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[EBOOK] THE BOTANICAL BIBLE (PLANTS, FLOWERS, ART, RECIPES AND OTHER HOME REMEDIES), BY SONYA PATEL ELLIS

What are plants? I've asked this question of many people during the course of writing this hook and the combined answers are hugely revealing. My own children (aged four and six at the time) approached the querv with a refreshing innocence, largely based on what they could see in then immediate environment or how plants made them feel:‘Plants are cacti, trees and bluebells’,'Plants grow’,‘Plants liave roots’. ‘Plants are in my garden’,‘I love flowers',

‘I love playing in the forest', and the suitably abstract, ‘Sometimes I am a plant.’ The response from most adults was much more complex, revealing as much about the person themselves as it did about die Plant Kingdom. A significant number felt compelled to describe plants in a scientific manner, in many cases weaving together botanical facts and figures learned at school:‘Plants belong to the Plant Kingdom', ‘Plants photosynthesiseYPlants mm carbon dioxide into oxygen’,’Plants need the sun’,‘Plants arc all around us’. With just a small amount of further prompting — But what do plants do? How do plants make you feel? Do we need plants? Do you work with plants? — what many people felt was the ‘right answer’ (i.e. an educationally formulated one) evolved into a more personal narrative about their own botanical world. Conversations were initiated about plant-based food, materials and medicine, stories were shared about gardening, walks in the woods, favourite flowers, joyful plant-filled occasions, travels

Opposite Picking your own Vuit IS d lcvdỵ introduction to the botanical world, especially when the bounty is as tempting as these ruby red Dsccwery apples
to different bionics, herbal medicines, nostalgic floral perfumes and working with plants, and thoughts were expressed about our role in the future of plants based on how much we rely upon and therefore need them.

The point of asking such a question was not to expose a lack of botanical understanding but rather to liigiilight just how much most people actually do know' about plants from their everyday interactions with them — and by doing so, to encourage a more dynamic foregrounding of the wonders of the Plant Kingdom and thus greater enthusiasm for our understanding, care and pleasure of it. You don’t need to haw a Masters degree in botany to relate to plants (although a deeper knowledge of the Plant Kingdom can open as many doors of perception as an Aldous Huxley-inspired mescaline trip for some people), but the idea of looking closer at plants and elevating them to the same lofty stanis as other living organisms (animals and humans, for example) is ultimately inspiring — the Plant Kingdom really is a wonderful multifaceted prism through which to view the workings and abstractions of the world at large.

For my part. I’ve inhabited a ‘botanical world’ for as long as I can remember. As a young cliild. my mum would take my siblings and me for regular walks down the Nagger Lines (an abandoned railway between two former collieries) of tile West Yorkshire vilLige of Stanley, where I grew up. Between illicit jaunts into adjacent cabbage or rhubarb fields (this being the heart of "The Rhubarb Triangle'), we'd pick the wildflowers that grew along its scruffy banks, carefully placing ox-eye daisies, dandelions and mother die (cow parsley) into beloved flower presses bequeathed by a neighbour. At home, we’d turn them into pictures like the ones my mum had hanging on our lounge walls, in classic 1970s hippy-meets-Victoriana style, laded petals pinned upon deep black velvet or creamy handmade paper.

These flower presses would go everywhere with us: on plants-meet-art days out to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park; on holiday to Wales where we marvelled at our first sighting of a snake s-head fritillary (no one would believe dial we had seen a chequered flower, as our intuitive feeling that It was rare saved it from the press); or further afield when we experienced our first foreign climes, courtesy of the Spanish isle of Ibiza.There we saw- and tasted olives for the first time, inhaled the uplifting aroma of native rosemary and thyme clustered around boulders or patches of parched earth, and witnessed our first palm tree. I also fully realised at die eye-opening age of sewn that my dad too, like these pLints, was originally from another country, namely India; a place (hat came with its own culture, colours and natural scenery. This was my ‘flower power’ summer: July 1981 - the year that the narrative of my own personal 'botanical world’ went global.

My sister, brother and 1 owe much to our mum and dad for our knowledge of pLints. Although my dad studied botany while training to become a doctor, and thus has a good understanding of the science of plants, it was my combined parents’ inquisitive minds and creative outlook that really laid the foundation for much of our learning and sustained interest in nature.

We were also lucky enough to haw a small garden while growing up, and we spent most of our time in it making mud pics.
baslung succulents to extract die ‘medicinal' juice, crafting with anything we could get our hands on — including foraged sticks, leaves, nuts, seeds, fruits and flowers — and helping grow spring bulhs, vegetables and berries, some of which we would then eat.

My botanical knowledge grew organically and osnioticallv — including grasping the very concept of osmosis and the idea of a xylem and phloem by way of a split-stemmed white carnation watered by two separate vases of food dye (infinitely more powerful than the words of any textbook) — and along the way I was shown the essential skills of how to marvel and inquire. A lifelong obsession with die natural history television presenter David Attenborough, who first appeared on my TV screen in 1979 with the documentary series I jfe on Forth, immeasurably expanded my botanical world. These horizons were then further personalised by an art degree specialising in fashion and textiles (mostly spent pivoting around aspects of nature), 20 years of editorial experience (for illustrated books, magazines and environmental organisations, exploring everything from alternative health to plant-inspired design) and a garden to call my own. not far from the ancient botanical wonders of F.pping Forest (a new favourite day out).

I am not a botanist per sc. but 1 can enthuse for hours about plants and all that diey liave taught me (for those with the inclination to listen or the wisdom to teach me more) and the importance of passing on the seeds of this knowledge has also become increasingly vital since having children of my own. Indeed, inspiring plant lust and conservancy in future generations may well be the main catalvst and raison d'etre for this book, a narrative tlut began to unfold in early 2013.

[EBOOK] THE BOTANICAL BIBLE (PLANTS, FLOWERS, ART, RECIPES AND OTHER HOME REMEDIES), BY SONYA PATEL ELLIS


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