Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs

Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs
by Michael Dirr

951 pages
Timber Press, 2011
List price: $79.95

I’m a little reluctant (and embarrassed) to confess that when I received my review copy of Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs a couple of weeks ago, it was the first time I’d ever laid eyes on the book - in any edition. But its reputation preceded it. I’d certainly heard about it and I was well aware of its author. Highly revered, enough that it’s called “the bible,” this book is a combination of Dirr's previous reference publications, making it the most comprehensive on the subject, containing information about more than 3700 species and cultivars.

With over 380 genera represented, together with 3500 photographs contained in 951 pages, this is no small piece of literature. But Dirr is no small figure in the world of horticulture, either. He lives and breathes his work as a hybridizer (Endless Summer® hydrangeas are just a small part of his work), educator, researcher, and author, and we are the beneficiaries.

Dirr infuses the detailed factual information with personal opinions, which carry the imprint of his intimate knowledge of his subject matter. The book is as much a grower’s how-to manual as it is an essential work of reference and not one that you read from cover to cover as if a novel, of course. But I found it difficult to put down, once I started reading about specific plants. One thing led to another (and another…) and before I knew it, I’d been reading for an hour.

Think $79.95 is too much to pay for such a book? It’s a bargain. Trust me.


HEADS UP!  Timber Press is giving a copy away this Friday, December 2, 2011. All you need to do is head on over to their site and leave a comment on the giveaway blog post by 4:00 PM PST that day. Good luck!

Michael A. Dirr is a professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia. He is the author of twelve books and has published more than 300 scientific and popular papers and articles. His teaching, lectures, seminars, garden study tours, and plant introduction programs have contributed enormously to greater horticultural awareness. He has received the highest teaching and gardening awards from the University of Georgia, American Society of Horticultural Science, American Horticultural Society, American Nursery & Landscape Association, Massachusetts Horticultural Society, Southern Nursery Association, and Garden Club of America.

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing it. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like something, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that,too.

The Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens

The Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens
by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

336 pages
Cool Springs Press, 2011
List price: $19.99

So many gardens, so little time. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a travel guide that compiled all the great gardens you could visit in the U.S. and Canada, and gardening events, too? Thanks to the work of Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp and Cool Springs Press, now there is.

One of the first things I do when I’m planning a trip to anywhere, whether the purpose of the travel has anything to do with gardening or not, is to see if there are any public gardens that I can visit while I’m there. I usually do a Google search, ask friends, or look in the phone book after I’ve arrived. But with this handy guide, all the information I really need is in one place.

QR Code for Cleveland
Botanical Garden
The Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens, by its own admission, isn’t complete, but it comes pretty close. Organized by state (and Canada), more than 400 gardens are profiled, with details such as address, phone, website, hours and any fees associated with them. Of course some of these are subject to change, but the information needed to contact the gardens is provided so you can double-check it before your visit, including QR codes for many. If your favorite garden or event isn’t included in this guide, contact information is given so that it may be added to future editions.

At the back, there’s also a monthly guide to flower and garden shows, listed by state. Basic maps make up another section showing the location of the gardens. Several travel companies are listed, with flower show and garden destinations where they lead tours.

If I could make one improvement on the book, it would be to make it more pocket-sized so that I could carry it in my purse during my travels. It’s not large (9” x 6” x 1”), but it’s not really small enough for me to consider it a pocket version. Photos are sparse, so if you want a book that gives a visual preview of the gardens, this isn't it, but the information presented is all you'll need to plan your own visits.

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp is a professional writer and inveterate garden visitor. She has been writing about gardens and gardening since 1989, when she began writing for The Indianapolis Star. In addition to maintaining a weekly column for the Star,  Sharp regularly contributes articles to Indiana Gardening and Angie's List Magazine.

This is her second book. She is co-author of the Indiana Gardener's Guide (2003), also for Cool Springs Press.

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing it. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like something, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that,too.

The Outdoor Room

The Outdoor Room
by Jamie Durie

224 pages, softcover
Harper Design, 2011
List price: $25.99

You may know Jamie Durie from PBS’s The Victory Garden and his HGTV show, The Outdoor Room. He’s the Aussie-accented fireball that not only gets you enthused about gardening, but shows you how, in a way that gives you the confidence that you really can do it.

I met Jamie for the first time in August, at the Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago, where he was promoting his new book, The Outdoor Room. He had that same trademark enthusiasm as he took the time to show me how the book was laid out, explaining the how and why of the various landscape designs.

The designs in the book are quintessential Durie. They are fresh and modern, with enough tradition to appeal to the styles of a large number of gardeners. Each has a formulaic presentation – Design Brief, Design Solution, Eco-Tip, Bite-Size Design, Plant List, Where it Works (USDA Zones), Inspiration, Design Elements and one element rarely seen in books of this type – that of the maintenance required (Garden Care) once the outdoor room is completed. This allows you to truly see the big picture before a single paver is laid or shrub is planted.

There are plenty of photographs and design diagrams to help you create your own outdoor room, whether your main purpose is to create a cozy retreat, an area for entertaining, or both. Jamie even gives you some assistance with choosing that, too. The Outdoor Room is a landscape design class you can take in the comfort of your favorite reading chair, which I have a feeling is just the way Jamie planned it.

Jamie Durie is a qualified horticulturist, award-winning landscape designer, and host of both PBS’s The Victory Garden and HGTV’s The Outdoor Room. He is the author of several books, including Patio, Inspired, The Source Book, and Outdoor Kids. His company, Durie Design, is based in Los Angeles, where he lives.

The publication being reviewed in this blog post was the sole compensation for reviewing it. All opinions expressed here are mine. If I like something, I'll say so. If I don't, I'll say that,too.