17 December 2011

Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs - horticulture professor Michael Dirr hits another home run

First let us praise Timber Press for being wise when printing this 970-page reference for all of us who love to learn about landscape plants.

Anyone looking for gift ideas for gardeners can just go to the Timber Press site and pick something - almost anything. By the way, though it retails for $80, it is only $50 at online book sellers.

Next, we will praise Michael Dirr for his incredible talents - photography, personal commentary, diligent research, academic skill tempered with down-to-earth experience and love of woody plants.

You might expect such a doorstopper-sized reference to be unreadable, but you would be wrong. Throughout the entries Dirr's voice is heard praising and criticizing the habits of plants.

Some reviewers say it is for serious plant people, but I'd suggest that it will make plant book readers out of casual gardeners.

3,500 photographs taken by Dirr.
3,700 species and cultivars described.

I'll pick out a few Dirr-isms from the book for your edutainment

on Aucuba japonica "Considered old-fashioned, dated, tired, and dinosauristic, but the infusion of new cultivars has brought the species a rejuvenated lease on landscape life."

on Deutzia scabra "Essentially a dinosaur in modern landscapes but very much a part of older gardens"

on Fontanesia philliraeoides "Rare and 'Jurasic' shrub with nail-like durability. I remember seeing in my travels a pristine planting near Clinton, Oklahoma, where the wind never stopped blowing."

on Forestiera acuminata "What is it? Who cares. Why is it here?"

on Microbiota decussata "The species had the plant world on its toes as the next great needle evergreen groundcover. Plants in the Dirr garden and Georgia campus succumbed to heavy soils, humidity and heat."

This is a book you could sit down and read, just flipping from photo to photo, looking for new ideas for your garden. Or, it could be read as some of us read cookbooks or the dictionary ... for the pure pleasure and relaxation we derive from the activity.

Either way, take a look at it the next time you are in a book store.

2 comments:

ricki 'sprig to twig' said...

This sounds like a winner. Your review makes me want to cuddle up to it for the winter, doorstopper or not. Thanks (I think...do I really want more to want?).

Martha said...

Ha! The week it arrived I sat down in a recliner every day and turned page by page.

Just perusing it, I made new plant friends and learned more about current friends in our yarden.

The photos are beautiful and make me want acres and acres and a team of yard workers!

Dirr's writing style is accessible for the most part but how smart he is makes some the entries over my botanical head.