University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants
C. Brickell and J. Zuk. 1996. DK Publ. 1092pp, hardcover.

One of the top references in gardening to come along in this decade, and one I use often, it is necessary for any serious gardener and well worth the price (anywhere from $40-$80 or so depending on source or discounts). Every page of this tome has useful information, even the inside covers with color photos of leaf shapes, flower types and hardiness zone map.

Published in the US under the name of the American Horticulture Society, it was published simultaneously in Britain under the Royal Horticulture Society. I have both books, and have seen 90-95% similarly in plant listings from those I've compared. The main differences are in measurements (cm for UK, inches for US), and hardiness (degrees C for UK and F for US, as well as hardiness zones for US). Both degrees and measurements are given for each country, it's just a matter of which is given priority.

The first few pages are introductory--how to read the plant descriptions, and all the information contained in each such as descriptions, cultivation, propagation, pests and diseases, and cultivars and their distinguishing traits and needs. Then there are basic pages such as botany for gardeners, leaf shapes, flowers and more, all well-illustrated with color photos. Then there are a few pages on culture, such as pruning and propagation, and on various plant groups and their needs such as rock plants.

The vast majority of the book is the A-Z listing of all plant types, from flower to woody plants, temperate to tropical, indoors and outdoors, alpines to cacti. Over 2,000 genera are covered, over 15,000 individual plant entries, with over 6,000 color photographs. A listing of this magnitude involved the review and contributions of over 100 horticulturists worldwide. As one of these reviewers (annuals and perennials of smaller genera), I had a first hand look at many of these plants and the publishing limitations inherent in such a work. Any listing of plants, especially perennials, will soon be slightly out-of-date. But this reference contains so many species, as well as main cultivars, that in spite of new introductions and plants only available in the UK or the US, it will remain perhaps the most thorough and complete of any now available for years to come.


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