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The Garden Plants of China

By Peter Valder

This is a splendid and detailed book, profusely illustrated.

Gardens Illustrated

It is hard to imagine gardens without peonies, flowering peaches, camellias, gardenias, azaleas, wisteria, forsythia, crabapples, and the host of other ornamentals that were introduced first in Chinese gardens. And the development of the modern repeat-flowering roses would not have occurred had the so-called monthly roses not been brought to Europe from China. In spite of the romance and excitement generated by the discoveries of the famous plant hunters in the wilds of China, the Chinese plants with the greatest impact on the gardens of the world have actually come from Chinese gardens and nurseries.

Awards for this book: Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Book, Garden Writers' Guild Book Award

Media reviews

"This is a splendid and detailed book, profusely illustrated in colour with excellent modern photographs and a few reproductions from early Chinese and classic European journals."

—Martyn Rix, Gardens Illustrated

"This splendid book is an important addition to the otherwise scanty and scattered literature in English on China's contribution to the garden splendor of the West and should be added to every library's horticultural section."


"Author and botanist Peter Valder is ... a gifted photographer, and The Garden Plants of China both shows and tells."

—Josephine Bridges, Asian Reporter

"Insightful and fascinating."

—Barbara Joe Hoshizaki, Southern California Horticultural Society Newsletter

"An important reference guide for anyone interested in the history and origin of plant introductions."

Quarterly Bulletin of the Alpine Garden Society

"If you are greedy for cultural and horticultural history, this artful book will alter your coffee table in to a shrine."

—Julie Siegel, Chicago Botanic Garden

"A beautiful book ... A significant addition to horticultural literature ... Highly recommended."


"Combining vast research as well as information and photographs from his many trips to China, Valder presents a comprehensive volume on ornamental plants in the gardens of China."

—Elaine Ezell, American Reference Books Annual

"The Garden Plants of China is a beautifully realized book. And it should quickly become a standard reference on [China] the Mother of Gardens."

—Patricia Jonas, Plants and Gardens News

"Everyone with an interest in Chinese culture, gardens, and plants will find much to learn and enjoy in this beautiful, readable and scholarly work."

—Richard Bisgrove, Garden History

"One of the most wonderful (books) I have seen in a long time."

—Howard Garrett, Dallas Morning News

"The richly-illustrated text is a stunning expose on gardening ... Principles of Chinese horticulture and its role in Chinese history, culture, and philosophy, including edible landscaping are all here."

American Herb Association Quarterly Newsletter

"A delightfully written presentations of some 400 favorite plants that we take so much for granted, and which have come to us from these very special gardens. It’s not one you’ll quickly put back on a shelf."

Horticultural Society of New York Newsletter

"A spectacular work."


"An excellent book for both the serious and not-so-serious gardener."

—Mike Darcy, Garden Showcase

"It is pure enjoyment to read."

—John E. Bryan, Gardening Newsletter

"The richly illustrated text is a stunning expose on gardening ... Principles of Chinese horticulture and its role in Chinese history, culture, and philosophy, including edible landscaping, are all there."

American Herb Association Quarterly Newsletter

"Outstanding academic title."


"Valder gives us a window on a sophisticated garden ethic very different from Europe’s, and an encyclopedia of more than 4000 Chinese garden plants. Many will inevitably become more widely seen here because of their natural resistance to pests and diseases now arriving from Asia via global trade."

Boston Globe

"Travel vicariously with Valder via the book’s many photographs of ornamental plants in the parks, homes and historic sites of China."

—Kristine Moe, Seattle Times

"A great addition to the library of anyone who has traveled to China, is thinking of traveling to Chinga, or just wants to read about China and its great garden plants. The book is everything the author intended it to be as described in the introduction ... For people that love plants this is a fun, informative book. If I didn't already have a copy ... I would envy anyone that did."

—Winston Dunwell, University of Kentucky HortMemo

"Remarkably handsome, remarkably good value, and a remarkably good read, this is certainly a book to buy."

—Tim Longville, Hortus

"His book is fascinating scholarship, with handsome photographs of the plants and their county."

—Ann Milovsoroff, Pappus

"While we are often bombarded with a wealth of information on the Chinese plants that have been grown in our garden for, at the most, a few hundred years, this book describes those that the Chinese have been growing themselves, often for several thousand years ... An excellent and important addition to the available literature on Chinese plants."

—Allen Coombes, International Dendrology Society Yearbook

"A beautiful presentation recommended for horticulture collections."

Midwest Book Review

"Anyone contemplating a trip to China, or indeed intrigued with many of the commoner garden ornamentals, will find this sumptuous coffee-table book a great fund of information ... The magnificent reproductions of paintings and impeccable photography of temples and misty vistas capture not only the sense but something of the sensibility of China."

—Panayoti Kelaidis, Rock Garden Quarterly

"Examination of the relationship between Chinese philosophies and the garden are followed by a detailed treatment of some 400 plants."

SciTech Book News

"Looking through this beautiful book will make you want to book a flight immediately. The photos were so well chosen that you can almost hear Chinese music playing as you study them."

California Garden

"This book is a must for anyone interested in China and interested in gardening…If you want to give a gift to a gardener who is interested in feng shui, this book will knock their socks off. No other book exists like it in English."

—Clear Englebert, FungShway.com

"A beautifully illustrated master work by a botanist who has received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his contributions to horticulture."

Avant Gardener

"It is both a beautifully designed and illustrated book, and one that is thoughtfully organized and well written."

Arbor Essence

"He makes the case that the plants that appear in Chinese gardens are there more because of their rich historical and cultural associations than for their horticultural performance. More than fifteen hundred years of art and literature attend these plants, and Valder reproduces paintings, drawings, pottery, poetry, and folklore to illustrate his point."

—Catherine Taylor, Arbor Essence

About the author

Peter Valder

Peter Valder's become a plant pathologist and mycologist after graduating from the Universities of Sydney and Cambridge. He has made appearances on radio and television, written for magazines, and lectured to organizations concerned with plants and gardens. His interest in gardening has taken him around the world, collecting images and knowledge of international flora. To recognize his gifts of plants to and voluntary work for the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, in 1995 he was made their first Honorary Horticultural Associate, and in 1996 was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in recognition of his contribution to botany and horticulture in that country.

Read more about Peter Valder

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