More Great Books about Ornamental Gardening

Time for the final four new or newish gardening books that gardenwriters are recommending these days, for yourself or someone you love who’ll loan you the book.

Why Grow That When you can Grow This? by Andrew Keys

Boston garden designer Andrew Keys shows readers how to skip over the fussy prima donna plants and choose instead some equally gorgeous alternatives.  He profiles each problem plant and offers three alternatives that have most of the original plant’s characteristics (like hardiness, shape, color, texture, light, and size).

Check out the author’s guest-post about his book on Garden Rant.   And if you listen to podcasts ever, I recommend Andrew’s fabulous podcast for Fine Gardening Magazine.

The Unexpected Houseplant  by Tovah Martin 

Renowned plant authority Tovah Martin hasn’t written your typical, old-fashioned, dowdy houseplant book.  Her approach is different – featuring a pot of brilliant spring bulbs, lush perennials brought in from the garden, quirky succulents, even flowering vines and small trees.  Yes, in pots, indoors.  Here she shows readers how to make unusual selections, where to best position plants in the home, and valuable tips on watering, feeding, grooming, pruning, and troubleshooting, season by season.

Martin loves houseplants not just for their beauty but also for what they DO for us – like cleaning clean indoor air, which can be up to ten times more polluted than outdoor air.

The author profiles 220 flowers, tropicals, bulbs and foliage plants that do well inside. The lineup is offered by season, according to when each plant is at its peak.  Or check out any of the other well-reviewed books by Tovah Martin.

Fine Bonsai: Art and Nature with photos by Jonathan Singer, text by Valavanis

There’s an interesting back story to this gorgeous book.   Jonathan Singer is a podiatrist who stopped performing surgery after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago and returned to an early interest in photography with award-winning results – this book.

Singer’s photos are to die for and the excellent text is by bonsai expert, who describes not only the basic attributes of each photographed subject, but also offers stories about the artists and how the trees took their shapes.

Each of the book’s 596 pages provides opportunities for contemplation and meditation. A portion of all proceeds from Fine Bonsai will go to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs by Michael Dirr

Finally, this much-anticipated book was published in 2011 but is still on many lists of recommended new books because Dr. Dirr’s assessments of woody plants are considered THE definitive word on the subject.  And I agree with all the blurbs – that this 951-page Bible of woody plants is a “trove of beauty and substance”, “a photographic tour-de-force”, “the ultimate reference”, “smart, opinionated, comprehensive, wonderful” – all true! 

I love that 3,700 species and cultivars are covered in the book, in Dirr’s comprehensive way.  He even took all of the 3,500 photos. This is his life’s work, and we all benefit from it.

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