Conifers for Gardens: An Illustrated Encyclopedia: This book, by Timber Press, is and is not a coffee table book. It is a coffee table book because it is filled with pictures – it has to be, to distinguish between cultivars of the same species. Words won’t do it, no matter how precise they are, when you are dealing with dozens of cultivars per species. The photography is truly excellent, and the photos are taken with an eye to telling you the story of what each plant is or can be.
This is not a coffee table book because of the information in it. Not only is there informative text on each species as a whole, but cultivars are described, and growing conditions are noted where different from the norm. Not all conifers are evergreens, and some (like the ginkgo) came as a complete surprise.
Where there is a predisposition to disease this is noted, explained, disease control discussed and alternate, resistant varieties named. The author also points out which species tend to be too large for small places, a great help for homeowners.
As a last note, the rather short introduction provides an overview of the uses of evergreens, and the book as a whole gives a whole new concept of where anybody could put an evergreen or two. It also gives, as a whole, a look at the conifers that will make you drool to have.
At the very back of the book are short lists of plants for various purposes, which is faster than (but no substitute for) actually reading the book, what a concept-and a far more useful list of where to see good collections of conifers, several of which are right here. In summary, this is a book well worth buying, well worth having.
Incidentally, the author is coming to Behnke’s to give a free lecture on conifers, on Saturday April 5 (2008). Your reviewer attended this talk last year at Swarthmore, and is bringing his garden club to see it en masse. It will open your eyes to the possibilities that conifers, as a group, can open up for your garden.
by Richard L. Bitner, Reviewed by James L. Dronenburg