1. Archive

Two single-volume, useful garden books

Published Oct. 8, 2005

(ran HL edition)

Since I'm often asked to suggest single-volume encyclopedias, it's nice to be able to report the appearance of two exceptionally useful new books. Each is priced at $60.

Weighing in around eight pounds is the large-format, 624-page Taylor's Master Guide to Gardening from Houghton Mifflin (the title pays homage to Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening, the 1936 masterpiece edited by Norman Taylor).

This carefully researched work, with 1,300 superb color pictures and 300 clear line drawings, begins with several dozen short chapters touching on subjects such as planning front yards, rock gardens, shade gardens, water gardens and fragrant borders.

A picture gallery of 1,000 plants follows, along with an alphabetical listing with details on growing 3,000 species and cultivars. A precise section then covers general garden topics such as soil, fertilizers, watering and pruning.

The Master Guide is an ambitious work by about 30 contributors and emphasizes those plants most appropriate for North American gardeners.

Vastly different in appearance, scope and focus is the Index of Garden Plants by Mark Griffiths (Timber Press).

It is a no-nonsense compilation and certainly the latest word in botanical nomenclature, just like the four-volume New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, on which it is based. This 1,234-page version covers more than 60,000 plants. The notes contain, as Griffiths writes, "just enough descriptive data for each plant to convey something of its appearance and garden value."

About 12,000 plants are also cross-referenced under their most common names. Only a few pages of the beautiful line drawings from the Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary are used, providing relief from the dense, fairly small type.