01 February 2008

Garden Bloggers Muse Day Meets Wildflowers in Winter

Our blogging friend Carolyn of Sweet Home & Garden Chicago started Garden Blogger's Muse Day a while back, and it's been goin' great guns ever since. The idea is to post some garden-related poetry or prose (our own or something written by someone else we really like) on the first day of the month.

February is no excuse to be muse-less, either. Carolyn is basking in the radiant warmth of Florida, clearing up her winter woes, but she's posted her whimsies for the month right here; leave a comment to let her know when your post is up.

Because I've got so much going on right now, I'm sort of being a bit of a rascal, and combining my muse post with the Wildflowers in Winter Week 3 Post, which is on literary wildflowers, or on a book about wildflowers that we particularly like. Being as how I'm a bit of a bibliophile, with a lot of books about plants and gardening, I thought I'd share a bit of a cross-Canada look at books about wildflowers, plus one more. The book at the top of the post is from 1976, and is by Dietmar Aichele with illustrations by Marianne Golte-Bechtle and published by Cathay Books. It's one of the very first books about wild plants I got; actually, my father bought it for me and gave it to me while I was at Agricultural College studying botany (among other things), and to this day it's one of my favourites. It's a wildflower key, but different from other identification books, simple to use; I've chased down identifications for others using this book's key, even when I haven't been real familiar with the plant itself.

Traveling with Wildflowers from Newfoundland to Alaska is by Phyllis Joy Hammond and was published in 1998 by Newfoundland's own Breakwater Books. What a thrill it was to lug it with me last summer when we plant-hunters went to Newfoundland and the southern Labrador coast, and to actually see some of the places Phyllis wrote about, and the plants she painted in her delicious watercolours. This isn't a book of botany, but rather of travel and observation, and a lovely one to boot.

Of course I have books about the Flora of the Atlantic provinces, each with their dicotomous key of characteristics and plant names. But this tiny gem is one I picked up, like others, at a local used-book store, and it's another book of drawings/paintings, by Katherine Mackenzie and published in 1973 by Tundra books of Montreal. The paintings are very detailed and yet incredibly delicate, perhaps shrunken down to fit the book's tiny size (4 x 6 inches). The author includes interesting snippets of information about each plant, as in this entry about strawberry goosefoot, Chenopodium capitatum "In France, the berry is used to colour wine that has turned out to be too pale.'. Who knew?

From Western Producer Prairie Books (a probably long-defunct local publisher, I'm sure) came this delightful book, published in 1977. I've been to Edmonton and Winnipeg only in the Prairie provinces--and to a wildlife santuary outside Winnipeg called Oak Hammock Marsh--and while I did get to look at some wild flora, I didn't find this book until a few years ago in that same used book store here in NS. (One wonders how it ended up there.) I was fascinated by the huge span of plants included in this book; from alpine types that I recognize from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to cacti that would never grow here except in a container indoors.

And now we've reached the West Coast, not to be confused with the Best Coast. In 1990, I went out to Chilliwack for a week or so, to visit my then-husband who was doing officer training in the Armed Forces. He had to work during the days, so I scooted all around the lower mainland, and even went to Vancouver Island, and got to explore woods and streams as well as museums and malls. This small book, published by Hancock House in 1986, was quite useful as I clambered up trails near Cultus Lake and Harrison Hot Springs, seeing lovely wild orchids but also familiar plants from both garden (such as western Bleeding-heart) and house (Piggy-back plant).

Some of the plants in each book are familiar to us as garden plants; some are purely to be enjoyed for their own selves in the wild. Looking through the books, I am taken away many miles. A painting of bog rosemary, and I'm standing on the wind-scoured Tablelands in Gros Morne National Park; one of mayflowers, and I smell their sweetness in the Port l'Hebert Pocket Wilderness near Liverpool, here in NS; Yellow violets remind me of the woodlands of the Ottawa Valley near the Quebec border, while I remember seeing much water smartweed in wet areas near farms outside of Winnipeg. And in each case, to derive from Wordsworth's delight at his wild daffodils, "and then, my heart with pleasure fills..." and dances with each wildflower's grace.


  1. How interesting the books you have collected. I wish I could look at Traveling with Wildflowers. It looks like such an interesting read. I have been to Alaska and British Columbia, and was facinated with the wildflowers there. I was impressed that many in Alaska were similar to so many way down in the Northwest where I live. Your first book looks really useful. I use a keyed book sometimes and it can really help.

    Thanks for writing.

  2. What a great collection of wildflowers book - it inspired me to look around in bookshops, maybe there is nice one and informative as well.
    Muse Day... great that you explain the background, which is always a puzzle for newcomers like me :))

  3. Why you clever little rascal, you! I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for your contribution.

  4. Thanks so much for the book reviews, Jodi. I don't buy many books these days, but wildflower guides are still a weakness of mine, so I'm thrilled to find out about some of your favorites.

  5. Jodi, this is a great post. I just love books with watercolors in them. If they are a wildflower book that is a bonus. I would love to be able to peruse the books you have written about.

    The used book shops should applaud you because your post makes me want to go scavenging for wildflower books.

  6. sure you can never have too many flower/gardening books!!
    groaning shelves here. . .

  7. Jodi, I have traveled in Canada from coast to coast and discovered many beautiful wildflowers. Thank you for your post.

  8. Wildflowers are underrated so it's great to read a post about them. As you know I love wildflowers to bits but strangely enough I have only 1 book about them. How very remiss of me! ;-)

    BTW I've long suspected that there was a rascally side to you! giggle

  9. Jodi,
    You have so many wildflower books that I'm envious! Wildflowers are one of my passions the reason I take so many photos of them and have a blog about the ones found in Ontario. I just bet that many of the wildflowers growing in your neck of the woods grow in mine too! ;-)

  10. Hi Jodi,

    Combine and conquer! You do have some treasures there - do you find it easier to ID plants from photos or is the detail in botanical illustrations helpful?

    My collection of wildflower books includes a couple from the 1960's that are still useful. The parts of Canada we've visited are Butchard Gardens and Niagara Falls - lots of garden but little of it wild.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  11. I got inspired by you and I made post for Garden Bloggers Muse Day :)
    simple and interetsing poem I quoted in a way referring to nature :)

  12. Nancy, not clever, just overworked. Check out used bookstores for some of these gems, as many are out of print.

    Elizabeth Joy, lucky you having been to Alaska. Travelling with Wildflowers IS a lovely book, and it was really fun to stand at some of the same sites as the author had been.

    Ewa, glad to see that you've also joined in with Muse Day. I hope you can find similar books in Warsaw.

    Carolyn, yup, you know me, always a rascal! It's great to see so many taking part in Muse Day.

    Nan, I don't buy a LOT of books either (except mysteries at the used book store) because I do get sent so many (and I read as many of those as possible.) So I know where you're coming from.

    Lisa, I figured you'd love the books with watercolours in them. and yes, do go check out the secondhand stores...I've found real gems there in the past.

    Claire, you're so right...never too many books. Just not enough space!

    Gisela, I hope you'll post about your wildflower experiences.

    Dirty Knees, you're right, we do share quite a few similar wildflowers, at least in my memories of the woods and meadows around Hawkesbury, where I lived for some months in the 70s...

    Yolanda, those of us who love wildflowers are growing in numbers, I think. And who me, rascally?

    Annie, I use both photos and paintings/drawing to identify plants. Sometimes photos aren't clear enough, or closeup enough, but most artists draw with an eye for being clear, I find.


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