Beginner's pluck

Zoë Devlin

When Zoë was young, she would visit a relative, Dr Kathleen Lynn, in Glenmalure, County Wicklow. “We used to go for afternoon tea. She took me up the hillside one afternoon and showed me a wild orchid through a magnifying glass. I was intrigued, and from then on I began to examine wild plants everywhere,” she says.

It wasn’t financially possible for Zoë to pursue science. After school, she became a secretary in a multi-national. But her fascination with flowers remained; she began recording them in her late twenties. Since her retirement, eleven years ago, she’s been dedicated to this passion.

Who is Zoë Devlin?

Date/place of birth: Zoë is a war baby; (1940s)/Dublin.

Education: Muckross Park; Donnybrook.

Home: Dublin.

Family: Husband Pete, who’s an artist. Grown children, Nick and Petra. Grandson, Jake.

The Day Job: Retired.

Hobbies: Reading and music. “My favourite composer is Saint-Saëns.”

Favourite Writers: JM Coetzee; Justin Cartwright; and Mary O’Donoghue, author of Before the House Burns.

Second Book: “I’m not planning one right now. But there may well be another. It would be about wildflowers again; but might drift into ferns.”

Top Writing Tip: Get routine things out of the way. And have a clear head, and a comfortable chair.

Web/Twitter: www.wildflowersofireland.net.

THE DEBUT

Wildflowers of Ireland. A Personal Record. Collins Press: €29.99. Kindle: not available.

Zoë launched a website in early 2009. “It was an opportunity to share the information I had. I got a lot of emails from people who loved it. It became a terrific forum. Collins Press asked me if I’d turn the information into a book. That was May, 2009. We worked on it together. “The book is for people who are scratching the surface of a hobby that can take over your life.”

Over 450 wild flowers are described, and photographed by Zoë, who includes folklore and literary references.

The Verdict: A sensational guide. Comprehensive, beautiful, and lovingly-produced.

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