4 out of 5 stars

My other half is a gardener and out front and back gardens are full of flowers in amongst the fruit trees, it does make sitting in the garden quite nice, and even when I’m in the office, the view out the front window is a sight to behold. Flowers are the beautiful and occasionally garish parts of a plant that are primarily evolved to attract an insect or bird to aid pollination. For some people, they are an irrelevant part of their lives, but their impact has permeated our culture in many ways.

Fiona Stafford has had a lifetime of enjoying flowers, from the gaudy red and yellow snapdragons, soft mounds of aubretia gladioli spikes and a huge rambling clematis, that made her childhood summers. Every time they moved her mother would begin to garden once again in the new property. The way flowers permeated her life is reflected in wider society, the loss of a loved one is often marked by flowers by the roadside, a couple on their wedding day have some sort of spray to hold and poppies are worn to remember those lost in wars long gone.

In this book, Stafford has selected fifteen flower species that are significant to her in one way or another. Beginning with the first of the late winter flowers, the snowdrop, that for me is the first hint that the world is still turning and spring is coming, she moves through the other flowers, such as daffodils, foxgloves and thistles as they appear in the year.

For each flower she has chosen there is a little potted history of each mixed with some personal memories and a little folklore and cultural and contemporary anecdotes mixed in. She talks about some of my favourites, bluebells, roses and lavender and ends on that most elusive of plants the ghost orchid.

I think overall I preferred this to her first book, the Long Long Life of Trees. Good as that was, this had the edge in a couple of ways. First her passion for her subject is very evident in the prose and secondly her writing as she deftly weaves between contemporary and historical anecdotes about her subject plants is a pleasure to read.

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