Book of the Month Club: Land of Enchantment Wildflowers

Executive Summary: 3/5  Land of Enchantment Wildflowers: A Guide to the Plants of New Mexico (Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest), by Willa F. Finley and LaShara J. Nieland is an informative and beautifully produced book, but impractical for use while hiking. Editing and organization makes it harder to find specific flowers than necessary.

There are affiliate links in this post. As with all reviews on this blog, I purchased the item with my own money, for my own use, without any sponsorship.

 Land of Enchantment Wildflowers: A Guide to the Plants of New Mexico (Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest), by Willa F. Finley and LaShara J. Nieland has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years now. This field guide to New Mexico wildflowers features more than 200 plants, all photographed by the authors, with details of their blossoms, leaves and seedpods.

There are 456 color photographs, plus information about traditional uses; toxins; etymology of both common and scientific names; usage in landscaping and gardening; and interactions with livestock, wildlife and insects. The book is written in a clear and engaging prose style.

This guidebook is beautifully produced, with accurate color reproduction. For a trade paperback, it is fairly compact and lightweight–just shy of 9″ x 5 1/2″ x 1″ and 1 lb, 11.5 oz (780g). Personally, if I’m doing a serious wildflower hike, with sketchbook, drawing tools and camera in tow, on top of my water, weather and dog gear, that nearly 2 pounds of paper weighs too much and takes up too much volume in my daypack to be useful. And if I’m doing a fast and light dayhike, I’m not going to be making any lengthy stops to peruse a guidebook.

Land of Enchantment Wildflowers organizes the flowers by color, rather than botanical family. This seems like a helpful way to categorize different species, especially for a novice wildflower enthusiast, but it’s not as useful as you might think. For one thing, not everyone sees colors the same way. Also, flowers can have slight color variations in certain locations.

Plants that are in the same family have more in common with each other than they do with plants that have the same color flower, but are totally different in their shape, preferred locations, pollinators, etc, etc. It’s the same reason most bird guides are organized by general family–a crow and a raven are very similar in what they eat and how they move, but a blackbird is a songbird, with totally different needs and behaviors. Yet all three birds are black!

Another problem with the book is the way the photographs are selected and arranged. The photos are all of the plants in full bloom. There are no photos of young plants, seed pods, etc. Wildflowers only bloom for a short period each year, so knowing how they look “out of season” is important!

The authors have placed photos of very closely related flowers together under one species entry heading, but the labeling as to which (sub) species is which can be confusing, or missing.

Finally, the photos are all literally postage-stamp size. Not very comfortable viewing for those of us with aging eyes!

We keep a selection of New Mexico books in our guest room for guests to enjoy while visiting us. Land of Enchantment Wildflowers has a definite place on the bookshelf. As a field guide, it’s a little too heavy and the photos are too confusing to take along for most dayhikes. I still prefer to snap photos with my phone camera, then use the databases at the Santa Fe Botanical Garden and the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center to make a positive ID.

The authors also wrote the guide, Lone Star Wildflowers: A Guide to Texas Flowering Plants (Grover E. Murray Studies in the American Southwest).



Required reading: The Botanical Artist, December 2013 edition

A quick review of ASBA's journal, featuring artwork by Elaine Searle and others.

The December issue of The Botanical Artist features work by Elaine Searle on the cover.

I received my December issue of the American Society of Botanical Artists’ journal, The Botanical Artist, late Saturday. I spent Sunday afternoon devouring the contents. This has to be one of the best issues of the magazine I’ve received so far.

The cover features a watercolor of a garden rhubarb painted by British botanical artist Elaine Searle. There is a full report on the recently concluded annual society conference in Pittsburgh. Mark Isaac-Williams, the artist-in-residence at Hong Kong’s Kadoori Farm and Botanical Gardens and orchid expert, is profiled by Joyce Westner, while a brief introduction to Australian botanical art pioneer Margaret Flockton was contributed by Louise Wilson, her great-grand-niece. Rising Australian botanical art star John Patoriza-Piñol offers some tips on the use of masking fluid (I love the term “smooshing” brush!).

All this, plus the usual informative round of articles on botany, watercolor chemistry and peeks into other artists’ studios!

Book of the Month Club: The Flower Recipe Book

House Beautiful magazine’s August issue features some good books for the coffee table and the nightstand this month. I was particularly interested in The Flower Recipe Book, by Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo, published by Artisan Books.

Harampolis and Rizzo own Studio Choo in San Francisco, a florist boutique and stylist consultancy to Sunset and Food & Wine magazine, among others. The book is a guide for creating 100 different flower arrangements, each of which showcases a particular blossom. The different flowers are arranged alphabetically in the table of contents. Techniques, ingredients and “recipes” are illustrated with copious photographs, and suggestions are made for substitutions and variations.

A wide variety of vases and vessels are shown, with descriptions of types of shapes and textures to use to create a similar look and feel. Photographs are by Paige Green.

If I weren’t living under a “1 book in, 2 books out” policy right now, with only books I can’t part with, I would definitely buy this book! As it is, I’m going to be trolling the public library to see when it’s available, lol. 🙂

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