Irish Florilegium II
Wild and Garden Plants of Ireland
48 Watercolour Paintings by Wendy Walsh
Introduction and Notes on the Plates by Charles Nelson
Published by Thames
and Hudson Ltd., London, 1987
Reviewed by Bob Cooper
The first volume of "An
Irish Florilegium", also containing 48 watercolour paintings by
Wendy Walsh and notes by Charles Nelson, was published in 1983,
and is now out of print. The second volume, published last year,
will be welcomed by botanists, horticulturists and bibliophiles.
In May 1955, we had an
exhibition of flower paintings at the Auckland War Memorial Museum
as part of the Auckland Festival. It was entitled "Flowers of Five
Centuries", and included many watercolours, drawings and coloured
plates borrowed by Dr William T. Stearn on our behalf from the British
Museum (Natural History), Royal Horticultural Society, and private
collections. The flower paintings of Wendy Walsh are equal to the
best of those displayed in 1955; they have a delicacy, naturalness
and charm that I think is well described as "exquisite".
Wendy Walsh also provided
the colour plates and drawings for "An Irish Flower Garden"
by E. Charles Nelson (1984), and is working at present on illustrations
of the unique flora of the Burren, an area of limestone terraces
in County Clare.
Charles Nelson was born
in Northern Ireland, graduated in botany from the University College
of Wales, Aberystwyth, and completed a Ph.D. degree at the Australian
National University, Canberra. He is taxonomist at the National
Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin, and visited New Zealand in April
and May of 1988 on his way to the Botanical History Symposium on
the development of Systematic Botany in Australasia, held at the
University of Melbourne, 25-27 May 1988. Dr Nelson lectured on Ireland's
gardens and New Zealand plants, on early introductions of Australian
and New Zealand plants to Europe, and on the botanical and horticultural
consequences of 19th century exploration in Australasia, to the
Department of Botany, University of Auckland (2 May), to the Auckland
Branch, RNZIH (3 May), to the Wellington Branch, RNZIH (9 May) and
to the Annual Conference, RNZIH, Christchurch, (13 May).
Among Dr Nelson's many
published papers, several proved invaluable when we were writing
"Economic Native Plants of New
Zealand" (by S. G. Brooker, R. C. Cambie and R. C. Cooper, published
by Botany Division, DSIR, Christchurch, February 1988). For example,
his paper on "Australian plants cultivated in England before 1788"
(Telopea 2 (4):347-353, 1983) was the basis for our account of the
New Zealand plants grown in Europe from seed taken back to England
on Cook's three voyages. His magnificent book on the National Botanic
Gardens, Glasnevin, (with E. M. McCracken, published by Boethius
Press, Kilkenny, 1987), mentioned a number of later introductions
from New Zealand.
In "Florilegium I",
Wendy Walsh provided a painting of Pittosporum tenuifolium
'Silver Queen', raised about 1900 from a bud sport at the Slieve
Donard Nursery outside Newcastle, County Down. I came across the
cultivar in catalogues when I was revising the Australian and New
Zealand species of Pittosporum (Annals Mo. Bot. Gard. 43:
87-188, 1956), but was unsuccessful in finding out much about it
and missed the Award of Merit given by the RHS in 1914. We are fortunate
now to have lists of cultivars in "The Cultivation of New Zealand
Trees and Shrubs" by Lawrie Metcalf (Reed Methuen, Auckland, 1987).
In volume II of "An
Irish Florilegium", Dr Nelson explains why the 48 plants were chosen
ie. as some of the truly native species of Ireland, or as
some of the exotic species that were discovered or introduced into
cultivation by Irish botanists and gardeners, or as some of the
superb cultivars associated with Irish nurserymen and gardeners.
Olearia 'Henry Travers' honours an Irish-born plant explorer;
Hebe 'Headfortii' is one of a number of fine cultivars
raised in Irish gardens.
An Olearia was
sent from Wellington to the Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, by Henry
Travers in 1908, and flowered in 1910 as Olearia semidentata
Decaisne. However, it differs from the type, and Dr Nelson has named
it 'Henry Travers', discussed its possible parentage, and given
an outline of the work of W. T. L. Travers (father) and H. Travers
(son) in New Zealand botany. Wendy Walsh's illustration (Plate 22)
shows a superb tree daisy with pale-lilac ray florets and rich-purple
(Plate 35) was raised by the Marquis of Headfort in his garden at
Kells, County Meath, and distributed about 1930. The sender of the
seed from New Zealand is not known, and the parentage of the cultivar
is also mysterious. If any reader knows who sent seed to Kells in
the 1920s, please advise Dr E. C. Nelson, National Botanic Gardens,
Glasnevin, Dublin 9.
The price of eighty pounds
sterling is an obstacle in these days of reduced library budgets,
but "An Irish Florilegium II" is a lovely book with fine
illustrations and accurate readable text, and is well worth the
Journal of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture 1989
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