Best-selling English author Bill Laws has been involved with gardens and the craft of gardening for many years. Guest speaker at Queens University, Ontario after his Artists’ Gardens was published, he has also written A Curious History of Vegetables, Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History, National Geographic’s The Field Guide to Fields, and, more recently, Tales from the Tool Shed. His hands-on attitude to horticulture extends to running a vegetable allotment and a Victorian garden at a neighborhood day care center, and restoring old tools for his street market stall. As a social historian he is never happier than in the company of old gardeners.
Bill Laws will speak about his choice of history-busting flora for Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History, from the denim-blue of indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) and its role in the arms race that led to First World War, to the politics of the potato(Solanum tuberosum) and one reason why more than 36m Americans can claim Irish ancestry. “We ignore the plant world at our peril,” warns Bill who also explores the contribution of historic plantsmen such as Charles de L’Écluse and Carl Linnaeus to our passion for public parks. Our parks and pubic spaces have a vital botanical role to play in preserving significant plants.