University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Flora, a Gardener's Encyclopedia
Sean Hogan (Chief Consultant).  2003.  Timber Press, hardcover, 2 vols, 1584pp.

If you could use a reference focused primarily on plants of the world, this should be on your wish list.  The 2-volumes (sold together in a slipcase) can also be found on a CDrom, included with the first edition and which contains some other features as well.  Over 11,000 color photos on over 20,000 plants and their brief descriptions including key species and cultivars, and cultivation tips, were gathered by 67 contributing writers over a five year period.

This truly covers plants of the world, from the cultivated ornamentals to wild plants, herbaceous to woody, alpines to tropicals.  Photos include close-ups, as well as exquisite and artistic photos showing plants growing in their native habitats, whether montaine or tropical, desert or rain forest, and on various continents.  Comparable in many ways to previous references such as Botanica and the A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants, this one has a few differences.  Compared to the latter, it doesn't have as much at the beginning showing various flower types and leaf shapes, or culture.  Nor does it have some features with each plant, such as propagation and pests and diseases.  Yet at the beginning Flora does have a nice brief treatment of each hardiness zone worldwide, with some typical photos and a world map showing this zone globally.  Each plant has brief symbols easily seen at the beginning on climate and size.  There seem to be more larger photos as well.  There are a few more species in Flora than the others, some more exotic genera, and being more recent it has some of the newer  important cultivars.  These account for the 20,000 or so plants here compared to about 15,000 in the A-Z reference.

The CDrom is a very nice added bonus, working quite well and easily on my computer with some cool features. As it opens a flower opens, but you can click on it to quickly jump to the menu.   There you'll find an easily searched (by several means) listing of the plants in the 2 volumes, together with descriptions and photo which you can even zoom.  Plants can be listed alphabetically, or refined and narrowed by use such as coastal garden or color feature.  You can even get it to select plants for a combination of traits, or view plants by groups such as palms or orchids.  Over two dozen plants are animated, showing them change through the seasons.  There is even a garden journal, with blanks you fill in for each plant you buy and plant to keep track of your notes.  If there is a weakness, it is the hardiness map which trades off covering the world, and ability to highlight a particular zone, with the inability to zoom to very close levels.  Other CDrom features include weblinks, a glossary, screensaver, and even a plant name spell checker you can download onto your computer to run with popular text software!

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