Book Review: The Plant Lover's Guides

Timber Press have a new series of books out this year called The Plant Lover's Guide To...

...Dahlias, Salvias, Sedums and Snowdrops are the four titles published thus far.

I was invited to breakfast by Timber Press at the Garden Bloggers' Fling in Portland earlier this year, where I was pleased to see Salvias in my goody bag. It was joined by Snowdrops last week courtesy of Timber Press in the UK.

The almost square format makes each volume easy to hold and the quality of the hardcover and pages means these books will stand up to being well thumbed.

Each guide is designed to give a thorough introduction to a genus for both gardeners and plant enthusiasts alike.

They're not all-out works of reference. Instead there's lots of information crammed into 200-250 pages, together with a showcase of around 75 particularly garden-worthy examples. This combination gives an overall introduction to the variety of plants available within the genus under discussion.

Thus the reader isn't weighed down with detail, yet still gets a really good idea of how the plants perform under a wide variety of situations and how they may be used in a garden.

There are plenty of photographs to illustrate how the plants may be used as well as a large, clear photograph of each variety selected for inclusion. These books are clear, bright and visually appealing.

Timber Press have been wise enough to set a general framework for the overall look and feel of the series and then let their selected authors' individual style and enthusiasm for their subject come to the fore.

I particularly liked Naomi Slade's sprinkling of interviews with various snowdrop experts and galanthophiles throughout her book, plus her delving into snowdrop history. I've already found John Whittlesey's notes on how salvias are pollinated useful for my Blooms Day post last month.

I'm easily pleased with just the single Galanthus nivalis and the double G. 'Flore pleno' in abundance in my garden, but it was still interesting to learn more about the 70 or so named varieties Naomi's highlighted. I was also happy to see most of my chosen salvias are featured in John's volume, especially S 'Amistad' and S 'Hot lips'.

If the Dahlia and Sedum volumes are as good as these two, then Timber Press have a successful formula on their hands.

Update 11th October: I've just seen Timber Press's USA Spring 2015 catalogue and there are further volumes in the pipeline on:

  • Asters - written by UK experts Paul and Helen Picton
  • Epimediums - UK author Sally Gregson 
  • Ferns - Richie Steffan and Sue Olsen. I met Richie in Seattle earlier this year when he took us on a fantastic tour round the Miller Botanical Garden
  • Tulips - Richard Wilford, hardy display collections manager at Kew 


  1. Thanks for the review. They sound like an interesting read.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the review Tim - and welcome to Veg Plotting.

  3. They sound great, I really like to be able to compare different varieties. The dahlia one sounds particularly useful, all those different ones, it's good to have a list of which are good to grow.

    1. Hi CJ - I like the look of the dahlia one too and it would be great to know more about their origins and history. It's on my list for that event in December which begins with a C... (fingers crossed NAH is reading)

  4. Why am I not surprised that you have Hot Lips, Michelle? *chuckles* Seriously though, this sounds like a really good series; why oh why have I just sworn to restrict my book buying! Well, that's one resolution going straight out of the window! I've a bit of a thing for salvias so think I'll start there ….

    1. Well, Caro it's taken me 3 attempts to keep my Hot Lips! The first 2 died on me, but it looks like the third's position in the walled terraced bed is to its liking :) It's taken me a while to have a thing for salvias, but now I love them.

  5. You will not be surprised VP to hear that the snowdrops volume arrived here in the post last week :) I just had to break my book buying embargo. Will post some thoughts soon. Like you I enjoyed the snowdrop interviews. I think that the salvia and dahlias titles might well find their way here too eventually.

    1. Hi Anna - I was at Karen's last week and we discussed how you wouldn't be able to resist the snowdrops volume. I was hoping to get my review in before you'd bought it though ;)
      So pleased you're enjoying it - it's a good read.

  6. Great review! But oh my, what a wonderful series of books, and now I have more books to add to my wish list! I will especially be looking out for the Epimediums book when it is released.


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