Paul Evans – Herbaceous

Celebrating the turning of the seasons this week we’re ‘bringing the may’ with a selection from Paul Evans’ extremely enjoyable new book of ‘audacious botany’ featuring illustrations by Kurt Jackson. 

Out this week from Little Toller, Herbaceous is a book that explores our imaginative relationship with flowers in ways that are quite startling and often as mysteriously compelling as the flowers themselves.

There’s more information about Herbaceous here and you can also watch Evans talking about the book here.

From all of us at The Clearing, Happy May Day!





Water comes to this dark place out of sorrow. In

the pool under broken alders, a chieftain of the Old

North was killed in battle and his head carried on a

stick away from where Tern meets Severn to high

ground in the west. ‘Usual is the wind from the

east,’ usual for a proud man and a thrush among

thorns and the outcry against oppression, ‘usual

for crows to find flesh in a nook.’[1] Unusual is gold

fallen in mud to rise into the air and, through the

river fog, sing for our eyes.








He drove this way a long time ago, on the Roman

road which linked remote parts of the Empire. She

sat beside him, with her son in the back seat of the

big old Humber, and she twitched and mumbled,

clutching a bunch of moon daisies, dog daisies, ox-

eye daisies, (same difference). He can’t remember

now why but he had a responsibility to get the

boy’s poor mad mother to a place of safety. She

kept shoving the flowers in his face as if he must

acknowledge them, see and smell them to know

what she knew about the spell or curse the howling

daisies held but she couldn’t say it in words. He

had to keep pushing her hand away so he could see

the road.


Newly widened, the road now cuts across the

lie of the land, its banks planted for magpies and

plastic. All the way from an archipelago of mini-

roundabouts to the Snack Van lay-by, ten thousand

ox-eyes watch the vroom of traffic. British daisies

open skyward, cheerfully gormless, but these bend

their gaze to the ground because they are a Balkan

subspecies of the vulgar Leucanthemum picked

for the lycanthrope: white flowers for Olga the



Loose clouds, cables strung across the plain and

the road all travel east. A skylark lands on a fence

post and another, a stone’s throw away, climbs into

the sky, singing. Skipper butterflies feed on gold. A

ditch running from the fields under the road carries

the dark slick of an ancient marsh. A lost village

hides under the mound of trees. Other secrets –

the cremation cemetery, the stone-blade place and

Gallows Nooking – have been re-abandoned under

ash and poplar roots. Life is ploughed out of the

rest of this landscape and any return is forbidden.


In the lay-by, Olga plucks at the white paper

napkin wrapping a sausage sandwich – ‘Воли ме . . .

не воли ме.’[2] She stares from the Snack Van’s hatch

at the moon rising above an embankment of moon

daisies, dog daisies, ox-eye daisies, the songs of

skylarks passing into a relentless forever.








[1] Llewarch Hen, ‘Usual is the Wind’, Red Book of Hergest VI (sixth century).

[2] Serbian, ‘he loves me…  he loves me not.’

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