Wednesday, 30 May 2012


Admittedly we’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front of late but hopefully things will soon pick up again.  Hopefully we now have a publisher and the intention is to have the book on the shelves by next spring.  A long way off we know but these things take time and with our absentee lifestyle we’re not in a position to work on the book full time.  However, this has its compensations and the last few months have seen Chris able to work on improving some images and also capturing some new ones worth considering.  Snowdrops (and thousands of other bulbs) were superb across north-west Turkey this spring and plentiful rains in sourthern Uzbekistan meant impressive foxtail lilies and tulips, whilst central Turkey produced the goods yet again with Fritillaria alburyana, the recently named Iris peshmenii and countless other mountain gems from gentians and pasque flowers to stately Iris kirkwoodiae and cliffs plastered with Saxifraga kotschyi.  All of these yielded worthwhile pictures and most will be included.  Added to this we are now in the process of describing a new species of bellevalia we discovered in the region two years ago (see post 22nd April 2014). 

However, one unfortunate recent development in Turkey is the now regular hassle we attract from would-be ‘officials’ who now readily inform the authorities of our presence on the hills which at times results in lengthy discussions and delays to ‘clear’ our names.  It all stems from one ill-informed and over blown newspaper/television feature on foreigners digging up bulbs (allegedly the last fifty Fritillaria michailovskii - although in actual fact there are many thousands left) and now we are all tarred with the same brush.  Of course there have been and continue to be illegal collecting activities in Turkey but most visitors are well-behaved and hopefully this attitude will ease off with time but be prepared for confrontation if exploring on your own – you are being watched.

Below is a selection from the above second chance visits. 
Galanthus gracilis

Kalon mosque and minaret, Bukhara

Tulipa micheliana

Eremurus albertii

Astragalus macrocephalus

Bellevalia chrisii

Fritillaria alburyana

Fritillaria persica

Gentiana verna

Iris kirkwoodiae

Iris peshmenii

Pulsatilla albana

Pulsatilla albana

Saxifraga kotschyi

Monday, 9 January 2012


This was my fourth visit to southern Chile and floristically the best so far with good rains in the drier northern deserts and amazing weather courtesy of El Nina.  I was travelling with professional photographer Heather Angel who is working on an exciting new book on pollination for Kew (Royal Botanic Garden) and there were some key plants we had to find.  The first was the remarkable Puya bertroniana a large spiny-leaved terrestrial bromeliad that is actually very common in Chile but erratic in its flowering.  The areas south of La Serena yielded few good puyas, but there was the amazing cactus Eriosyce aurata with rings of purplish-red and white flowers that looked like marshmallows and raspberries and because of the rains the remnant cloud forests of Fray Jorge National Park has many gorgeous Alstroemeria magnifica all over the place.  We did catch up with an amazing specimen of Puya bertroniana at Siete Tazas a park near Curico, which had huge spikes crowded with turquoise-blue flowers with prominent ‘bird-perches’ poking out and several times we watched Austral Blackbirds feeding on the flowers, sitting comfortably just as the plant intended. 

The Embothrium coccineum were the best I’d ever seen with shrubs absolutely hidden beneath scarlet flowers and the orchids were as sensational as ever too especially Chloraea magellanica and I finally caught up with Chloraea nudilabia a stunning golden species at Nahuelbuta.  However, the highlight of the trip was the discovery of a new pass which was awash with amazing flowers with gravely flats studded with hundreds of clumps of Oxalis adenophylla in perfect condition.  There were also the handsome straw-yellow flowers of Pachylaena atriplicifolia, incredible tall stands of deep-pink and golden-orange Schizanthus grahamii that marched along the roadsides, sprawling stems of golden-yellow Tropaeolum polyphyllum snaked across the screes and tall pink Alstroemeria ligtu was in super abundance carpeting the slopes mingled with bushes of bright yellow Calceolaria thyrsiflora as thousands of chirping cicadas filled the airwaves.  Finally at Torres del Paine National Park on one occasion we awoke to a perfectly calm morning with the magnificent sculpted peaks of Cuernos del Paine perfectly reflected in the limpid mirror waters of Lago Pehoe, a rare event at this time of year.

As a flower destination Chile is right up there with the best and I can't recommend it highly enough despite the appalling road signing.  However, I'll be back to Asian flowers soon enough with half a dozen trips planned for the spring/summer period.

Alstroemeria ligtu

Alstroemeria magnifica 

Araucaria araucana woodland

Chloraea nudilabia

Conanthera bifolia

Cuernos del Paine

Embothrium coccineum

Eriosyce aurata

Oxalis adenophylla

Pachylaena atriplicifolia

Puya bertroniana

Schizanthus grahamii

Tropaeolum polyphyllum

Azorella monantha in habitat


We knew it would never be easy to find our publisher, although for a time it did seem that Timber Press were interested, but in the end they decided it wasn’t for them!  But we’ve certainly not given up and will contact more publishers during the next couple of months as we want this unique collection of images to be available for all to see.