A GARDENER TOUCHED WITH GENIUS: The Life of Luther Burbank by Peter Dreyer

A GARDENER TOUCHED WITH GENIUS: The Life of Luther Burbank

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KIRKUS REVIEW

If you enjoy reading seed catalogues, you'll love this book. In spite of his monikers ""Sage of Santa Rosa"" and the ""Shakespeare of the Vegetable World,""--Burbank led an essentially dull life, a fact which makes his biography a tough nut to crack, or a long row to hoe. Unfortunately there are pages and pages of pointless detail: ""In September of that same year, J.H. Hale of South Glastonbury, Connecticut, paid $500 for the plum that had been announced as J-3972 and listed the following year as the Prolific."" Dreyer fails to develop adequately the theme of Burbank's place in 19th century science, and he touches only briefly on other intellectual influences such as Darwin and Emerson. Instead Dreyer dwells at length on Burbank's considerable achievements: the Burbank potato, the Burbank plum, the Iceberg blackberry, the Shasta daisy, and the infamous spineless cactus. Highlights, such as they are, include the 1890's Great Olive Rush; the 1906 Eucalyptus Craze; the ""Wonderberry Controversy;"" and a very fine description of the Crimson Winter Rhubarb--a crop better known as ""the California Mortgage Lifter."" Relatively little space is devoted to Burbank's life and times; the Mrs. Burbanks I and II are summarily dismissed as bad apples, while Mother and Sister Burbank come up smelling like roses. Dreyer might have done well to learn some techniques from his subject--namely, pruning.

Pub Date: Oct. 29th, 1975
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan