Extraordinary Leaves
Extraordinary Leaves
Extraordinary Leaves Extraordinary Leaves Extraordinary Leaves Extraordinary Leaves Extraordinary Leaves

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Publisher: Firefly Books

Author Statement: photographs by Stephen Green-Armytage, text by Dennis Schrader
Audience: Trade
Specs: over 225 color photographs, index
Pages: 272
Trim Size: 9" X 11" X 5/8"
Language code 1: eng
Publication Date: 20220405
Copyright Year: 2008
Price: Select Below

Extraordinary Leaves

A collaboration between a master nature photographer and a botanist that celebrates the astonishing varieties of leaves.

Leaves are everywhere, appearing in an abundant variety of shapes, colors and textures. They are the unappreciated gifts of nature, worthy of far more extensive study by all.

Extraordinary Leaves is a celebration of one of nature's miracles. As Dennis Schrader explains: "To prepare this book, I have been obligated to take a more intimate look at all aspect of leaves - their many uses, their place in history, the science behind what's going on in a leaf and the unadulterated, simple beauty of the leaf itself."

Photographer Stephen Green-Armytage discovered the beauty of leaves while browsing in a greenhouse. The more he looked at the intricate patterns, the more fascinated he became. His photography in this book is the result of years of study, and it is strikingly beautiful.

Through words and images, Extraordinary Leaves provides an insightful tour. Topics include color, pattern, texture and shape. Among the specific plants covered are coleus, kale, caladium and ferns.


Stephen Green-Armytage is a freelance photographer from Great Britain. Stephen's photography in this and similar titles like Extraordinary Chickens and Extraordinary Pigs proves that there is much unappreciated beauty in the natural world. His photographs have appeared in many other books and such magazines as Sports Illustrated, Life, Fortune and The Smithsonian.

Dennis Schrader is a professional horticulturist who runs a major greenhouse on Long Island. Dennis regularly appears on television gardening segments and has worked on Martha Stewart Living TV, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Better Homes and Gardens TV and HGTV. He is the author of Hot Plants for Cool Climates: Gardening with Tropical Plants in Temperate Zones.


Introduction -- Stephen Green-Armytage

MY EYES WERE OPENED to the potential of foliage as a book subject when I visited a nursery near Cleveland, Ohio. While my wife and a friend were shopping for some specific plants, I wandered into some greenhouses and saw row upon row of Coleus, Caladium, Heuchera and more. I had always liked the shapes of certain leaves, but until then I had not properly registered that some leaves were not only wildly colorful, but also had beautiful patterns. In addition, there seemed to be several hundred of them in this nursery alone.

As I explored the greenhouses in Ohio, I very soon had the idea there should be a well-illustrated book that displayed these wonderful plants. My next thought was that I would like to take the photographs for such a book. I became curious to know if it had already been done -- it seemed to be a subject crying out for a handsome book. In my research I found books that were instructional or scientific rather than being celebrations of the beauty of leaves. There are fine pictorial volumes displaying flowers such as orchids and roses, but not leaves. Much later we did find a book that had a similar agenda to this one, but it was published decades ago and was long out of print. Some of the pictures were very handsome, but others were rather dull, and the printing quality and layout design were well below today's standards.

For my previous books, I had done the research and writing myself, but I never considered doing so in this case. The subject was clearly far too large for me. A friend of a friend put me in touch with Dennis Schrader. Dennis has an academic background in botany, horticulture and landscape design, and now owns and operates a marvelous nursery that breeds and nurtures a large number of exotic plants. In addition, he is a well-respected author and lecturer, and has been seen frequently on television, giving practical advice as well as information that is as interesting to casual gardeners as it is to professionals.

We have not set out to do an encyclopedic book, but have concentrated on leaves that are beautiful and interesting. Knowledgeable readers may look through the book and wonder why some of their own favorites have not been included. As I was introduced to more and more plants, I found that even a large book like this could not include all of my own favorites, let alone all of the other leaves suggested by professionals.

At an early stage I decided not to photograph palms. Although their fronds are their leaf elements, the individual fronds are not particularly photogenic. (I made an exception for the Fishtail Palm, since instead of fronds it has neat rows of small triangular leaves.) Similarly I ignored succulents, cactus plants, needles and grasses, although a few broad-leaved grasses may have slipped in.

By chance, the cultivation of ornamental foliage is becoming increasingly popular. I had not set out to be a cheerleader for this growing trend, but am glad that more and more people are aware of the decorative potential of foliage. I am seeing increasing numbers of handsome leaves in private and public gardens, in window boxes and in street planters. While we will always love the seasonal appearance of flowers like tulips and chrysanthemums, it is great to have beauty that endures for many months, and in some cases even year round in mild climates and indoors.

Our acknowledgments will show how many people helped to make it all possible. I particularly appreciated the experts who entered into the spirit of what I was doing, drawing my attention to plants I might have overlooked and communicating their own enthusiasm for beautiful leaves. I hope they will be pleased with the book, proud of their contributions and feel I have done justice to the subject. At the same time, I hope that readers who had never given much thought to leaves will now be appreciating them with fresh eyes.

Introduction -- Dennis Schrader

I HAVE BEEN INTERESTED IN PLANTS as far back as I can remember, for some reason I always gravitated toward the rare, exotic and hard-to-grow plants. The ones with green leaves were okay ... but add a stripe of white or a hint of red or yellow and my pulse would quicken. But, as every type of collector realizes later on in their obsession, you can't have it all. The same thing is true for plant collecting.

When we started our wholesale greenhouse business, we had 17 acres of land and planned one 30' X 100' greenhouse. Once the greenhouse was built, it seemed so huge we wondered how in the world we would ever fill it. Within days the greenhouse was overflowing with just the collection. Hardly any space was left over for growing plants. We had to make some tough choices in order to commandeer a production area. Soon we were building more greenhouses and filling them as quickly as they were completed. Sixteen years and three acres of growing space later, I still have an intense appreciation for exotic plants, especially those with colorful foliage.

My first book touched on all subjects dealing with growing non-hardy plants in temperate gardens as well as interesting hardy plants that portray a "tropical style." The majority of foliage plants mentioned in that book are colorful -- sometimes outlandishly so. While working on Extraordinary Leaves, however, I gained a new appreciation for all leaves, not just the peacocks of the plant world but the sparrows as well.

When Stephen first contacted me and asked to come to Landcraft to photograph some leaves (a request we get many times a year), I agreed, thinking it would be a brief business acquaintance of a few days. I had come across one of Stephen's previous books, and enjoyed the photographs immensely. On subsequent visits we developed a friendship and mutual respect, and made plans to collaborate on Extraordinary Leaves. I found it interesting working with a non-horticultural person. Stephen had a different way of looking at things. He would often gravitate to the simplest solid green leaf and see its interesting vein pattern. Initially I was unimpressed. But on closer examination of a leaf he may have picked from our fields -- or even the most humble of weeds that he pulled out of a crack in the pavement -- the details of shape, venation or texture would surprise me and give me a deeper appreciation for his vision. The subtle details, characteristics and intricacies of simple leaves are indeed astonishing, and with the addition of some color, a few well-placed indentations or possibly some thorns or hairs, a leaf morphs into an entirely different thing. These are the leaves we love ... and through the process of working on this book, my fascination with leaves has once again peaked. Recently, I have been adding to our collection; plants that I have known about for some time but had overlooked have grabbed my attention anew, Sarrancenia, Nepenthes, hundreds of Caladium hybrids and some new species of Amorphophallus and Alocasia have all found new homes in our greenhouses.

Writing this book has been a pleasurable learning process as well. I have greatly enjoyed researching the plants, finding out their stories, interpreting data and adding my own personal experiences, and then compiling the information in a way that would complement Stephens's images. I have also had an excellent motivation to take a deeper, more intimate look at all aspects of leaves, their many uses, their place in history, the science behind what's going on in a leaf, and the unadulterated, simple beauty of the leaf itself. And I hope by looking through these pages will lead you to a new-found appreciation as well.


Table of Contents

introduction Stephen Green-Armytage
introduction Dennis Schrader



rex begonia







victoria amazonica

poison ivy
golden hops
argyreia nervosa

grape leaves
japanese maple

climbing patterns


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