Cloth $27.00 ISBN: 9781780232928 Published May 2014 For sale in North and South America only
E-book $27.00 ISBN: 9781780233321 Published April 2014


Alison Syme


Alison Syme

Distributed for Reaktion Books

240 pages | 70 color plates, 30 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2014
Cloth $27.00 ISBN: 9781780232928 Published May 2014 For sale in North and South America only
E-book $27.00 ISBN: 9781780233321 Published April 2014
Drooping lazily over waterways, shading gardens, guarding hedgerows—the willow tree is a poetically formed plant, but also a practical one. For millennia, the wood of the willow has been used for baskets, furniture, fences, and toys, while finding its place in the watercolors of Monet, Shakespearean tragedies, Hans Christian Andersen, and The Lord of the Rings. Telling the willow’s rich and multilayered tale, Alison Syme explores its presence in literature, art, and human history.
Syme examines the manifold practical uses of the tree, discussing the application of its bark in medicines, its production as an energy crop that produces biofuel and charcoal, and its employment for soil stabilization and other environmental protection schemes. But despite all the functional uses of willows, she argues, we must also heed the lessons they teach about living, dying, and enriching our world. Looking at the roles that willows have played in folklore, religion, and art, she parses their connections to grief and joy, toil and play, necessity and ornament. Filled with one hundred images, Willow is a seamless account of the singular place the willow holds in our culture.

Introduction: Natural History

1. Rites of Spring and Mourning

2. Willowy Forms

3. Pattern of Romance and Mystery

4. Tree of Prose and Poetry

5. Brushes with Fame

Conclusion: Willow in the World Garden



Further Reading

Associations and Websites


Photo Acknowledgements


Review Quotes
Crafts Magazine
“Willow’s many roles and stories is Alison Syme’s subject here. Spanning from fencing and cricket bats to Monet’s painting and The Wicker Man, Syme’s book plots the path of the ‘most poetic and practical of plants.’ Contemporary craftspeople Lise Bech, Joe Hogan, and Markku Kosonen make an appearance.” 
Owen Paterson | Country Life
“Syme’s lavishly illustrated Willow is an encyclopaedic history of the species. . . . As someone who enjoys planting and caring for trees, I can strongly recommend [this book] as a Christmas present.” 
Gardens Illustrated
“Those of us who despair of garden writing being reduced to picture captions or to 140-character long snippets can raise a cheer for the appearance of two new books in Reaktion Books’s Botanical series, a compelling collection that allows knowledgeable writers to explore the social and cultural impact of plants alongside their botanical and horticultural significance. . . . Willow is both fascinating and revelatory. . . . The books are well-produced; each illustration and photograph is carefully chosen and illuminates the text. . . . Both books are magnificent works: breathtaking in their sweep and dazzling in their research and reflection. More like this please.” 
Wildlife Magazine
“Willow tells the rich tale of this many-sided plant, exploring its presence in literature, art, and human history. This well-illustrated book leads the reader from uses in medicine to environmental protection, giving a seamless account of the special place these trees hold in world culture. . . . Syme articulately conveys the lessons the willow has to teach us about living, dying, loving, enriching our world, and protecting the environment.” 
Living Woods Magazine
“This book feels good in the hand in every way. . . . Combined with the quality of information inside, this makes it a collector’s item for the serious tree lover as well as a hard-wearing handbook for the professional. One in a series of titles, each describing a single species in depth, Willow is highly informative yet still a pleasure to sit down and read, chapter by chapter. . . . Syme is an able author as well as a profound authority. Her writing style conveys a huge amount of information in a readable, even entertaining format, and her researches into willow in world culture span the globe, reaching into idiosyncratic creations in smaller countries as well as the famous cultural leaders. . . . Anyone interested in trees, or even just in willows, cannot fail to be entertained, informed, and satisfied with everything this book offers. I can thoroughly recommend it.” 
“The beauty of this book for me lies in the way that all the exposure we have to everyday objects and works, such as willow-patterned china, books (like The Wind in the Willows), films (like The Wicker Man), and even wicker furniture can be put into a larger historical context. We can see characters and objects in a different light when we understand the use of willows and willow imagery as a deliberate choice to convey certain elements associated with this plant. . . . After reading this book, I can never look at a basket or tombstone in the same way.” 
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