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4.7 out of 5 stars52
4.7 out of 5 stars
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This is a sumptuous Bloomsbury volume, weighty, luxurious and with a bright green cloth spine which clashes brilliantly with the bright pink endpapers inside. It's printed on thick paper and has gorgeous photos by Jonathan Buckland. But is it a good book about wild flowers?

It certainly seems somewhat undecided about what kind of book it actually IS. It's not a flora, that should be made clear from the start. By that, I mean, it's not a plant identification book. It's arranged by habitats, yes, such as Woods, Coast and Meadow, but each plant gets only a single photo (in most cases) and that won't be adequate to give you a concrete ID. (And some have very pretty photos that I wouldn't recognise the plant from! For example Cuckoo Flower, which in my experience is a bigger bloom.)

It's also not a botany book, and nor is it a gardening book, or a natural history book exactly. And it's not very comprehensive - most wild flower books include well over a thousand species, sometimes up to 1500, and this has only five hundred. AND some of those are grasses, which wouldn't appear in a normal flora...

This book's actual strengths take time to sink in, and time to grow on the reader. Sarah Raven is one of our best gardening writers, and she grew up botanising with her dad. In a way, this is a very personal (and possibly slightly self-indulgent?) book where she wanders around giving us her own personal take on the wild flowers she sees as she travels. And it's slowly, surprisingly, very seductive. Especially if you already know a little about wild flowers, and want to turn the pages, seeing old favourites, learning a few new things about each, drinking in the gorgeous pictures, noting in particular a bit of the very good ecological detail about what each flower generally grows with. There are lots of entries on non-native things which now grow in the wild in the UK, too, which I rather enjoy: it's an inclusive definition of 'wild'.

I think the whole book could lose, without any trouble, the rather un-useful botanical descriptions, which will be really hard to use without illustrations, and distribution and habitat notes. But the writing by Raven herself, when she gets going, is delicious. Pasqueflowers 'scatter themselves over chalky pastures, lying there like beautiful girls at the end of the dance". Ahh!

DON'T buy this book for anyone who is a novice and wants to identify wild flowers. Buy it instead as a sumptuous and beautiful gift for someone who already loves the subject. I don't know why I like this book so much really, but I do. You just want to keep reading, keep turning the pages, and keep thinking about the spring and summer to come.
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As soon as I saw this book, I knew that I would end up buying it. Before parting with my money, I did flick through one in a bookshop, and I was instantly captured by the presentation. It is a hefty book, more a coffee table book than anything else. But, it was not really produced to be a field guide or identification aid. WILD FLOWERS is very much a labour of love by Raven. She has chosen 50 of her favourite wild flowers to include in her tome, each organised by the typical habitat that you can encounter them in. Buckley's photographs compliment each entry, although there is only one picture of each plant covered. There are some double page spreads, and Raven has included the names of the flowers which are shown in these, but because they are more like landscape photographs, identification from those would be very tricky.

I think this book would make a great gift for someone who has a love of wild flowers, but perhaps already some knowledge of them. For a complete beginner, you may do well to consider a book like THE WILD FLOWER KEY as well, to aid them in identifying what they find. However, Raven's WILD FLOWERS would be a delight for anyone with an interest in this subject. I am so glad that I bought it. Havind said that it's not been produced as an identification guide, there have been a couple of flowers which I have managed to find in here without having any knowledge of what thet were before going to the book. At the end of the book, along with the index by Latin names, then common names, Raven has also included a glossary of the flowers by colour. This is a great idea, especially for those who may only have a little knowledge.

Highly recommended - it is something I will always treasure.
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on 28 December 2011
The pictures are really well chosen to illustrate growth form and habitat, and are thoroughly supported by all the information needed on taxonomy and anatomy, without being boring! The grouping by habitat is much more practical use than the plant family used by so many standard floras. The only problem is the physical weight of the book, but certainly worth it. When it is raining and cold outside, the book is a delightful escape to a beautiful world, as well as being useful and stimulating.
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on 8 December 2011
I sense words missing from the title, it ought to be The Wonderful World of Wild Flowers, or Sarah Raven's Wild Flowers: a lumpy, curiously scatty book full of bits and pieces of information dotted around like ox-eye daisies in an overgrown lawn. Inadequate as a guide to identification - for example check the entries for Hawkbit and compare them with a cursory glance at Hawkbits and Hawkweeds on line - so why the small-print descriptions? The larger photographs tend to be showy and landscapey 'fields of wheat' advertising style, those of individual plants too often single flower-heads with little sense of the scale or overall appearance of the plant. An album to browse through, yet too heavy to balance on your knees, the writing does not compare well with Mabey, even less with Grigson's dry style.[ASIN:1856193772 Richard Mabey Flora Britannica and B0000CJA21 GRIGSON The Englishman's flora] I bought it after reading the five-star reviews, and am disappointed, so mark it down to give a sense of perspective. Not without merits - but see it before you buy it.
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on 14 May 2012
A great companion to Maybey's Flora Brittanica. Beautiful photographs and an engaging text. Not so much a book to help you identify wild flowers, although it can help there, but more a conversation with someone who knows and loves their wild flowers. Despite being a bit of a doorstop of a book, well worth the money.
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on 2 November 2011
What a great book. Originally I bought this for my mum but ended keeping the copy and ordering another one for her. The subject is very well researched and the photography is stunning. I highly recommend this book!
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on 20 June 2012
I can highly recommend this book,it was bought for me as a present,but I would have bought it myself.The enthusiastic way in which Sarah writes about wildflowers pulls you into the book deeper with every page that you turn.The photographs are excellent the best I've seen and as my job involves wildflowers I have a collection of wild flower books,this one goes in at number 1
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on 26 October 2011
Just been given Sarah Raven's Wild Flower book for my Birthday, it is just what I wanted, I have always wished I knew about the flowers I saw and this is telling me everything I want to know. The pictures are gorgeous, will definately be giving it to my mum for Christmas.
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on 7 February 2012
What a stunning book! The photography just blew me away and Sarah's enthusiasm for wild flowers shines through on every page. Thoroughly recommend it.
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on 28 October 2011
This book is cram packed with fact more readable and anecdotal than Keble Martin but more seriously botanical than Richard Mabye. It's heavy, too big to carry around in the car and definitely too big for the bath but well worth spending some serious sofa time with, maybe they'll do a paper back later? It would be good.
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