Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Annuals

Gardening Bibles

by Jack Ruttle

One key to a successful garden often goes uncredited: a bookshelf stocked with dependable references. They are where you go for a reminder on how much wood ash it is safe to scatter on the vegetable beds, or to make sure it's not too late to sow those expensive pansy or geranium seeds. The best gardening encyclopedias also offer some fine reading after the day's chores are done.

Surprisingly these books are rarely among the first gardeners obtain. They are often expensive, and many are short on color photos. But that is changing. Many major gardening encyclopedias have recently been updated, both in looks and information.

Compared to the dictionaries of plants used by botanists and horticulturists, gardening encyclopedias are written for gardeners. They not only name and describe plants, but tell how to grow them. They also encompass a wide range of gardening topics, not just plants.

Preparing for this article, I reviewed all the gardening encyclopedias available in America today. I didn't include one of my favorites, Thomas H. Everett's The New York Botanical Garden Encyclopedia of Horticulture (Garland Publishing, Inc., New York, 1981) because the complete ten volume set now costs more than $1,100. Wonderful as it is, I felt it was beyond (both in scope and cost) what most gardeners need. Here are seven books that cover most gardening subjects and cost less than $65.

Are any of the volumes here the only gardening book you'll ever need? -- almost surely not. In fact, almost by definition, a gardening encyclopedia that does its job well will lure you back for more, first to more gardening, and inevitably to more books. Happy hunting!

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