Christian Lamb FLS is intrepid, impetuous, adventurous, and always fun. There is a ruthless streak that allows her to kill off some unwanted plants "sort of by mistake, on purpose", and another side that allows other plants, once she has had a taste of them, to be exiled to friends gardens where she longs to be invited to visit them. The answer, perhaps, lies in the sea.

The daughter of an admiral, herself a Wren, then a naval wife, she has the discipline of the quarterdeck in her system. Yet, with that has come an understanding of the romance of the sea, of travel and its dangers. One can understand why she became captivated by the life and adventures of Sir Joseph Banks, on whom she is an authority, and then also by those other botanical buccaneers who brought us the sinews of what we now choose to call the "English Garden". Look at the posthumous painting of Banks by Thomas Phillips for the Royal Society in 1822, reproduced in the book.

Her favourite gardens include the incomparable woodland garden at Tregrehan, where she found the magic of the Camellia, Antony, Ray Wood at Castle Howard, and Ninfa, south-east of Rome. These are all places where plants of her acquaintance (she doesn't do grasses or any member of the daisy family) can grow as they would wish to be. The wild streak wins, I think. Is this just another monograph written in the autumn of an English housewife? You cannot be serious. Lamb, who can identify a Camellia cultivar at a greater distance than most drivers can read numberplates, traded in her membership of her local sailing club long ago to become a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London. She is a well respected lecturer on the history of plants wherever she goes.