Does Sally Pinhey love a plant? Does David Beckham love a tattoo? From a great mullein to a bearded iris she is besotted. And not just with plants, either.

Grapes, apples, pears and plums are all grist to her incredibly talented mill. Especially plums. Because Sally, who is based in West Dorset, is one of Britain’s foremost botanical painters and recently took three years to paint 58 particularly splendid versions of the prunus variety, all supplied by the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley.

“It took three years to paint all 58 specimens in the book, catching each plum at point of harvest for perfect colouration for identification,” says Sally.

“When all 19 plates were exhibited together for the first time in Westminster, I was struck by the charm and variety of colour in plums.”

The exhibition was awarded the RHS Silvergilt medal but Sally is no stranger to accolades for her work, she has received other RHS awards during her long career which started, almost by accident.

“For a while I was a ‘whole’ artist but came to realise that when I was preparing work for exhibitions I would do more and more flowers,” she says.

“They look so nice and I was fascinated by them, so about 30 years ago someone said I should approach the RHS about exhibiting them.”

She did but was crushingly rebuffed: “Apparently, they needed to be more botanical,” she says.

This challenge spurred her to study botany and she’s never really stopped.

Certainly her customers appreciate her talent.

In 2003 her work “Egdon Heath” was bought by the House of Lords and she is a full member of the Association of Illustrators, a Fellow of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society, and founder and first Secretary of the South West Society of Botanical Artists.

She cannot say how many paintings she has completed.

“I’ve been doing it a long time and have shedfulls, literally. Some of them see the light of day, others don’t,” she admits.

“I tend to completely disregard what the public want and go my own way, which means that some make good pictures and others make more of a contribution to science.”

The sciency side includes work such as her paintings of Himalayan trees – she went to the mountain range to view them in situ.

“I’ll go anywhere to look at a tree,” she says and she’s proved this by completing portraits of mangroves, too.

Strangely, she doesn’t have a favourite flower or tree to paint, although: “There’s nothing like a good root painting.”

(Roots are included on all scientific illustrations.) “It’s always little details between one variety and another that are so fascinating,” she says.

The colour green can be tricky: “It has to harden on the page,” but despite all this she takes, on average, three days to complete a work although that can go on much longer ‘depending on the leaves’.

She believes that although botanical art is its own speciality, those who love painting can learn to perfect their own standard and she teaches at Kingston Maurward College, near Dorchester, as well as being a former tutor at the Eden Project in Cornwall.

“Some botanists become artists, some artists become botanists,” she says.

“All I know is that I’ve spent my life trying to get better.”