Having finished this book, I can assuredly say that it is rammed full of information that, if I am truly honest, is probably tough to find anywhere else (with ease). Clearly, Mark Johnston did a lot of background reading, and particularly of much older books (some dating back over a century or three). For that reason, if you’re looking to understand more about the history of arboriculture (and horticulture, to a degree) in the UK (particularly England), then you really have to look no further. Wonderfully written, it’s concise, but elaborates to a degree that enables the reader to actually begin to picture a scene, and at times the reader will even be helped by the use of an image (of which I would have liked there to be a few more, though only because many of them are old illustrations that I find really interesting).
Stand-out bits for me included: (1) the chapter on garden cities and suburbs (and their names, with Bourneville and Port Sunlight springing to mind), and also the new towns that drew influence from these older developments that were perhaps ‘factory’ towns (with Bourneville being built by the Cadburys), (2) the role of pleasure (not in that sense!) gardens in the centuries gone by (and their subsequent demise, in the wake of the public park), and (3) the conflicts between people, built structures, and trees. For the latter, it seems vandalism of trees dates back for many a century (as does the concern over trees being along streets), and it seemingly wasn’t even kids that would vandalise trees all the time but fully-grown adults!
The other good thing about this book is that it’s fairly-priced. It’s hardly a bank breaker, and therefore is well within the realms of affordability.
In terms of things I would have liked to have seen more of (excluding a few more images), I would mention proof-reading. There are a few typos in the book, which did get a little annoying as it was generally the same few words being mis-spelled sporadically throughout the entire text. Of course, as this is my only ‘complaint’, it’s hardly something that I would raise as a reason to not consider getting this book. After all, typos never killed anybody (I think).
In short, if you’re curious on how trees have featured within British history, get this book. If you’re not curious, still consider buying this as it may very well make you more curious!
Buy it here from Oxbow Books (Windgather Press, the publisher, is a sub-label of Oxbow Books, I do believe).