I have always been interested in wild flowers. I remember doing a project over the summer holidays when I was a teenager on the composition of a hedge. The project was for a school competition and involved me looking carefully and recording all the plants in a country hedge near our house (we lived in the middle of nowhere so I was quite lonely and bored!!). I put an awful lot of work into the project and was delighted to win first prize.
I have continued to have a basic working knowledge of British wild flowers but I know that I have forgotten an awful lot and it is one of those things that I would really like to take some time and learn about again. My current field guide to Wild Flowers is quite old dating from the 1970s, when I was at school. It works reasonably well especially as the plants are divided into colours which really helps with identification but all the plants are illustrated with drawings and as a would be botanical artist I know how inaccurate these can be.
From the information I have received about Sarah Raven’s Wild Flowers I think this will be a wonderful addition to the bookshelf. The book provides portraits of 500 wild flowers all accompanied by gorgeous photographs by Jonathan Buckley. Each portrait has a brief introduction by Sarah, she opens the portrait of Anemone nemorosa (Wood Anemone) with “A clump of these is like a group of four and five year old girls in their tutus, going off to their first ballet lesson:”. I think this is a wonderful description and quite atmospheric. The portraits then record the plant type, describes the flowers, habitat, distribution and gives a brief description of the plant.
It appears from the information sheet that the plants are listed by common names such as Wood Anemone, Yellow Archangel, Fly Orchid as opposed to their latin names. I’m not sure if this is the best approach since we all know that wild flowers often have more than one common name depending on where they grow in the country. I would also be interested to see if other common names are listed when there is more than one and whether there is some form of index which would help people identify plants by their latin name. My only other criticism is that this is a large book, it’s not the sort of thing you would be able to take out in the field which is a pity. I would prefer to have a book in my bag to refer to rather than having to pick a wild flower to take home to compare to images in the book but then I suppose you could try taking photographs.
Sarah Raven’s books are generally well received so it would be nice to think that the fans of her cooking and gardening books will embrace this new direction and in turn learn to recognise and appreciate our wild flowers. Especially if the promised 3 part television series is as good as previous television Sarah has done.
I will certainly be dropping hints in the lead up to Christmas!