Flowers of the Field by Steve Nicholls
Steve Nicholls tells us the story behind his latest book Flowers of the Field which involved 7 years of field research and photography plus in-depth research. The book, published in October 2019 by Head of Zeus, is a fascinating exploration of Britain’s wildflowers. The fascinating text covers not just the the natural history of wildflowers, but also their cultural and social history. Organised by habitat, Flowers of the Field covers some of Britain’s most iconic plants, from wild daffodils and bluebells to fritillaries and orchids. It also focuses on a number of the UK’s rarest wildflower species.
Steve reveals the story behind the book
“I’ve always been fascinated by bugs (my PhD is on dragonflies) and for a long time plants were just things that some insects ate. But insect and plant evolution has gone hand in hand ever since flowering plants appeared, so slowly I came to realise that getting to grips with botany is critical to understanding insects. From there it was just a short hop to appreciating that plants had their own fascinating natural history. I was hooked.
A gap in the market
The idea for this book also evolved over time. Throughout my career as a wildlife film-maker, I’ve enjoyed telling intriguing stories from the natural world in a way that appeals to a wide (and non-specialist) audience. Some time ago, I realised that there weren’t many recent books that dealt with the biology of British wildflowers, (despite the publication of endless field guides) yet there was a rich scientific literature that revealed all kinds of intriguing stories. A gap in the market, I felt. In the end, I ploughed through nearly 900 papers so I could produce a readable account of our spectacular wildflowers. But what about the photography?
Balance of text and pictures
“My previous book, Paradise Found, (about the loss of bio-abundance in North America, as elucidated by comparing first-hand accounts from Columbus to the present day) took many years to research and write. So I reasoned that if I aimed to fill half of the flower book with pictures, then the space left for text would be quicker to fill. How wrong I was.”
A labour of love
“After nearly forty years of making wildlife films, it should have come as no surprise to me that things are never as easy as you imagine at the start. It’s rare to find the perfect plants growing in the perfect spot and even rarer to encounter this happy scenario when the light also just happens to be perfect! In the end this book took me far longer (seven years) than my previous one. But the task of trying to take better and better photographs over those seven years gave me the perfect excuse to spend long days in the field and to travel to all manner of beautiful locations, from the machair grasslands of the Outer Hebrides to the chalk cliffs of Kent. So I have no complaints.”
Explore the full gallery of images, order the book or a printed gift
We’ve created a dedicated gallery containing many of the bookplate images. To explore the Flowers of the Field gallery, click here.
There is also a Flowers of the Field gallery on our print site, if anyone wishes to order a print or other gift featuring any of Steve’s lovely wildflower images.