Two New Must-Have Books

Two new books, “Native Plants of the Southeast” and “The Living Landscape” written by garden writers from the east coast of the US focus on their part of the world but definitely pertain to zone 7 northeast Oklahoma in the Ozark Plateau.

Book authors and publishers always forget about us because they still think of OK as being the landscape they saw in dust bowl movies even though only the OK panhandle was in the central part of that tragedy.

With our normal rainfall at 44-inches annually, and our lowest temperature recorded at zero, the climate zone is the same as many eastern states covered by these two beautiful books.

“Native Plants of the Southeast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 460 Species for the Garden” by Larry Mellichamp was published by Timber Press this year. It is a 384-page, 8 by 10-inch hardback with 542-color photos. The list price is $40 ( and $25 at online retailers.

The author, Larry Mellichamp is a botany professor at the University of NC at Charlotte and director of the University’s botanical gardens. His 2010 book, written with Paula Gross, was “Bizarre Botanicals: How to Grow String-of-Hearts, Jack in the Pulpit, Panda Ginger and Other Weird and Wonderful Plants”.

The photographer for the book was Will Stuart whose photography will make gardeners crave all 460-native plants described by Mellichamp.

In the 30-page introduction, readers will be reminded of why we love native plants so much: They are well-adapted so less fussy, rarely escape and become invasive in nearby fields, plus provide food for birds and insects while imported plants do not.

Each plant described and illustrated is rated by a star system. MO wildflowers Nursery ( rates their seeds and plants using a similar system. One star means the plant is useful but not particularly ornamental. Two stars means good plant with at least one great feature, but it may be difficult to find or grow.

The best selections are rated 3 or 4 stars. These are valued for their garden appeal and have no negative traits. The four-star ones are must-have plants that are easy to grow, attractive enough for flower gardens and worth the trouble it is to find.

Doug Tallamy’s latest book, “The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden” is also a 2014 Timber Press publication. It is a 352-page, 8 by 10-inch hardback with 500-color photos of flora and fauna. The list price is $40 and it is $25 online.

Tallamy’s award winning “Bringing Nature Home” put his writings on the nature map around the world and this will enhance that reputation.

Photographer Rick Darke is a landscape designer from PA who worked at Longwood gardens for 20-years. Both of these avid gardeners are committed to helping us create life-filled landscapes with beautiful plants, habitats for birds, caterpillars, and both food and cover for wildlife.

The first chapter describes the layers of a landscape from canopy and understory through wet edges and ground layer. Then, the photos are interspersed with an explanation of the importance of growing communities rather than plants.

Several plants are listed as including bird food for wintering birds, spring migrant birds, and breeding birds. Other distinctions are plants for screening, groundcover, cooling shade, human edible food, fragrant plants, seasonal flowers, evergreens, etc.

The photos include plants, birds, insects, landscapes, hardscape ideas, winter scenes, design, water features, There is a 75-page plant guide with Latin and common names, ecological function and landscape use.

Both of these books make important contributions to understanding how critical it is for gardeners to think in terms of supporting nature in all seasons as they add to their landscapes.


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