The Book of Orchids by Mark Chase et al, hardback published by Ivy Press. ISBN 9781782404033, price 30 gbp available from www.quartoknows.com
Ask most gardeners and non-gardeners alike for their favourite flowers and orchids will usually be in the top ten. They get their fair share of oohs and aahs. This book is for the serious lover of orchids. It includes orchid evolution, pollination, symbiotic relationships, threats to wild orchids and orchidelirium (first time I have come across that but it aptly describes orchidmania). The orchids are then divided into Apostasioideae, Vanilloideae, Cypripedioideae, Orchidoideae and Epidendroideae taking up the bulk of the book with 162 pages dedicated to exploring these fascinating plants, plus appendices, which include a glossary, classification, resources, index of common and scientific names and acknowledgements. This book provides a stunning guide to no less than 600 incredible species out of the vast over 26,000 orchid species that exist, photographed in detail. Whilst the photographs are entertaining, there is enough scientific knowledge to interest the avid orchidophile, whilst remaining informative and readable by anyone who holds these remarkable plants in awe. Some of the smaller images could have done with the brightness turning up a notch. There are full-page plates at the beginning of each chapter. Orchid flowers are shown actual size, which is a bonus. The descriptions are fantastic, allowing the reader to become familiar with the plant in a uniform format giving all essential details. The information includes distribution, habitat, flowering time and size. I love the Dracula species, Dendrobium, Cypripedium, Paphiopedilum, Zygopetalum, Vanda and Brassia, they are all covered in this book with a few examples. The problem is that with such vast numbers of each available, so few have been covered and this just feels like the tip of the iceberg. I hope that in future, we can see more comprehensive books in this series, dealing with each type of orchid. For now, this is an excellent introduction to the world of orchids, no matter what your preferences for individual species. I am sure it will become a standard classic and deservedly so.