Friday, 26 December 2014

THE LONG WAIT IS OVER!!!

Finally we can announce the arrival of our book!




We're sorry for the long silence but we wanted to know just when the book was going to be available. Last minute setbacks with the publishing meant we missed the Christmas launch we'd hoped for - but, we have a copy in our hands right now and our publisher, IB Tauris, have done a superb job. The colours are great, printed onto good art paper and the overall quality excellent. We're delighted and sincerely hope anyone who decides to buy the book will be too. The title has changed slightly to Flora of the Silk Road

Publishing any book always takes a lot of time and we appreciate the patience of those logging onto this blog to find out when it was going to arrive. It can now be bought direct from IB Tauris, price £35, or as a pre-order from other online retailers such as NHBS for a bargain £30, which is a steal for a 416 page book weighing over 3 kilos. The front cover features the gorgeous Gentiana arethusae at Tianchi Hai in Yunnan, the back cover a stunning carpet of golden Crocus korolkowii, near Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Inside we feature 545 species with over 700 images.

For those wanting a signed copy please get in touch with us by email and we'll see if we can arrange. Anyone coming on our tours this year will be able to buy one direct from us in Turkey - please check both our website www.viranatura.com and www.greentours.co.uk

We intend to offer a series of Silk Road flower tours beginning with Turkey and Kyrgyzstan in 2016 and China in 2017. Chris will also be giving a number of talks this year to promote the book, the first on 14th January for the British Society for Asian Affairs and another for the Royal Geographical Society on the 20th April. Others will follow. Work is already well advanced on our next two book projects - photographic guides to the Flowers of the Lycian Way & SW Turkey and Flowers of the Kackar & NE Turkey. Both will contain around 500 species and we're optimistic about a 2016 delivery date. Our intention is to produce a series of Turkish flora guides over the next few years to cover much of the country.

Enjoy the flowers.

Chris and Basak




                                                Colchicum cilicium, near Mersin, Turkey


Corydalis rupestris & Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Koorhang, Iran


Iris westii, Syria


Meconopsis aculeata, Lahual Valley, NW India


Primula sikkimensis (yellow) & secundiflora, Tianchi Hai, Yunnan


Rhododendron hodgsonii, Dzongri, Sikkim



Saturday, 31 May 2014

A SETBACK WITH A SILVER-LINING!

Alas, my tour schedule and finalizing everything related to the book finally clashed and I won't have time to review the final proofs until I return from a tour to NW India in mid-July. The first lot of proofs were wonderful overall with just a few tweaks here and there and whilst I don't expect anything major to be wrong with the next batch we all felt - that is the publishers, Basak and I - to rush things at this crucial stage was pointless for the sake of a month or so. There are still some little refinements for Basak to work on too and the upshot is the book won't reach the shelves until the middle of October rather than early September as was planned - although perfect timing for Christmas shopping! I know I said May in my last post but various delays and the fact that the books have to come from China, meant August was actually the earliest we could have hoped for in the end. We also got to see the jacket design and the people at IB Tauris have done a superb job, combining stunning displays of gentians, crocuses and irises - but I can't say which or reveal the design yet.

However, every cloud has the proverbial silver-lining. For a while we had accepted it isn't possible to include every amazing flower from the Silk Road in our 540 species and we felt it didn't want for much if anything as it stood (Iris korolkowii and Ostrowskia magnifica would have been nice but alas no).  However, there was one more persistent niggle and the only flowers in the book we felt we hadn't done justice to were the west Asian lilies - especially the Turkish ones.  I'd missed out on Lilium polyphyllum in India last year when new building work had erased the location, Lilium ledbourii from Iran was never really on the travelling agenda and most significantly we never had the chance to be in the north-east of Turkey at the right season. This is set to change in late-June when we are undertaking a research trip for a tour in 2015 for the Lily Society/Mediterranean Garden Society to see the Turkish lilies.  This will give me the chance to photograph five species of these stunning flowers and given the nature of the digital age it also means I can include some last-minute, stop press images for the book. Lilium akkusianum is the species I most want to include, a localised endemic and the loveliest of the showy trumpet lilies in Turkey.  Lilium ciliatum is also on the agenda and fingers crossed if I get decent weather and good plants then these two will feature in the book - the cherry on the cake.  Below are images of Lilium ponticum one Turkish species I have seen with rich yellow and purple flowers and there's also Lilium duchartrei from Gansu, which has more than a passing resemblance to Lilium ledebourii cited above.



Lilium ponticum

Lilium ledbourii

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A NEW SPECIES - BELLEVALIA CHRISII



Despite centuries of plant hunting and botanical science many new are plants are still being described and I’m sure many of us would love to discover a beautiful new flower or to have one named for ourselves.  Well I’m delighted to say I now have the honour of both.  In 2010 I visited the little explored Anti-Taurus Mountains near Malatya.   The tour I was leading with Basak had been delayed by the infamous Icelandic volcano so we arrived in May rather than April.  Searching for flowers on a pass I came across a small bellevalia with distinctive broad leaves which was quite unlike any I’d seen before.  Searching further afield we came across more and better specimens.  A couple were collected and despatched to the botanical garden in Istanbul, but nothing happened with these.  In 2012 I returned to the same location, this time with the experienced and respected Turkish botanist Mehmet Koyucu and I showed him the bellevalia, which were in fine flower at the time and he quickly came to the same conclusion as me that they represented something new.  Again a few more were collected and this time they were looked at thoroughly.  Initially it was thought to be a form of Bellevalia glauca (known from northern Iraq – a long way away) but closer examination by a team of four Turkish botanists – Hasan Yildirim, Yusuf Altio─člu, Bilal ┼×ahin and Serdar Aslan - suggested it was not this species and it has now been formerly described as the new and rare Bellevalia chrisii.  It is closely related to Bellevalia crassa and rixii and is known only from the type locality.  Worrying for me is the small population of only a couple of hundred plants – I could easily go extinct!  In fact I have genuine concern – upon the discovery of Sternbergia candida in the 1970s within no time many were offered for sale and hundreds stripped from accessible locations.  Anyone offered this species in the next few years can be sure they were stolen from the wild, so please don’t buy them I’d like to last a while longer!

Naturally the species features in the Flowers of the Silk Road which is now due for publication in May.  Below are three images of ‘my treasure’ at its’ best.

Chris Gardner, 22nd April 2014