Knowing which garden books offer the best information is a lot like shopping for the perfect plant. There are as many choices as there are styles of gardening. Fortunately, there are some go-to books that no gardener should be without.
Remember, gardening is regional, especially when it comes to selecting proven plants for your climate. For this reason, I recommend that you seek out local or regional experts and books (plants, too) whenever possible.
Getting Started: Basic Gardening Reference Books
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Handbook Series: Written by various experts, each handbook focuses on one topic; inexpensive and well done, they cover a wide range of subjects from water gardening to native plants. Be aware that some handbooks may focus a particular region of the country.
Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening (2005): Edited by Anna Kruger, this book contains tips and techniques to produce chemical-free flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables.
The Pruning Book (Taunton Press, 1999): With 250 photographs and 135 drawings this comprehensive guide to pruning by Lee Reich, from houseplants to exotics, is a must.
The Southern Living Garden Book (2004): Edited by Steve Bender of Southern Living Magazine- Includes, it over 7000 plants, lots of color photos, useful information. It is easy to use -- a great overall reference book. It also includes the American Horticultural Society’s heat Zone map and ratings for plants.
The Southern Living Landscape Book (2000): This book offers lots of color photos and focuses on garden design.
The Western Garden Book by Sunset 8th Edition (2007): This comprehensive book edited by Kathleen Norris Brenzel features over 8,000 plants, with tips from Western gardeners.
Beyond the Basics
Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (Timber Press, 1997): Michael Dirr's book is a comprehensive reference about trees and shrubs, includes color photographs for many of the highlighted plants.
Dirr’s Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates: An Illustrated Encyclopedia (Timber Press, 2002):
Also by Michael Dirr, this book is an invaluable reference for southern and west coast gardeners with nearly 1500 plants highlighted.
Herbaceous Perennial Plants, A Treatise on their Identification, Culture, and Garden Attributes, 3rd Edition (Stipes Publishing, 2008): This comprehensive book on perennial plants by Allan M. Armitage includes color photographs and lots of good information on what individual plants need.
Blogs and Catalogues
Some catalogues are also valuable references with wonderful colorful photos and information on the newest selections of plants available. Here are a few I find useful and refer to on a regular basis.
There are many garden blogs that can be helpful. Kathy Purdy, who writes the blog Cold Climate Gardening, provides a list of gardening blogs from across the US, as well as other countries. Her list makes it easy for you to find out about a lot of different content that is available and then you can pick and choose. When reading blogs, pay attention to the source. Local land grant universities (state schools like the University of Georgia, etc) offer online publications that contain information based on scientific research.
[Editor's note: Although the author did not mention them, I recommend the blog Garden Rant for smart, funny information on gardening. I also recommend The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman. -- CGK]
Erica Glasener is a Hometalk - http://www.hometalk.com - writer. Read more articles like this one - http://www.networx.com/article/9-garden-books-for-every-library-plus-b - or get help with your home project on Hometalk.com.