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Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals

Gardening Bibles (page 3 of 3)

by Jack Ruttle

Big Books From Major Magazines

Several general interest magazines have produced their own introductions to gardening. These books are attractive, useful, and relatively inexpensive. Although they cover the same general territory as the full-blown encyclopedias reviewed above, they are, of course, less comprehensive.

- Better Homes and Gardens Complete Guide to Gardening(The Meredith Corporation, 1979; 551 pages, $30).

This book is organized into chapters on landscaping, trees, shrubs, vines, and so on. It provides a very helpful introduction to almost all aspects of gardening, with plenty of color pictures and good illustrations. The selection of plants is limited to only the most popular varieties. The major weakness is in garden techniques, which are given very brief treatment.

- Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening (Reader's Digest, 1978; 672 pages, $25).

Like the much larger American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Gardening, this guide was originally produced in England and emphasizes garden techniques. Though a bit dated today, the book has aged well. The illustrations, almost always drawings, are attractive, accurate, and thorough. A reader will see clearly how to plant, pinch, pick, prune, or propagate all the most popular trees, roses, vegetables, and flowers. The plant lists are very good, too. The major weakness is the same one most Americanized British books share: little attention is paid to gardening conditions, such as drought or extremes of heat and cold, that are common here but rare in Britain. Most of the information focuses on plants; with little on working the soil or garden construction. These cautions aside, this book is an excellent introduction to gardening.

- Sunset Western Garden Book, by the editors of Sunset Books and Sunset magazine, (Sunset Publishing, 1995; 624 pages, $30).

This newest edition of a book first published in 1954 and regularly revised is an up-to-date guide on the best plants and cultivated varieties. Though written for gardeners in the western U.S. and Canada, it is nevertheless useful for gardeners anywhere, especially those in USDA Hardiness Zones 8, 9, and 10, regions that get scant attention elsewhere. The book's strength is its detailed description of the myriad gardening zones in the West. This reference is something no Western gardener should be without. Coverage of gardening techniques, however, receives less space in the latest edition. This information is now confined to a "Practical Dictionary of Gardening" at the end. While significantly condensed, the brief entries are good and to the point.

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