Me and My Plant” (book review)

Flower Council Holland. 2010. Me and My Plant. Uitgeverij Snor. £0.00 (hard back/PDF).





People form rela­tion­ships with many bio­lo­gical entit­ies — other people, pets — and even non-biological ones like rocks (well, maybe just in the 1970s? …though they were mar­keted as liv­ing pets, and ‘rock’ is also a plant type per Me and My Plant — p. 9). And those bonds can be very import­ant, espe­cially when one is in a new place and/or start­ing a new job/career and/or hav­ing new respons­ib­il­it­ies and/or facing new chal­lenges in one’s life. Thus, Me and My Plant [here­after reduced to MMP] is ideal for stu­dents who face all four of those as they embark on their jour­ney of self-discovery at col­lege or uni­ver­sity. Initially they may not know any­body else in their new envir­on­ment, so a plant ‘someone’ to talk to/confide in can be import­ant in bridging the gap between their former exist­ence prob­ably at home with friends and fam­ily and their new life, which can be just a bit lonely at first. And even if they’re not study­ing bio­logy — or any­thing else that’s remotely ‘planty’ — their new-found hobby might…err… blos­som into a lifelong pas­sion. And it is this idea of com­pan­ion­ship — and even pas­sion — that is very much the premise of MPP which likens the caring for a plant as a love affair. Indeed, the 144 paged book’s chapter head­ings — which are likened to ‘phases’ — read a bit like a script for a ‘rom­com’: Falling in love (like many rela­tion­ships, a few drinks helps lub­ric­ate the rela­tion­ship — though just water in this case!); Living together (pick­ing the right spot in the new home…); Time for your­self (top tips on how to keep your plant well whilst you are sep­ar­ated…); New Life (all about propaga­tion!); Enjoying life together (includ­ing the secret powers of your plant…); and Growing old together (includ­ing dis­eases and plant phar­macy…). But look­ing after a plant isn’t ‘just a phase’, it might just be the start of a whole new way of life for you!

MMP is full of sage advice on plant care and is littered with fas­cin­at­ing phyto­lo­gical facts and snip­pets of plant lore. And for the gizmo-savvy stu­dent gen­er­a­tion of today it also fea­tures some gad­gets that may appeal, such as ‘tweet­ing’ plants and a ‘pee­ing’ robot(!). It also con­tains proper sci­ence stuff, too, but usu­ally without ref­er­ences. So, I’d love to know the ref­er­ences for some of the sci­ence that is cited in the book. For example, Helen Russell’s Surrey University work (p. 48) on the stress-reducing effects attrib­uted to plants (very use­ful in a stu­dent con­text with those assign­ments to do and exams to study for..?). And Marcel Dicke’s “world fam­ous research” into the inter­ac­tions between plant and insect (p. 59).

But the best news of all — espe­cially for impe­cuni­ous stu­dents (is there any other kind..?), but for all who are plant-tending on a budget — MMP is FREE(!!) For some time hard­back cop­ies of the book were being given away at http://​www​.meandmy​plant​.co​.uk/​h​ome (which is how this review copy was ori­gin­ally sourced). However, the book is now avail­able as a freely down­load­able PDF from–My-Plant/41_2/252

Quibbles? Only two. Whilst it is nice to see the short­hand ‘for­mula’ for pho­to­syn­thesis included (p. 41): CO2 + H2O + light energy = C6H12O6 + O2, I would like to see the num­bers ‘sub-scripted’ as per sci­entific con­ven­tion. And I have to res­ist an almost over­whelm­ing urge to cor­rect the book’s title to “My Plant And I”. Competitors? Probably manu­als from the highly pro­lific and respec­ted David Gerald Hessayon’s ‘Expert’ series of ‘look­ing after plants’ books [http://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​D​.​_​G​.​_​H​e​s​s​a​yon]. But, when you’ve got this lovely — free — tome, there is no real competition.

So, Freshers, don’t have a com­pan­ion yet? Never mind, you’re never alone with a plant; it will listen to you moan, it will not com­plain, it will not let you down; just remem­ber to water it occa­sion­ally! And when you’ve got your plant, the next best thing you must get is the plant book, Me and My Plant! Indeed, why not con­sult MMP in advance, as you think about what plant to get? It has valu­able hints on what sort of plant will suit you/your life­style. In sum­mary, this book is beguil­ingly charm­ing (and in a good way). Get a copy! Then get a plant…or two…

Nigel Chaffey

Nigel Chaffey. ORCID 0000-0002-4231-9082

Nigel is a botanist and full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributes the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ. His main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.

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