Jennifer Potter

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Agent: Caroline Dawnay
Associate : Sophie Scard


Best known as a horticultural historian, Jennifer Potter is the author of four novels and five works of non-fiction, most recently Seven Flowers and How They Shaped Our World (Atlantic Books, 2013). Her dual biography of the John Tradescants, Strange Blooms, The Curious Lives and Adventures of the John Tradescants, appeared in 2006. Long listed for the Duff Cooper Prize, it was described by Jenny Uglow in the Sunday Times as a 'tour de force' and by Jane Stevenson in the Telegraph as a 'wonderful book'. She followed this with The Rose, A True History (2010), which took her to Europe, North America and Iran in search of the western world's favourite flower.  Writing in Gardens Illustrated, Mary Keen called The Rose 'a remarkable and gripping work of scholarship'; it was a finalist in the Garden Media Guild's Inspirational Book of the Year 2012.  A regular reviewer for the Times Literary Supplement and a guest contributor to The Arvon Book of Literary Non-fiction (Bloomsbury, 2012), Jennifer is currently a Royal Literary Fund Consultant Fellow and has enjoyed fellowships on Warwick University's celebrated Writing Programme and at Hawthornden Castle.

Latest publication:

Seven Flowers, Atlantic, 3rd October 2013

The lotus, lily, sunflower, opium poppy, rose, tulip and orchid. Seven flowers: seven stories full of surprise and secrets.

Where and when did these flowers originate? What is the nature of their power and how was it acquired? What use has been made of them in gardens, literature and art? These are both histories and detective stories, full of incident, unexpected revelations, and irony. The opium poppy, for example, returned to haunt its progenitors in the West; and while Confucius saw virtue and modesty in his native orchids, the ancient Greeks saw only sex.

These are flowers of life and death; of purity and passion; of greed, envy and virtue; of hope and consolation; of the beauty that drives men wild. All seven demonstrate the enduring ability of flowers to speak metaphorically - if we could only decode what they have to say.



Publication DetailsNotes

Full Circle Editions

Inspired by a concert held during the Aldeburgh Festival on an American airbase in Suffolk, this haunting novel shows how complex human relations and the power of place can capture and inspire the musical imagination.


Publication DetailsNotes

Atlantic Books

This beautifully written and gorgeously produced book describes the remarkable lives and times of the John Tradescants, father and son.



In The Rose, the acclaimed horticultural historian Jennifer Potter shows what, exactly, gives this most fragrant flower its potency in societies around the world. Beginning her story in the Greek and Roman empires, she travels across Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Americas to unravel its evolution from a simple briar of the northern hemisphere to the height of cultivated perfection found in rose gardens today. Whether laying bare the flower’s long association with sexuality and secret societies, questioning the Crusaders’ role in bringing roses back from the Holy Land, or hunting for its elusive blooms in the gardens of the Empress Josephine at Malmaison, Jennifer Potter reveals why this flower, above all others, has provoked such fascination.


Channel 4 Books

The accompaniment to the Channel 4 series of the same name. The reader is taken back in time to discover and recreate eight gardens, now forgotten and overgrown, as they would have been in their heyday. A team of impassioned gardeners grapple with questions to unlock the gardens' secrets.



A wide variety of secret gardens is explored, from intimate retreats to treehouses, caves and grottoes.