Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses - by Michael A. Dirr
Note: This review is based upon the 4th edition published in 1990. The 6th edition, published in August 2009 is the version that is now available.
I bought this book years ago at a wholesale nursery company. While no one person is able to keep up with all of the new plant introductions that are made each year, this is perhaps the single most complete plant reference of its kind. Many landscape designers and architects consider this book to be indispensable, I know it has been for me. The duct tape is optional, and provides a clue to my only regret about buying this particular book - I didn't purchase the hardcover version.
A continuing project of the famous horticulturist, Michael A. Dirr, this book lists hundreds of plant species, and well over a thousand cultivars. Each entry is usually accompanied by a black and white line drawing showing leaf, bud, and stem characteristics for easy identification. Plants are listed by scientific name, common names, and family names. The Latin genus and species names are written and marked phonetically, for easier pronunciation. Additionally, there are written descriptions of leaves, buds, stem, size, hardiness, habit, rate, texture, bark, leaf color, flowers, fruit, culture, diseases and insects, landscape value, and a listing of individual cultivars and their specific characteristics. For example, under the listing of Japanese Maple - Acer palmatum (á'ser pal-má'tum), the author has chosen to describe 19 different cultivars (there are actually many more) according to size, leaf color, and habit. It is important to know that the lacy leafed, 4 foot tall, weeping tree that you are picturing next to your front entrance, doesn't end up to be 25 feet tall in a few years.
This is a great book for anyone selecting woody landscape plants. It is also a very good reference book in which to find that mystery plant you really liked, but just can't remember its name. Plants are listed in two separate indexes, first by scientific name, and then by common name, so whether you are an amateur or professional landscape designer, you should be able to find the plant for which you are looking. This book could easily save you hundreds of dollars by allowing you to select just the right plant for a particular location.
Other books by Michael A. Dirr include:
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