Beautiful Madness: One Man's Journey Through Other People's Gardens

James Dodson, Author Dutton Books $24.95 (291p) ISBN 978-0-525-94935-0
Flower fanatics and perfectionist planters will find much to enjoy in Dodson's recounting of his year spent traveling to various gardens around the world. The author, an amateur gardener whose other books are mostly about golf, travels through the eastern U.S., England and Africa, looking at and learning about flowers and plants. Dodson begins and ends his journey at the Philadelphia Flower Show, where he introduces readers to, among others, Linda and Walt Fisher, a retired couple who force bulbs to grow according to a set schedule so they bloom at precisely the right time for the show. Dodson also takes readers to Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's estate, and to his home state of North Carolina, where, in a touching scene, he reconnects with an elderly friend of his late mother. But while Dodson's travels are interesting enough, there isn't a through-line uniting his adventures other than him collecting plants he hopes will grow in his garden in Maine. There are lots of people in the book-so many that it's hard to keep track of them all-but no main characters emerge in Dodson's narrative. While horticulture enthusiasts may delight in Dodson's descriptions of his travails, casual readers may find themselves bored by the descriptions of the plants, places and people he encounters.
Reviewed on: 02/27/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
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