A Review: Wild Flowers by Sarah Raven

I was very interested to receive an advanced information sheet from Bloomsbury Books for Sarah Raven’s new book ‘Wild Flowers’.

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!

13 Comments on “A Review: Wild Flowers by Sarah Raven

  1. Sounds like it would be a good addition to my bookshelf too – my first recollection of wildflower spotting was on car journeys with my Dad’s cigarette card collection – Rosebay Willow Herb was a favourite ‘spot’.

  2. Looks like a good book, my first wildflower experience was I was 9 and my grandma gave me a little wildflower spotters guide when I went with her to the caravan, it was very interesting.

  3. Sarah Raven’s books are always beautifully presented but I usually find them more inspirational than informative. I think with wild flowers there is some need to include common names but then give the Latin name too as that’s the only way one can be sure. Hope you get to review the actual book, I’d be interested in ready your review. Christina

  4. My Mum loved wildflowers and I remember going for walks with her and she pointed everything out to me… I can still hear her say “thats a ragged robin..” whilst I crossed it off in my I-Spy Wild Flowers book

  5. I think the flowers should be listed by their Latin names – there is often more than one common name for the same flower and if anyone from another country buys the book they will be totally confused as the common names may be unfamiliar. Perhaps it is more of a book to go with the TV series rather than an in depth guide.
    Even so any book that makes people appreciate wild flowers is a good thing.

  6. Sarah Raven is a real jack of all garden(ing) trades! Her knowledge of wild flowers is astounding and this book is a testament to that. She is very open and direct, which came to the forth when I interviewed her recently on this very subject. I look forward to her upcoming programme on pollinators.

  7. This book is definitely going on my christmas list, it looks great. I can’t wait to watch the TV series too.

  8. Helen, I have had a quick peek into this tome at Waterstones earlier this week – it is certainly beautifully illustrated. I imagine that it is well written and researched as her other books. Two factors though are making me think twice about purchase thereof. One is cost. The other is the size and weight of the book – I was struggling to hold it and it would certainly not be practical to take it out for identification purposes. Maybe if it comes out in paperback in the future it would go some way to solving these issues.

  9. Having authored and published about a dozen books, Sarah Raven is so impressively prolific and I love her style.

    I already own her “In Season: Cooking with Vegetables and Fruits” which is really up my alley because I’m vegan. I have also been thinking of purchasing her “Grow Your Own Cut Flowers” but since reading your post I will add “Wild Flowers” to my literary wish list.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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