Whenever I see the first cowslips of the year, I imagine myself back in a field near Sandyford, County Dublin, in the mid 1950s …
Zoë Devlin has viewed her whole life through green-tinted glasses, describing herself as an ‘unofficial ambassador for weeds, wasps and wagtails’. What began as a childhood delight in wildflowers grew into a hobby, then blossomed into an enduring passion. She recalls her encounters with various species, divulging the history of where she discovered them alongside tales from her own life. Skilfully interweaving her captivating memories with her expertise, each chapter celebrates a particular month, capturing the beauty and joy it has to offer: birds, butterflies, mammals and even tasty recipes, from nettle soup in April to blackberry-and-apple jam in September. She writes fondly of those who helped her knowledge of our flora, particularly members of her extended family, such as her watercolourist great-aunt, Gladys Wynne, and her cousin, 1916 veteran Dr Kathleen Lynn.
By turns witty, informative, dark and bizarre, Zoë opens our eyes to the beauty all around us, whatever the time of year. Her uplifting recollections will encourage readers to identify, understand and savour the plant life that so often goes unnoticed beneath our feet – she hopes, in this way, to help preserve it.
After Zoë Devlin retired, she combined her interests in botany and photography by developing www.wildflowersofireland.net, an enormously popular forum for those interested in seeking out, identifying and sharing wildflowers in Ireland. She writes a monthly article for The Irish Garden and for Woodland, the magazine of the Native Woodland Trust. She regularly gives lectures and guided walks, and was named Distinguished Recorder of the Year 2016 by the National Biodiversity Data Centre.