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216 × 138 × 20 mm
216 pages
90 illustrations, 78 in colour
12 Oct 2020

Chrysanthemum Twigs Way

Drawing its allure from the gold of the sun and the rule of emperors, the chrysanthemum winds its way through ancient Chinese culture into the gardens of French Impressionist painters and onto the pages of American novels. The flower signifies both life and death, as parts of Europe associate it with mourning while others celebrate it for its golden rays that light the autumnal gloom.

In this fascinating book, Twigs Way follows the fortunes of the flower through philosophy, art, literature and death, recounting the stories of the men and women who became captivated by it. With a range of vibrant illustrations, including works by Hiroshige, Monet and Mondrian, it will appeal to lovers of art, flowers, history and culture.

‘the latest in Reaktion’s Botanical series – small, handsomely produced hardbacks that recount the cultural and historical significance of various familiar plants. With the chrysanthemum, so rich in spiritual, philosophical and artistic associations, it is on to a winner, especially when the story is told by the inestimable garden historian Twigs Way. With her vivacious prose
and unerring knack for unearthing the absurd or delicious detail, Way could probably fashion the minutes of your local parish council into absorbing history: with this flower, she is in her element . . . The illustrations are a delight, ranging from Chinese ceramics to evocative 19th-century postcards from Hiroshige to Monet and Mondrian . . . this is a book packed with unforgettable facts.’ — Ambra Edwards, Gardens Illustrated

‘here comes a perfect (and vibrantly illustrated) book for the season: one that takes as its focus the chrysanthemum . . . Twigs Way deftly explores why this flower has signified both life and death, and how it has found its way into philosophy and literature, as well as art.’ — The Arts Society Magazine

‘a very good introduction to a fascinating subject and deserves to be read by anyone concerned with the history of the flower garden.’ — Garden History

‘Many of us are now familiar with the extraordinarily wide-ranging extent of the handsome uniform volumes of single-species botanical published over the last few years by Reaktion Books . . . Among the latest is Chrysanthemum by Twigs Way, full of fascinating off-the-beaten-track material . . . The chrysanthemum family is large and diverse, and it's good to discover a book of such outstanding miscellany that ought to raise the profile of this botanical Cinderella.’ — Hortus

‘The chrysanthemum was the classless wonder of the Victorian Age. Twigs Way has wondrously revived it -– we can now at last understand its true glory in the pantheon of flowers.’ — His Honour Simon Brown QC, Past Master of the Inner Temple Garden

‘Forget associations of chrysanthemums and dreary drabness, thanks to Twigs Way their myriad petals point the reader honourably, imperially and sensibly into a journey of floral fascination . . . [a] book of horticultural, artistic and literary delights.’ — Caroline Holmes, garden historian

‘Twigs Way has very skilfully and gently guided us down the centuries with tales of how these chrysanthemum plants have beguiled us. From Emperors, poets, painters, writers, decorative arts, florists, show benches and even tea. But the real story is in the title, that is with the chrysanthemum plant itself. As with Scheherazade in the Tales from the Arabian Nights this
plant will adapt and evolve to lead us on in order to survive.’ — Judy Barker FLS Holder of the National Collection Hardy Chrysanthemums John Woolman Medal of Honour, Brickell Award

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Twigs Way is a writer, researcher and speaker who is fascinated by the social and cultural aspects of garden history. Her publications include The Cottage Garden (2011) and A Nation of Gardeners (2010). She lives in Cambridgeshire.


1 The Honourable and Imperial Flower
2 Smuggling Tea and Chrysanthemums
3 Gathering the Harvest in Societies and Shows
4 In Peace and in War
5 An Impression of Chrysanthemums
6 A Literary Bouquet
7 Meaningful and Useful: A Plethora of Chrysanthemums

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Photo Acknowledgements