It’s a good (and rare) morning when my twelve-minute commute yields two news stories in a row that make me smile. That happened today. The first one has no gardening relevance, but the second has special interest for both gardeners and Tolkien fans. Botanist Walter Judd has published a complete guide to the both the real and imaginary plants found in J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings series. It’s called Flora of Middle-Earth: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium.
This is not the first book on this topic; there is at least one other by author Dinah Hazell, but a quick comparison favors the Judd book, which, after categorizing and explaining the plant communities, with a section on plant morphology, lists 160 plants in alphabetical order. The illustrations by Graham Judd are beautifully drawn in the style of woodcut prints.
It will come as no surprise to Tolkien readers/fans (I’m more a appreciative reader than a rabid fan) that he loved nature and plants and filled his novels with descriptions of forests, prairies, wildernesses, and domestic gardens. When you think of it, the characters are nearly always outside. Many Tolkien scholars view the author as an environmentalist who warned against the dangers of industrialization through his fiction. I agree that that’s clearly one of his themes.
Are there Tolkien-themed botanical gardens or have there been Tolkien-themed plant shows? I thought of this after noticing a Facebook discussion among plant growers who are sick and tired of all the big corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanium) shows. I was surprised to find that they also hate the Dale Chihuly shows in botanical gardens. Chihuly is viewed with some disdain among art critics, but I thought he still maintained his popularity in other sectors. (I don’t hate him, but I do find his stuff kind of monotonous.) Anyway, a Tolkien display might be an interesting alternatives for public gardens looking for crowd-pleasing shows.
And this book would be fun to have at hand the next time I reread Lord of the Rings.