The Secrets of Wildflowers

St. John’s Wort

“In joy or sadness, flowers are our constant friends.”  ~Kakuzo Okakura


Black-eyed Susans

Even with the crazy and extreme winter weather, we have had an abundance of wildlife visiting the garden.  And the wildlife is one of the biggest reasons I have added more and more native wildflowers to the garden.  They bring us hours of excitement right outside our window.

And for the last couple of years, I have enjoyed profiling many native plants in my garden and learning more about how they grow, their folklore and benefits to wildlife.  And naturally I have been collecting many books about the folklore and uses of wildflowers.  I like to have lots of information about the plants I grow and those I am thinking of growing.

So when I saw this book last spring, I couldn’t wait to buy it.  I finally had more time to read this book, and thought what a perfect first garden book to review for 2014.


The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and History

secrets wildflowers


Author:   Jack Sanders

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher:   Lyons Press (January 26, 2010)

Amazon Price: $41.00 Used (I bought it for $12 in May)



In A Few Words


The book is divided into sections based on the seasons spring to fall.  And the plants are further arranged according to when they bloom in that season.  The author begins by telling us why wildflowers are so important.  As he says these flowers are interesting with many “secrets” and:

“…few things in nature beautify the world more than wildflowers…..without them the world would be a pretty dull place.”

This book describes both native and alien wildflowers; those that were here before humans came to North America and those that were imported.  So why profile both?  The author says simply because they are both interesting.  He further says that wildflowers are defined by their success at surviving sometimes too much so.  He gave several references to how humans have helped this success.  One such example is ragweed that exploded in its growth and range when humans poured more carbon dioxide into the air.

The author tried to choose a variety of the most common wildflowers showcasing many of their medicinal and practical qualities.




What I Liked


I have to say that if I judged this book by its cover it would rate 4 out of 4 stars as it resembles my meadow in spring.  But just reading the introduction hooked me as I couldn’t put down this tribute to wildflowers.  So many stories and sidebar poems and snippets are crammed into the book:  origins of names, natural history, folklore, habitats and creative uses.

For instance St. John’s Wort has a rather mystical past associated with St. John the Baptist for whom the plant was named.  But it is considered a noxious weed in some spots depending on the species.   And red trillium’s putrid scent was considered a divine sign for its use to treat gangrene.

And I love how the author highlights the benefits of wildflowers to the habitat of birds, insects, animals and even humans.  For instance, eating the basal leaves of blue violets in the spring will give you 5 times more Vitamin C.  And some daisies are actually repellent to insects because they contain a natural insecticide.



Not So Much

Purple Loosestrife

While the author includes invasive weeds in this book, I still find the stories and history of these plants intriguing none-the-less.  At first I was off put by this, but now I understand why he included them.  And I think I actually appreciate the book more because they are included since most of us have them growing in our gardens whether we like them or not.

Some interesting tidbits about purple loosestrife are included.  This alien wildflower is considered one of the most noxious because of its takeover of wetlands.  But it is controlled by insects in its native habitat which is one reason it runs wild here; we don’t have that insect.  And the supposed sterile cultivars have been found to not be so sterile after all, creating more ways to keep this plant running amok.




Final Thoughts


If you are looking for a book to identify wildflowers or show lots of great pictures of them, this is not the book.  As the author says, there are field guides for that.

This book takes you to the next part in the story of wildflowers beyond what they look like and where you might find them.  It’s the wonderful stories that will keep you reading.  I agree with many others who have read this book; it is an intriguing if not indispensable addition to your wildflower library.




Are you a lover of wildflowers?  What is your favorite wildflower native or alien?


In about a month it will be time for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).  I look forward to this event every year image_previewas it means spring is closer, and I get to be part of a growing movement to track and record what is going on in my wildlife garden.  Scientists use the data to help learn more about birds and what factors may be affecting them.  This year will be the first International GBBC.  I hope you will be part of the fun from February 14th to the 17th.



I am joining in with Katarina@Roses and Stuff for her meme Wisdom Wednesday.  Include the quote she has chosen or chose one of your own.  You know how I love quotes.

“Every time I go into the garden where the man or woman who owns it has a passionate love of the earth and of growing things, I find that I have come home.”  ~Marion Cran



Next up on the blog:  I have a special post coming on Thursday.  I am collaborating with a fellow blogger and friend, calling all gardeners for their advice.  And there will be a giveaway.  Then first post in my 2014 Simply The Best series begins next week.  I hope you will enjoy the plants I am planning to profile.

I am linking in with Michelle@Rambling Woods for her Nature Notes meme.

It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Wednesday.

I hope you will join me for my posts once a month at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. See my latest post.

I can also be found blogging once a month at Vision and Verb.  My first post will be on January 22nd.

As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.sharethelove

I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.