Trees and Shrubs for the Southwest by Mary Irish

Recently I read an online book review complaining that a plant reference described plants that would not all survive in zone 4 and colder.

Unlike that reviewer, I enjoy reading books that cover a variety of zones and regions because we often encounter plants in catalogs and garden centers that are not exactly perfect for our region. And, we buy them.

The upside of having a variety of references is that you can look up those plants to see how they could work for your garden.

Such is the case with Mary Irish's "Trees and Shrubs for the Southwest". Irish describes 200 plants for hot, dry situations in the arid and semi-arid southwest United States. The map for her selected plants includes Las Vegas, Austin, El Paso, Tuscon, Phoenix, Los Angeles and San Diego.

In addition, low rainfall, sandy soils and high winds contribute to the dessication of plants in that area. Irish is the director of public horticulture for the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.

In the Introduction, I learned that Irish consulted several references for plant names. Her resources included: Kew, Flora of North America, Biota of North America Program and the International Legume Database. That last one was new to me. Who knew?

Despite her years professional horticultural work and writing experience, Irish writes in a way that makes you want to read the whole book.

I love her reference to a "tapestry hedge" made up of mixed plantings with varying heights, shapes, evergreen as well as deciduous, some blooming and others not. Her words paint pictures and you know just what she is describing.

Here's another pithy comment - "Scale is where many urban gardeners lose their minds." Who among us has not planted too much, too tall, too wide, too close and too many?

There is good information on plant selection, planting, plant care, watering, pruning, bugs and propagation. Then, pages 80 through 315 contain the plant directory.

Most of the plants are cold hardy to around 20 degrees which means pot plants or annuals for those of us who garden farther north.

But, Lantana, Vitex (chaste tree) and Elderberry are in there and all are perennials here in zone 7. My wonderful Esperanza (Tecoma) is in the book too but I bring her in every winter. I see that I could move it to that hot south wall next summer and it would be quite happy.

Great reference for southern gardeners, southern vacationers and gardeners who can protect tropical plants. These are drought tolerant so the pots wouldn't have to be watered every five minutes either.

Details: Hardcover, 332 Pages, 7 x 9 in, 208 color photos, Timber Press, words by Mary Irish, photography by Gary Irish.

Other books by Mary Irish: Perennials for the Southwest: Plants That Flourish in Arid Gardens (hardcover) and Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide (hardcover).


Molly said…
Hi and welcome to my zone 7 garden blog.

Writing about plants and gardening is a bit of a passion and it's so good to know that you are reading.

Thank you for taking the time to write a hello.

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