Picador, July 2020
Tropical Dreams And The Making Of Kew
Daringly innovative when it opened in 1848, the Palm House in Kew Gardens remains one of the most beautiful glass buildings in the world today.
In Palace of Palms, Kate Teltscher tells the extraordinary story of its creation and of the Victorians’ obsession with the palms that filled it. It is a story of breathtaking ambition, of scientific discovery and, crucially, of the remarkable men whose vision it was. The Palm House was commissioned by the charismatic first Director of Kew, Sir William Hooker, designed by the audacious Irish engineer, Richard Turner, and managed by Kew’s forthright curator, John Smith, who battled with boilers and floods to ensure the survival of the rare and wondrous plants it housed.
‘Kate Teltscher’s Palace of Palms is the most enthralling historical book I’ve read this year – a superbly researched account of how architects working in glass and iron brought the tropics to England in the great Palm House in 1848, and the horticulturalists who travelled the world to collect the plants that filled it.‘ – Claire Tomalin, Books of the Year, New Statesman
‘A glorious green adventure story.‘ – Ann Treneman, Gardening Books of the Year, The Times and Sunday Times
‘The fascinating story of one of the greatest showpieces of Victorian Britain: the Palm House in Kew Gardens’ – Sam Leith, Spectator
‘Wearing her research lightly, Teltscher tells her tale of politicking and financial wrangles, domestic tragedies and epic plant hunting expeditions with a pace and vibrancy more commonly found in novels than in academic study’ – Jodie Jones, Gardens Illustrated
‘A fascinating and rip-roaring account of the building of one of the great – and experimental – glass buildings of the Victorian age’ – Caroline Donald, Daily Telegraph
‘Teltscher skilfully brings to life the human story behind the growth of Kew and the creation of its extraordinary centrepiece. What’s more remarkable, however, is her command of the details of the new technology that went into the construction of the Palm House … she makes such matters unexpectedly fascinating‘ – Charles Elliott, Literary Review
‘The story of the creation of the Palm House and the men whose vision it was, are engrossingly told’ – Hardback Book of Month, Choice Magazine
‘Having read Teltscher’s book, the name Palm House will now never do justice to that venerable Victorian vegetable ‘manicured jungle’; it has to be renamed the Palace of Palms from now on!’ – Nigel Chaffey, Botany One
‘Kate Teltscher skilfully distils the historical facts of the creation of the Palm House into a piece of storytelling that is difficult to put down’ – English Garden
‘Kate Teltscher’s Palace of Palms is a glorious headrush into Victorian history via one of the most iconic and beautiful glasshouses in the world. This is a bright, shining jewel of a book, a hedonists’ delight and an escapists’ antidote to the humdrum’ – Amanda Foreman
‘This book gives a marvelous glimpse into a lost and luscious Victorian world, peopled not only with plants but with energetic, ambitious – and sometimes frankly bonkers – characters’ – Lucy Worsley
‘The establishment of Kew Gardens and the building of the great Palm House is a most remarkable story, that touches on every aspect of 19th century life. Kate Teltscher knows it all – the politics, the science, the engineering – and writes about it with effortless elegance to weave the most wonderfully compelling narrative’ – Michael Frayn