows. She delves into history of cultivation and obsession with orchids and highlights diverse characters, from Erasmus Darvin to Frida Kahlo and Hollywood actor Raymond Burr who founded a successful business creating and cultivating hybrid orchids in greenhouses. 

Orchid Muse spans continents and centuries, encompassing social, economic and cultural history but I particularly liked how at the end of each chapter, Hannickel offers useful and practical advice for orchid growers. There is also a very helpful terminology at the end. I’ll most certainly get a paper copy when published. 

Highly recommended. My thanks to WW Norton and Company and Netgalley for the opportunity to read Orchid Muse.
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Fascinating doesn't even begin to cover it.  In her book Orchid Muse Erica Hannickel writes richly about this most mysterious of flowers and includes stunning illustrations and dazzling photographs.  My knowledge is (was) limited to growing a handful of orchids and searching for them in the wild in earnest.  But my very curious brain was eager to learn more and I definitely spades.  

Amongst heaps of other things Hannickel explains historical information, terminology, growing tips, the interesting vanilla orchid, Helen Gould's incomparable collection, Raymond Burr's hybrids, conservation and the hefty price up to $100,000 some such as the wind orchid command.  She describes fifteen of these beauties with an easy-to-read list of details from place of origin to fragrance (fancy jasmine, lemon, coconut or dog poop?) to flower size (up to 25 cm in diameter) to growing requirements.

Whether you are an orchid grower, collector and/or admirer do read this.  Prepare to become even smarter.

My sincere thank you to W. W. Norton & Company for the privilege of reading this extraordinary book.  The information is priceless!
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Orchids are such a fascinating flower, rich in both variety and history. In this book, the author, a historian and orchid grower, takes us through the stories of twenty different people throughout history who have been obsessed with orchids. She has an engaging style of storytelling and really holds your interest. She also provides growing information at the end of each chapter for the variety of orchid she has featured. This is a must read for anyone who loves orchids and other flowers, as well as those who enjoy natural history. At about 200 or so pages, it is not lengthy, which makes it perfect for someone to explore a new interest as well.
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Rich and rewarding, Erica Hannickel's ORCHARD MUSE abounds with juicy stories, colorful facts, intriguing personalities--a veritable garden of enticements for anyone intrigued by the world's most voluptuous bloom. Highly recommended. 

Many thanks to WW Norton and to Netgalley for the opportunity and pleasure of an early read.
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