Friday, July 16, 2010

Review of Chlorophyll In His Veins: J. C. Raulston, Horticultural Ambassador

How exciting to get a review copy of Chlorophyll in His Veins: J. C. Raulston, Horticultural Ambassador in my mailbox!

I had visited the JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh several times and seen nursery plants with " J. C. Raulston" on the tags.  I had already heard about this biography by Bobby J. Ward and planned to read it.

Now I can tell you:  I was enthralled by the book, and more than a little surprised by the amazing life of this man.

J. C. Raulston's mission
In the 1970s, young NCSU professor J. C. Raulston  was uncomfortable with the fact that 90% of most landscapes were composed of about forty plants.  He believed more plants should be brought to the attention of the public and a wider range of unusual and interesting plants grown.  

The "Prophet of Horticultural Change"
J. C. Raulston effected change through a combination of teaching  and mentoring (for which he was very popular and won many awards), traveling  (which he did quite obsessively), and networking.  He developed an international network of contacts who appreciated his vision for bringing unknown plants into public awareness and with whom he shared plants and friendship throughout his life.

The establishment of an arboretum at NCSU  is his culminating achievement.  Today the arboretum that bears his name is an acclaimed research garden, fulfilling his dream of providing new plant introductions to the nursery industry and educating the public about superior landcape and garden plants for the South.

Chlorophyll in His Veins
Chlorophyll in His Veins will fill you in on the history of the J C Raulston Arboretum and also provide plenty of exciting horticultural details, including the fortuitous hybridization of a plant that bears his name, Calycanthus x raulstonii  'Hartlage Wine,' (pictured on the cover of the book) and the development of another, Pinus taeda 'J. C. Raulston,' a dwarf Loblolly Pine.

Included are transcripts of several informative lectures including "Musings on Great Garden Plants," "The Joys of Horticultural Deviance - Tweaking the Solemnity of Mainstream Gardening," and "Untangling the Hardiness Question:  What is Hardy and Why."

J. C. was fond of making lists and several are in the book.  His "Plant Lust List" will likely give you some new ideas for yours.  Maybe we can all relate to his "Greatest Ultimate Fantasies of Life" which include  being able to "eat freely without weight gain, learn to play, and acquire a variegated Kentucky coffee tree."

As you read, you will come to feel you knew J. C. Raulston; that you went to his lectures, on his field trips, and attended his B.S. (banana split) parties.  You will appreciate J.C.'s extensive contributions to both individuals and horticulture and you will be motivated  to "plan and plant for a better world," as he encouraged everyone to do.

The book is a joy to read, both as a  detailed horticultural record and a revealing personal history.  Bobby J. Ward's respectful attention and remarkable sensitivity toward his subject make Chlorophyll in His Veins a touching tribute to the ordinary life of an extraordinary individual.

You may purchase Chlorophyll in His Veins at

Other books by Bobby J. Ward ~
Plant Hunter's Garden: The New Explorers and Their Discoveries
A Contemplation upon Flowers: Garden Plants in Myth and Literature
A Garden of One's Own: Writings of Elizabeth Lawrence


  1. I met Raulston very early in my hort. career when I was unaware of his significance. If I had only known.

  2. Thanks for your review. I will look forward to reading the book.

  3. This is a book I want to read. I'll have to scout around and find it. :)