15 February 2012

Review: The Amazing World of Orchids by Wilma & Brian Rittershausen

Confession time: I used to dislike orchids. I'm not sure why because they're absolutely beautiful plants. Of course now that I've developed a minor addiction to them I'm finding out how much work they are. They might not be particularly difficult to take care of, but they're labour intensive. Not to mention that there are so many different types and each one has different care requirements. If you're keen on growing your own orchids then I highly suggest picking up a book like The Amazing World of Orchids (or, really, anything by the Rittershausens, noted orchid authorities).

The Amazing World of Orchids definitely lives up to its title. I never realized how many stunning orchids there are, or how interesting these plants can be. The photographs are gorgeous and there's plenty of them--always a big plus in a gardening book. I'd go so far as to say it's worth getting just for the photos. But there's so much more to this book.

The Rittershausens consulted with the Kew World Monocot Checklist and the International Register of Orchid Hybrids to make sure all their information is accurate and up to date. Their thoroughness and attention to detail shows. While the book makes for dry reading at times it offers a wealth of information. From evolution and structure of the plants to families and specific hybrids to cultivation and care--whatever you might want to know is in here. Of course finding out so much about the plants proved to be a little daunting for me--I now have to wonder if I can really keep up with the care of multiple orchids. I did, however, discover how I should be caring for the one I do have (a Phalaenopsis), which led to me moving it to a much warmer spot in the house. It hasn't been there too long but so far so good. There might be a lot to know and do but once you have all the details--if you're not overwhelmed by what's involved--you can start raising orchids with confidence. And to quote the infinitely wise G.I. Joe, "Knowing is half the battle."

Even though I'm approaching this from the perspective of a novice, I think the book would still be useful to those more experienced with orchids. Besides all the pictures (and what plant-lover doesn't like to look at pictures of them?), the updated hybrid info and the plethora of information make this book worthwhile for even an orchid expert.

My only real criticism, and it's a fairly minor one, is that the print used for captions is tiny! I don't need glasses but I felt as though I needed to break out a magnifying glass to see what the captions said. Hopefully future editions will address this issue.

Other than that this is a great book on orchids, one that I would recommend to anyone interested in the subject, or even those who are merely curious. I don't know why I used to dislike these plants but I"m glad I got over it.

Quote: "One of the orchids which was once widespread across this ancient land mass was Vanilla, whose pods are used for flavouring."

The Amazing World of Orchids
by Wilma and Brian Rittershausen. Published by Quadrille in association with The Royal Horticultural Society.

No comments: