Liana Tips: Or More Than Most People Want To Know About Vines, Vine-Like Plants and Other Ramblings, Volume 2 of 2
Gwen Kirtley Perkins, PhD
Wheredepony Press (2011)
Reviewed by Vicki Liston for Reader Views (10/11)
“Liana Tips: Or More Than Most People Want To Know About Vines, Vine-Like Plants and Other Ramblings, Volume 2 of 2” is the second installment of author Gwen Kirtley Perkins’ extensive knowledge base on the subject of vines and related plants. Like the first volume, she explores and expounds upon the where’s, when’s, how’s, and why’s of a myriad of different species. Unlike the first volume, though, she takes on each plant and then delves into the details. Organized alphabetically by ‘Family,’ she names a plant, then offers what type of stem, flower, fruit, habitat (noted as ‘range’), and miscellany. For some, she offers colloquial synonyms and for others, she lists common names or generic names. Throughout the pages, she includes autobiographical stories from her youth and marriage as well as poems, scripture, and quotes.
I found “Liana Tips…Volume 2 of 2” to be much more user-friendly than the first volume. Being able to go to only one place in the book for information on a vine is much easier than going to several and having to navigate different lists just to get the basic information, which is what the first volume had the reader doing. However, the headings under each plant weren’t standardized so you didn’t always get the same type of information from one plant that you did for another. Granted, not all vines have flowers, for example, but lacking that heading under a vine left the reader wondering if it has simply been left out or if the vine didn’t produce flowers. Having the same headings for each plant, even if the “Flowers” heading would have been followed with ‘none’ would have left no question in the reader’s mind. I would have also expected the scientific name (in Latin) to be included as one of these headings but it wasn’t. Further, some of the other headings weren’t self-explanatory so reading a heading like ‘Common and Specific Name’ and then having it followed by ‘Personal’ told me absolutely nothing. Even with a college-level background in biology and an interest in genetics, I couldn’t grasp what the author was trying to impart.
I think what I found most difficult about this book was its use of random quotes, scripture, and poems, which regularly had no parallel to plants or nature in general. They may have been favorite passages of the author’s and included as the book also serves as an autobiographic account. I think the inclusion of these quips would have been much easier to navigate had they been located between species sections instead of in the middle of them. While some are appropriately placed, there are many that aren’t. I didn’t like starting to read about a species and then having it interrupted with an unrelated quote or a story, only to return again to the details of that species. It felt disjointed and hindered the flow of the text.
As I said regarding volume one, Perkins writes with an enthusiastic passion for her vines and for her memories, which made the book charming. Both “Liana Tips” volumes will serve as beautiful reminders of her love and her life for her beloved family and friends.