When I pulled this book off the shelf in the Children’s Department of the public library I thought it might be interesting to look at the photographs with my daughter, who is 7 (almost 8). It was the beginning of Spring and we were going to start hiking again so I told her we should check out some flowers that we might see along the paths. I never expected that we would read through all the flowers, and then pick our favorites and read them a few more times. I never expected to renew from the library, not because we did not finish it, but rather we wanted to look at it again.
This book is worth a trip to the children’s section of the library, even if you do not plan to share it with anyone who is much younger than you. The photographs are beautiful, and I really liked the layout — for the most part, the body of the book contains one flower per chapter with a two page spread that has a photograph on one page and its corresponding description on the other. Like this:
What I really appreciated, however, is Hope Ryden’s ability to write about the wildflowers in a way that presented each wildflower as distinct and beautiful with its particular needs. She gives just enough information to let you in on how the flower reproduces, whether it can be found in abundance or is rare, and a little background on why digging up a few beautiful flowers for your garden, seen on the side of the road or while on a walk in the woods, in most instances will fail, and therefore not practical for the flower that might be endangered. She also notes the bloom time of each flower (something which my daughter found most interesting).
The author’s ability to focus our attention, in a way that was subtly humorous, on a curious association that could be made about the flower’s appearance, not only engaged us in our reading, but also gave us something to hold on to as we began to look around for flowers in their natural environment. She begins the page on the Dutchman’s Breeches, for example, by asking:
“When you look at this flower, do you see several pairs of trousers hanging upside down?”
We were so amused by the breeches hanging upside down we quickly counted it as one of our favorites and now keep an eye open for it when walking. Along with the way a flower looks, Hope Ryden gives a brief explanation on how it reproduces; sometimes adding significant historical facts, such as
“For a long time, botanists believed that the Dutchman’s breeches flower was self-pollinating. To prove this theory, they covered a wide patch of blossoms with sheer gauze that could not be penetrated by even the tiniest midge. The outcome surprised them. Not a single blossom made seeds.”
And so you learn as you look at all the wildflowers, enjoy their beauty and unique display just how they are dependent upon certain carriers, whether it be hummingbirds, or bumble bees, or other insects. There is a unexpected sense of community that happens everywhere, and the part you play in it for the wildflower is very much to let them be.
The book’s impact was such that when walking through a trail at Five Rivers we spotted a wildflower sitting all alone looking a bit like a daisy and then realized it was the very delicate Bloodroot.
It was the only flower among the dried leaves, and amazingly easy to walk right by without noticing it. What a thrill to see this flower and know a little bit about it. While it is true you can enjoy the beauty of a flower without knowing its name, but there is something about knowing its name, and knowing how delicate it is that brings you into relationship with it and opens the doors to reverence.