Reviewed by Barry Glick
Those gardeners who have never seen The Plantfinder don't know what they are missing. This 800 page book is the bible of cultivated plants. The 1995/96 edition not only lists over 70,000 plants by family, species, genus and cultivar, but contains quite a bit of taxanomic and other useful information. The book is a well organized and easy to use and is one of the most important reference manuals you can have.
I asked Chris Philips, who created The Plantfinder, to write briefly about how the world-famous book came to be.
"Some ten years ago I retired to the county of Worcester in the U.K. (about 120 miles west of London). Here I acquired some 6 acres of ground including a one-acre lake and a lot of daffodils, as the gardens had previously belonged to Michael Jefferson-Brown, a renowned daffodil breeder.
"Knowing little about plants, I made lists of suitable items that I had seen on TV or in local gardens. I then went to the nearest nursery and could only find 10% of my wants. Some they had never even heard of. I wrote off for a some catalogues and through them obtained a few more of the plants.
"At this stage I thought there must be an easier way! As I knew a little about computer databases, all I needed to do, I thought, was to write to every nursery in the U.K. and enter their lists onto my computer. "Fools rush in ..." I soon realized that no two nurseries spelt the plants' names the same (nor even called them by the same name). As I knew nothing of botanical nomenclature I soon obtained the services of a colleague, Tony Lord, who can spot a misspelled Latin name at 100 paces.
"The first edition of the The Plantfinder contained 20,000 plant names and some 200 nurseries. The latest 9th edition (1995/96) contains over 70,000 names and 600 nurseries. The appearance of this U.K. version encouraged other European countries to follow suit, and there are now versions for France, Germany and Holland. We are hoping that by the end of 1995 there will be an amalgamated European version on CR-ROM."
Reviewed by Barry Glick
Who more qualified to write a book on the genus Sedum than Ray Stephenson. As a member of the Sedum Society, I have long been aware of our founder and chairman's writings, knowledge and generosity. This long awaited volume is only the second monograph on Sedum published in my lifetime. The last being the long out of print Handbook of Cultivated Sedums by Ron Evans published in 1983. And who more qualified to publish a book like this other than Timber Press. Timber Press has to be the worlds finest publisher of books about gardening, botany and horticulture.
Every year I visit many private and public botanic gardens, and I can't remember a single one didn't have at least one specie or cultivar of Sedum growing.
Sedum (the book), is a 8 1/2 X 11" 300+ page encyclopedic treatise covering every aspect of the genus, from historical uses to growing ideas. This includes much valuable information on hardiness, identification, pests and propagation.
I found the section on morphology and distribution particularly interesting as it gave me a much better insight into the identification of many of the Sedums that I grow and have lost tags for over the years.
The book is illustrated with over 100 color photographs and 100 black and white shots--all very crisp and clear. Among the 50 line drawings are flow chart keys to the various divisions in the six subfamilies of Crassulaceae.
While some parts of the book dealing with botanic and taxonomic information may be over the head of the average gardener, the author goes to great pains to make these parts understandable and user friendly.
I highly recommend this volume for anyone that would like to understand more about this charming genus of easy-to-grow and useful plants.
Sedum: Cultivated Stonecrops
Portland OR USA
Timber Press has a 32 page color catalog that will will send you free of charge:
133 SW 2nd Av
Portland OR 97204
Phone: 800/327-5680 in the US or Canada
Web Page: http://www.timber-press.com/
Reviewed by Barry Glick
There are very few people that have not had contact with some sort of "snowball bush" or, to be taxonomically correct, Hydrangea. That's because in addition to having fantastic blooms, these plants are readily propagated and extremely easy to grow.
I remember fondly my grandmother tossing coffee grounds out under the hydrangea in her yard to "make the flowers change color." Well, little did she know the little feat of "magic" she performed was to alter the Ph of the soil, which in turn can alter the flower color of hydrangeas.
With a plant as popular as the Hydrangea, you would expect that there would be copious volumes of information to glean on the subject, but that is not the case. Not since Michael Haworth Booth's 1955 work, has there been anything comprehensive written on the genus, that is until now. The very simply titled Hydrangeas is the culmination of years of work by Toni Lawson-Hall and Brian Rothera. It's published by (who else) Timber Press.
I first encountered Toni several years ago when she contacted me from the Lakeland Horticultural Society's Cumbria, U.K., garden. The garden is home to the U.K.'s NCCPG National Hydrangea Collection. She was looking for people in the U.S. who grow Hydrangeas. I immediatly put her in touch with J.C. Raulston at the NCSU Arboretum and Mike Dirr at the University of Georgia, the two leading "woody'" guys in the U.S., perhaps the world.
The two authors have really done their homework. This lavishly illustrated book has well over 100 extremely high quality color photos of species and hybrid cultivars. One of the features I found most useful is the set of actual size silhouettes of leaves. This is a great identification tool for those of us who are not so adept at classification keys.
The book is divided into two distinct sections. The first part outlines the history and natural distribution of Hydrangeas. In the second section, over 80 of the finest cultivars are described in detail with crisp clear color photos of each plant and usually a closeup of the individual florets. There is information included with each photo indicating the Ph of the soil of the particular plant photographed. The authors even go as far as to illustrate a few plants at different soil Ph values to illustrate the drastic color shifts this can induce.
Very detailed information is provided the reader about cultivation and propagation. The appendices in the back of the book are also quite extensive. The first illustrates the flower head types of subspecies and cultivars. Also included is a chart of flowering times, an extensive glossary of terms, an illustrated glossary and a long list of gardens from around the world that have Hydrangea collections. There is also a bibliography of almost 100 sources for further reading and, of course, a general index.
The only thing that bothered me about the book was the conspicuously absent list of mail order sources, or any sources for that matter. After you read the book and are beset with a burning lust to grow these magnificent plants, you are left with the challenge of finding them on your own.
All in all, I applaud the authors efforts and this is truly a great work, not only for the professional horticulturist, but for the home gardener as well.
Reviewed by Barry Glick
One of my favorite books is by Alex Pankhurst, a friend in Colchester, England. It was inspired by another British gardening friend, Stephan Taffler. Alex is a gardening journalist, photographer and lecturer who has contributed regularly to British gardening publications. She is a keen member of the Hardy Plant Society and the Cottage Garden Society. Stephan Taffler is one of Britain's most respected gardeners and writers and is the archivist for the Hardy Plant Society. He is also editor of The Sport, which is the publication of the Hardy Plant Society's Variegated Plant Special Interest Group.
The name of Alex's book is Who Does Your Garden Grow? It's a lovely and romantic account of where particular cultivars got their names. I've always wondered who Canon J. Went was, of the Linaria 'Canon J. Went.' And how did George Russell get such an incredible range of colors into the 'Russell' lupines? And who is Molly Sanderson of the black viola 'Molly Sanderson'?
Who Does Your Garden Grow? answers these questions, and many more, in one of the most pleasant styles of writing and storytelling that I've ever read. Alex profiles over 100 of the most well-known cultivars, with fascinating stories, anecdotes and trivia that will impress even your most knowledgeable gardening friends.
Who Does Your Garden Grow? is published by Earl's Eye Publishing in Colchester, England, and distributed in the U.S. by Capability books (1-800-247-8154).
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