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Winter 2008 Roundup: Coffee-Table Books

David Schoonmaker, Catherine Clabby, Fenella Saunders, Morgan Ryan, Anna Lena Phillips, Flora Taylor

Extraordinary Leaves, photographs by Stephen Green-Armytage, text by Dennis Schrader
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These striking photos of foliage are grouped mostly according to prominent features of the leaves: color (who would have expected that black leaf cotton [Gossypium herbaceum “nigra”] would be the standout in this section?), pattern (check out the “Boston cherries ‘n chocolate” begonia, Begonia rex), edges (think thistles), texture (lustrous, puckered, or hairy—like the stunning silvery clary sage, Salvia argentia), shape (I like the fishtail palm, Caryota mitis), size (the night-blooming giant waterlily Victoria amazonica can grow to an amazing 2.7 meters in diameter) and climbing patterns (the creeping fig, Ficus pumila, is especially lovely). But caladiums get their own chapter, as do kale, ferns, coleus (the “tilt-a-whirl” variety is shown here) and vines.

From the text of Extraordinary Leaves (Firefly, 2008, $45), one chiefly learns such odds and ends as that cotton is a close relation to hibiscus, coleus is in the mint family, and Thailand is the new hotspot for caladium breeding. But there is also this startling (to me) recipe for growing moss: Put some fresh moss in a blender with buttermilk, beer or yogurt, add potter’s clay, and puree. Then spread the mixture where you want moss to grow and keep shaded and well misted.—Flora Taylor

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