By: Geoff Bryant
Publisher: Firefly Books
Publication Date: February 2011
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 1, 2012
I'm engaged with a seemingly never-ending battle with what to plant in my flower gardens. The plants I sometimes have selected for those directly abutting the foundation around the periphery of my house don't often fare well for an assortment of reasons. Harsh winters can often be brutal and my flowers simply don't survive. One other reason is that my selections can be poor. Just because a plant is sold in my area doesn't mean it's in the proper zone or will do well in one of my gardens. Thing just don't work that way.
I was quite pleased to find this encyclopedia because it not only is beautiful to browse, but also has an abundance of information gardeners of all sorts can use. The book is generously illustrated with full-color photographs that are delightfully appealing. One thing I did like is that this book isn't a "coffee table" tome, but is a portable one. I can take it with me to research plants that appeal to me, but may or may not be feasible choices. For example, I chose and purchased several expensive lots of ivy, certain that my stone wall would eventually have a quaint cottage-like touch. I only have a few sprigs now because that particular ivy wasn't suitable for my area.
Each alphabetically listed species entry may or may not be accompanied by a photograph. Each one does have a place of origin, a hardiness zone (1-12), name or names the plant may have once gone by, its family name, forms, common name, and information on cultivation. There are also symbols that tell if it has a recommended Flora Award, its spread, height, sun requirements, and hardiness. There is a world hardiness zone that describes the zones and shows a map.
There is an amazing forty-four page chart that "features at-a-glance information for every species or hybrid with an individual entry" covered in these pages. It covers everything from the type of plant to fifteen categories of critical information. For example, we can learn that Aechmea chantinii is 40 inches (100 cm) in height, can spread up to 20 inches (50 cm), is a perennial, prefers a warm or tropical climate, is a bromeliad, has showy flowers (not scented), should be planted in the spring, flowers in the summer, can be grown in a pot or a tub, and grows in heavy shade. This book also has an excellent index.
Quill says: If you need a book that will help you select your annuals and perennials, this is definitely one book you should add to your list!