A slim tome about a short-lived Edwardian plant collector with a passion for alpines that took him to the eastern Himalayas and north Burma. Reginald Farrer doesn’t sound like a particularly pleasant chap. “Of his time”.
The book was on The Guardian’s Top 10 books about the Himalayas. I’ve been working my way through the ones I bought last year, including The High Road to China by Kate Teltscher and by Jan Morris’s wonderful Coronation Everest. For me, the Himalayan connection in A Rage for Rock Gardening is somewhat tenuous, not helped by the fact that I’ve not been to Gansu province in northwest China which is where Farrer did his mountainous plant hunting, presumably down in what is now Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
I would recommend the book to fans of garden history though as it covers the transition from gardens being formal to family, and Farrer and his contemporaries introduced many familiar flowering plants we know today including varieties of Viburnum, Magnolia and Peony, as well as the gorgeous Gentians that I know and love from my many treks in Nepal.
The writing style read “very posh” to me, as did the use of Mrs, Mr etc in the acknowledgements. And lo, when you look up Nicola Shulman, you realise why.