These aren't the cheapest books available, but to my mind they're the best. They cover almost everything the average and also the quite-a-long-way-beyond-average gardener will ever need.
Society Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers
720 pages DK Publishing;
The following review refers to the first edition of the book published in 1989, the latest versions build on this earlier volume
An excellent plant book set out in a very useable manner. Plants are catalogued by type (see contents below) and then separated into season of interest and color. For instance Shrubs / small is further subdivided into:
Other categories of plants: trees / small, medium, large: perennials small, medium, large etc. are similarly arranged.
The first half of the book has color pictures of the plant / flower with basic information, e.g.:
Passiflora coccinea (Red Passion Flower) Vigorous, evergreen, woody-stemmed tendril climber with rounded, oblong leaves. Has bright deep scarlet flowers, with red , pink and white crowns, from spring to autumn. H 3-4m (10-12ft) Min 15°C (59°F).
There are then symbols informing of requirement for sun or shade, water availability and frost hardiness
The second half of the book is dedicated to more detailed descriptions of the habits and growing requirements of the plants described. This is followed by further descriptions of similar species or sub-species and varieties. e.g.:
Genus of deciduous, spring flowering shrubs, grown
for their usually profuse, yellow flowers, which open before the leaves
There then follows for this group further descriptions of 9 species or named varieties in addition to the pictured variety listed under Shrubs medium / spring interest / yellow.
There are indexes that can be used to find a plant according to common or Latin name. Over 8000 plants are covered and there are over 4000 high quality photographs.
The book can be used to find plants if you know the name or find a plant by characteristics if you know what you want for a position, but don't know which plants fit the bill.
If you're at all interested in plants then look forwards to many long hours sitting and looking through this book at all the tempting specimens that will sit there winking at you from between the pages along with full details of how large they grow, what shape they will be and how to look after them properly.
There are also useful lists of plants for particular situations, sandy soil, paving and wall crevices, flowers for drying, architectural plants and many more.
The first half of the book is "The Plant Catalogue" Set out as follows with full illustrations as in box 1 above
Annuals and Biennials
Bulbs (including corms and tubers)
Cacti and Other Succulents
The second half is "The Plant Dictionary" as in box 2 above
American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers
Gardener's wouldn't be gardeners if they didn't like plants the AHS New Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers (Hardcover - 744 pages) is ideal. Buy this book now
For the real enthusiast, the big brother volume is the AHS A-Z garden plants (Hardcover - 1080 pages)
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