Seeds of Adventure

By Peter Cox & Peter Hutchison 

448 pages, 700 colour photographs

2008 UK Inspirational Gardening Book of the Year. Garden Media Awards

This lavishly illustrated book is the story of the extensive travels made by Peter Cox and Peter Hutchison in search of plants from 1961 to 2005. Sixteen journeys - often arduous, sometimes dangerous and occasionally funny -in search of plants of the Himalaya and the high peaks of Western China, Tibet and Turkey. They explored territory where no western plant hunters had been since the great explorers such as Frank Kingdon Ward and some of the trails were so remote and rough that they had never before been botanised. They have introduced a host of plants, especially rhododendrons, new, rare or lost to cultivation, to grace the gardens of Europe and North America and, in some cases, by collecting them, they have ensured the survival of plants threatened in the wild.

For more details on Cox & Hutchison Plant Hunting expeditions and plants introduced, please click here

Cox & Hutchison Expeditions covered in Seeds of Adventure

1962 N.E. Turkey
1965 Arunachal Pradesh (N.E.F.A.), India. Discovered 3 new species of rhododendron and introduced several other new plants 
1981 Sino British Expedition to China- N.E. Yunnan 1981 with Roy Lancaster, etc 
1985 Nepal 
1986 Yunnan, (Lijiang) Sichuan, China. 
1988 Bhutan 
1989 China, (Sichuan) 
1990 China (Sichuan U.K.-U.S.A. trip) 
1992 Sino Scottish Expedition to N.Yunnan (Chungtien, Bei Ma Shan) 
1993 Yunnan China, Salween-Mekong divide 
1994 Salween Mekong divide (Spring), Yunnan 
1995 S.C. Sichuan and N.E. & S.E. Yunnan. 
1996 S.E. Tibet, Tsangpo Gorges, Pemako, Namche Barwa (with Kenneth Cox) 
1996 S. Chile with Patricia Cox 
1997 Salween, Yunnan, China 
1999 Sichuan & Guizhou, China 
2000 Salween, Yunnan, China 
2002 Arunachal Pradesh (with Kenneth Cox) 
2005 Arunachal Pradesh

2008 Gardening Inspirational Book of the Year

Seeds of Adventure by Peter Cox & Peter Hutchison, published by Antique Collecters/Garden Art Press

This book was awarded Garden Media Guild Inspirational Book of the Year 2008

The judges commented:

'Even someone who couldn’t care two hoots about rhododendrons would be gripped by the sheer bloody mindedness of these two as they suffered awkward locals, ticks the size of pennies, food poisoning, sodden tents and numerous travel headaches in their good-humoured quest. The anecdotes are delightful, the photographs of plants, people and views are breathtaking. What an inspiration to us all.'

Robin Lane Fox  Financial Times writes:

A sight to transcend all others   JUNE 14 2008 

Behind every true gardener’s eye lies a mirage of faraway China. So many of our best garden plants derive from Chinese parents. In the UK in June we are enjoying the generous white and pink-flowered deutzias and the profusion of pink tubular blooms on the excellent beauty bush, or kolkwitzia, an essential early shrub that has now reached an astonishing height of nearly 15ft in a sheltered part of my Oxford gardens. The spring gentians have been extra special and I have been appreciating the pink flowers on Clematis chrysocoma, which has been made so happy by the absence of cold English winters. All these plants and hundreds more are at home in China, where better forms of many of them have recently been discovered. I am not even bringing rhododendrons into the story – the reason why so many of the first western plant collectors were financed on trips to China in the previous century. The borderlands of China with Burma and Tibet have been holy homes of this supreme family of shrubs. Even the first professional collectors were astounded by their abundance and were often unable to collect more than a fraction of the natural riches that they encountered. My mental image of it all is shaped by flowery descriptions, none flowerier than a sentence in which the collector and stylist Reginald Farrer described the local Tibetan poppy, meconopsis quintuplinervia, a plant I have seldom seen in a garden and never grown myself. “The senses ache,” he wrote, “at the multitudinous loveliness of its myriad dancing lavinder butterflies on the Alps of the Da Tung chain.” Often, in the season of our plain English buttercups, I recall these words and remember that there are even more amazing sights in lands to the east of us. Nonetheless, I have never visited that “multitude loveliness”. I tell myself that the reasons are political – the oppression of Tibet, the limits on free speech and so forth. Actually, I think I have always funked the journey. There would be serious altitude sickness and I do not trust the safety record of China’s internal flights. Yet since 1986 travel companies have delighted small groups of plant-lovers with trips into the botanical heavens of Sichuan, Yunnan and elsewhere. This year the recent earthquake has caused them to cancel the most enticing trips in high summer. The meconopsis will have to wait for me for a year or two yet. Meanwhile we have two superb books by modern experts who collect in China and who have seen wonders the rest of us probably never will. I have been looking and reading in amazement when the fading light forces me indoors from the quiet magic of a garden at the onset of darkness. Pictures of unknown yellow hypericums, Daphnes and rare spotted nomocharis are the way to end a summer evening of contemplation without anti-climax. I have not had such pleasure from books of plants for many years.

The newer of the two is Seeds of Adventure: In Search of Plants by Peter Cox and Peter Hutchison, a stunning record of their journeys spanning more than 40 years. They garden together at Baravalla on the coast of Argyll in Scotland, where their own plantings of their finds abroad are remarkable, one of the least-hyped feats of recent gardening. Three quarters of their book is given over to tales of their plant-hunting in the most enviable parts of China, with deviations into India, Turkey and especially the charmed flora of Bhutan. Their pictures of the most wonderful rhododendrons in the wild will convert even the most misplaced sceptics about this family’s beauty. Time and again they have photographed unknown members of other families too. I have been missing out on the newly introduced daphne aurantiaca with yellow flowers. Autumn gentians for gardens on acid soil have been transformed by recent re-introductions, including the true hexaphylla and what must be the legendary sky-blue, stripey farreri, previously dwindling in our nurseries’ variable stocks. Of course, these veteran plantsmen collect only seed, not living plants, and frequently travel with local Chinese botanists to whose talents and personalities they pay just tribute. Their photos of natural Chinese cliffs and landscapes are equally awesome.

Sometimes, this proven pair have travelled with Roy Lancaster, their long-standing friend. Lancaster’s book of his own travels in China, entitled Travels in China: A Plantsman’s Paradise, has just been re-issued. The new edition of his epochal journeys in the early 1980s includes more than 1,000 of his superb photos. Hour after hour I have been amazed all over again: sometimes by plants that Cox and Hutchison also show, more often by yet more wonders such as new deutzias, clematis or stunning hypericums that this great gardener shows to be flourishing in English gardens since his discovery of them in the wild. Lancaster’s book has two special dimensions. It records travels in China more than 20 years ago and justly observes how the felling of forests and the ruination of landscapes have gathered speed, rendering whole hillsides unrecognisable to collectors who recorded them in the past. The massive dam and flooding of the Yangtze River’s Three Gorges is set to destroy about 250 sq miles of flora and displace at least 1m people. This wonderful book has already become a poignant historical record. It is not exactly controversial to rank Lancaster himself as the greatest natural enthusiast for plants wherever he finds them. Nobody knows more and applies it with such love and discernment. On paper he has a quieter style but the photos say it all over again. Page after page of beautiful specimens, often growing wild by the hundred, culminate in a visit to Heaven Lake on the borders of China and North Korea, a place of holy legend for each culture. “Our chatter about plants was silenced as our eyes fell upon a sight that transcended all that had gone before”. When you see our great plantsman’s pictures of the scene you can only agree that it is indeed sublime. 



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