Anyone who has heard Ken speak or looked at any one of his books knows how passionate he feels about plants and gardening--and the sharing of his passion. For his next book (which will be coming out in the Fall of 2008) Ken has chosen to share the "back-stories" of many of the plants he grows in his own garden. When it came to choosing a title for his book, Ken had to invent a new word in order to communicate his theme: Planthropology.
Borrowing from the American Heritage Dictionary, here is Ken's definition:
Planthropology= plăn'thrə-pŏl'ə-jē, The study of the origin, the behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of plants.
Ken explains further:
"I invented the word Planthropology to tell the stories about the plants we appreciate and even those that people take for granted. I felt that I needed to communicate to both gardeners and non-gardeners just how remarkable plants are. Every plant has a story to tell, and they are often sensational. Stories about plants that were once worth their weight in gold; others that are potential cancer cures; some that were thought to be extinct; and a few plants that gave rise to wars.
But affection for plants was not my only motivation for writing Planthropology. "Plant blindness" is all too pervasive. Just think how many times you've seen people do careless and harmful things to plants: nailing for-sale signs into trees when they are selling their used car on the front lawn, or cutting down the trees altogether because the leaves are "too messy."
My hope is that I can convert more individuals into realizing just how important plants are (we could not live without them). It is my hope that all of us will become more observant, more caring about the plants that make life possible...and beautiful."
Every Saturday, we will be posting a sneak preview from Ken's Planthropology, beginning with pink viburnum:
There are only a few pink Japanese snowballs : Viburnum plicatum selections 'Roseace,' Kern's Pink,' and 'Pink Sensation.' The one shown here is most likely 'Kern's Pink.' I say, most likely, because among the few references that mention these plants and nurseries that propagate them, there seem to be questions as to which is which. Dr. Michael Dirr, the authority on woody plants, expresses doubt as to whether there is a difference between them at all.
I have two: V. plicatum 'Roseace' and the aforementioned 'Kern's Pink.' They both have deep maroon foliage that turns green as the flowers open (more's the pity), and gorgeous two-and-one-half-inch, all-sterile flowers that last for three weeks or longer. And I can tell you that my two plants are not the same. 'Roseace' is upright, and although the pink flowers fade to near white, they do it pretty much at the same time. 'Kern's Pink' ends up having white and pink blossoms at the same time and is a wider shrub.
These exquisite shrubs should be more widely available. I can only speculate that the reason they aren't is that they must be difficult to propagate. However, the 'Kern's Pink' has "propagated" itself--one of its low branches rested on the soil and rooted into the ground. I severed the rooted branch from the original shrub and now have another one of these great plants.