Published: July 10, 2011
Updated: March 20, 2013 at 03:55 PM
It seems ridiculous to buy reference books of any kind any more. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, catalogs -- you can get all that stuff online pretty easily, and usually for free.Gardening guides might be the last hold out for me. I know there are some amazing plant databases online, but when I'm making a plan, I still prefer to curl up with a book filled with photos.As much as I talk and write about gardening, I don't know the names of many popular plants, much less the rarer ones some people here grow. If I have a book with plant images, I can page through it until I find the ones I've seen, then I can figure out the names and get more information.So imagine my great happiness when a new edition of "Landscape Plants for South Florida: A Manual for Gardeners, Landscapers and Homeowners" landed on my desk. Edited by George K. Rogers and in its second printing, it is filled with hundreds of photos of plants, their Latin and common names, how to pronounce them (so you can act like a smartie), and basic info about each.Why would I need it when I have dozens of other gardening books on the shelves at home? An example: My gardening buddy, Penny, and I went to a plant sale just last week. All the plants had great signs on them, with plenty of helpful info, and the vendor told us even more about the plants we purchased. But by the time I got around to finding spots for the plants in my yard, I'd forgotten whether a couple of them needed full sun or some shade, and if they were cold and/or drought tolerant. I'd even forgotten what a couple of them were called!So I turned to this handy manual, and every one was there with the data I needed to give it a proper home. And I used the photos to identify the ones I couldn't name.There are only two things I don't like about "Landscape Plants for South Florida." One is that it doesn't give you nearly enough information about cold hardiness. I didn't see any mention of zones (because of the "South Florida" in the title, I can only assume it's geared for temps that are a bit warmer than Tampa's).The other thing I struggled with is the use of abbreviations for everything from cultural conditions to flowering seasons. I realize the coding allowed the authors to pack as many details into the book as possible, but I grew annoyed as I kept turning back to the key at the front.The heft of the book might be a bit daunting to newbies, but I'd recommend it for any gardener who is interested in getting to know Florida landscape plants. It was put together by the horticulture department at Palm Beach State College and all revenues will go to that program.There's a companion website at www.plantbook.org, and you can order the book there for $40, plus shipping.