University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Gardener's Desk Reference. Janet Marinelli, 1998, Henry Holt and Co, 816pp.

By the current editor of the famous series from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, this over 800 page reference is different from other similar tomes with chapters such as Ecology for Gardeners, Botany for Gardeners, Plant Conservation, Safe Pest Control, Plants in Literature, Plant Trivia, and Garden Tools. Lots of illustrations, tables and diagrams make this book even more useful.

The other key difference from other reference books is the grouping of recommended practices and plants by region of the country, and many useful and different lists such as frost dates by city, endangered plants by state and native plants for specific pollinators. The recommended plants and practices have been checked by experts in each region to ensure accuracy.

Much of what this book contains either is not in other books, or not compiled all together into one handy reference. The first chapter, for instance covers some of the key historic names you may have seen in gardening and who they were, such as plant explorers and designers. Next is the Gardener's Atlas, dealing with many geographic topics such as hardiness and climate zones, regions where certain types of plants grow, other climate zones such as for precipitation, and soil types. The botany section is quite readable, cover basics of plant taxonomy or names to various structures like flower types and shapes. Life cycles of various plant types are covered, as are characteristics of various plant families. Natural ecological habitats, and their application to our gardens, is an area not usually seen in garden books and quite useful. And the list of chapters goes on through culture, travels (gardens to see), poisonous plants, invasive plants, and even indoor gardening.

This is a "must" reference for any serious gardener or even beginner. No matter how knowledgeable, the information contained here is so extensive there is much for anyone of any level to learn. And it's information that is accurate, well-organized and referenced so easy to look up, and different than that found in most other gardening books.

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