My hopes for this blog
In part this blog is for myself, where I’m hoping to bring together all the strands of interests I have and all of the information I have ever gathered and garnered about the wildflowers in my virtual collection into one place. This will include their identification, where they grow, their uses to people, social history and folklore and perhaps most importantly how they fit into their habit and how other wildlife interacts with, or depends upon them.
Where it began
I was lucky to grow up in the countryside of Northamptonshire, (one of the counties more or less in the middle of England), back in the days when there was no daytime TV and most kids were expected to go outside to play and get out from under their mum’s feet. That suited me perfectly, I was more than happy to escape helping with household chores to be out exploring the woods and fields around our home. With some help from my dad on the rare days he wasn’t working, I quickly learnt when and where to find the pretty wildflowers I loved. Mostly I was out on my own, meandering around, mentally noting what I saw, then consulting my treasured guide, the little ‘Observers Book of Wildflowers’, once back at home. I still have that book and refer to it often as I love the style it is written in. I had no idea that I was learning about botany, ecology and habitats, but even then I was aware that some flowers were in safer places than others, some were less common and harder to find and some were more prolific one year than in others. My interest continued to grow and a house move to the other side of the county brought me into contact with new habitats, and my favourite places soon became the woods and its edges.
The common and other ‘country’ names for wildflowers
Growing up, all I needed to know about a wildflower I loved was its common name, where I knew I would find it, when it was in flower and, sorry for this bit, whether it was a good one to pick to take home for the windowsill jam-jar, or just one to admire. Then from school friends I began hearing plants called by different names to those I had learnt from my dad and my ‘Observer’s Book of Wildflowers’. Cow Parsley became keck, Bird’s-foot Trefoil Egg and Bacon. My favourite flower known to me as Moon daisy was also called Ox-eye Daisy and I discovered that the fresh young leaves of Hawthorn could be picked and eaten on the way to school and was also known as Bread and Cheese.
When I got a bit older and moved from the countryside to the suburbs of a city I took up gardening and became a bit of plant ‘geek’, liking to learn the scientific names for the plants I was growing, and thus starting to make connections with them and the wildflowers of my childhood. Around about the same time I came to regret that the years spent learning Latin at school were not more appreciated! Now I know that the scientific names are useful to know as they link together plants in the same family and that name stays the same for each plant worldwide, so I am trying to learn more of them.
If, like me, you are not a trained botanist that could take it apart and name it in a flash, the first step in identifying an unfamiliar plant is a decent photograph or illustration, preferably one you can ‘zoom in’ on. There have been so many times when I’ve searched id guides and gone down the wrong path, and wished for more or clearer detail, especially when there are several similar-looking plants around in the same location. I can’t guarantee that I will be 100% accurate in my identifications, but rest assured I will have tried hard to get them right and hopefully there will be enough detail in the photographs for an ‘expert’ to spot where I’m wrong and let me know!
Wildflower – insect associations
The next step was a move to a ‘semi-rural’ village in South Wales with a slightly different flora to that of middle England that set me off wanting to find out more about what was growing wild around me. Then, a major step, was becoming the owner of a decent camera and developing an interest in the insects and birds that visited my ¼ of an acre garden. I quickly realised that although some of my treasured cultivated plants held appeal for butterflies and bees, what really grabbed their attention were the herbs I was growing, lavender, borage and thyme in particular and the wildflowers I couldn’t bear to evict from the lawn and other gardened spaces. The plant-insect and to an extent bird associations began to be the focus of many of my photographs, although then I had a growing family and little time to indulge the interest and take it further. I was keeping a nature journal though and mentally storing snippets of information for future use. Nowadays I have more time and am slowly increasing my collection of wildflowers combined with insects or other fauna and attempting to expand my knowledge of their interactions.
In middle age, possibly having a bit of a ‘crisis’, or as I prefer to think of it, a realisation that I wasn’t devoting enough of my life to what I really loved to do, I took simultaneous courses to train as an Aromatherapist and Reflexologist. I took to them like a duck to water and spent hours on the Aromatherapy assignments researching and learning far more than was required about the wonderfully aromatic aromatherapy oils and their uses in restoring both physical and mental well-being. Gaining my diplomas qualifying me to work in this field gave me some of the most fulfilling years of my working life and also led me to study the uses of the Bach Flower Remedies. The remedies are essences extracted from 38 wildflowers and trees and I would (and do) recommend their use to anyone and everyone. I still get pleasure from coming across any of the wildflowers or trees included in the remedies and they will be acknowledged in the blog where appropriate.
PS: After all that I can still look at a wildflower and truly appreciate its simple beauty and I believe I always will!