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Distributed for Reaktion Books


Drawing its allure from the gold of the sun and the rule of the emperors, the chrysanthemum winds its way through ancient Chinese culture into the gardens of French impressionist painters and onto the pages of American novels. The flower signifies both life and death, as parts of Europe associate it with mourning while others celebrate it for its golden rays that light the autumnal gloom. In this fascinating book, Twigs Way follows the fortunes of the flower through philosophy, art, literature, and death, recounting the stories of the men and women who became captivated by this extraordinary bloom. With a range of vibrant illustrations, including works by Hiroshige, Monet, and Mondrian, Chrysanthemum will captivate lovers of art, flowers, history, and culture.

216 pages | 100 color plates | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2


Biological Sciences: Botany

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"This fascinating book looks at the long and noble history of chrysanthemums before they became ‘the flower of choice for uninspired husbands.' . . . With her vivacious prose and unerring knack for unearthing the absurd or delicious detail, Way could probably fashion the minutes of your local parish council into absorbing history: with this flower, she is in her element. . . . The illustrations are a delight, ranging from Chinese ceramics to evocative nineteenth-century postcards from Hiroshige to Monet and Mondrian. Who knew that Mondrian loved to paint chrysanthemums? But then, this is a book packed with unforgettable facts."

Ambra Edwards | Gardens Illustrated

"A very good introduction to a fascinating subject and deserves to be read by anyone concerned with the history of the flower garden."

Garden History

“Tissot grew them in his London conservatory; Monet and Renoir painted them; they feature in ancient Chinese works; and the Japanese cultivated them with pride . . . here comes a perfect (and vibrantly illustrated) book for the season: one that takes as its focus the chrysanthemum. . . . Way deftly explores why this flower has signified both life and death, and how it has found its way into philosophy and literature, as well as art.”

Arts Society Magazine

"Many of us are now familiar with the extraordinarily wide-ranging extent of the handsome, uniform volumes of single-species botanicals published over the last few years by Reaktion Books. . . . Among the latest is Chrysanthemum by Way, full of fascinating off-the-beaten-track material. . . . The chrysanthemum family is large and diverse, and it's good to discover a book of such outstanding miscellany that ought to raise the profile of this botanical Cinderella."


"Chrysanthemum details the fortunes of the flower through philosophy, art, and literature, recounting the stories of the men and women who became captivated by it. With a range of vibrant illustrations, including works by Hiroshige, Monet, and Mondrian, it will appeal to lovers of art, flowers, history, and culture... You will never look at a simple porch pot of mums the same way again."

Michigan Gardener

"The chrysanthemum was the classless wonder of the Victorian Age. Way has wondrously revived it—we can now at last understand its true glory in the pantheon of flowers."

His Honour Simon Brown QC, past master of the Inner Temple Garden

"Forget associations of chrysanthemums and dreary drabness, thanks to Way their myriad petals point the reader honorably, imperially, and sensibly into a journey of floral fascination. . . . [A] book of horticultural, artistic, and literary delights."

Caroline Holmes, garden historian

"Way has very skillfully and gently guided us down the centuries with tales of how these chrysanthemum plants have beguiled us. From emperors, poets, painters, writers, decorative arts, florists, show benches, and even tea. But the real story is in the title, that is with the chrysanthemum plant itself. As with Scheherazade in the Tales from the Arabian Nights, this plant will adapt and evolve to lead us on in order to survive."

Judy Barker, FLS, Holder of the National Collection Hardy Chrysanthemums John Woolman Medal of Honour, Brickell Award

Table of Contents


1 The Honourable and Imperial Flower
2 Smuggling Tea and Chrysanthemums
3 Gathering the Harvest in Societies and Shows
4 In Peace and in War
5 An Impression of Chrysanthemums
6 A Literary Bouquet
7 Meaningful and Useful: A Plethora of Chrysanthemums

Further Reading
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements

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