One of the best presents my sons ever bought me was the RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants probably about 10 years ago. A hugely valuable resource that opens the keen amateur gardener’s eyes to the amazing world of plants. Naturally, having loved this publication for many years I was interested to be offered a review copy by Dorling Kingsley of their new edition, published on 9th September 2016.
The new edition includes an additional 5000 new plants and claims “to incorporate the latest research and know how from over 70 horticultural experts led by the world-renowned plantsman Christopher Brickell”. It’s a beautiful edition presented in a strong robust carry-box, the ideal present for that special gardener in your life. However, it’s a weighty tome coming in at 1118 pages whereas its predecessor was split between two volumes making it much easier, in my opinion, to use. Interestingly, despite the size and weight of the book, there has been a reduction in the information section at the start of the book. Gone are the sections on Plant Problems; Pests, Diseases and Disorders; and specific information about various plant groups such as Trees, Shrubs, Orchids, Ferns. I presume the decision was taken to remove these sections to allow space for the additional 5000 plants. I think it is a pity as I have often found these sections as useful as the actual encyclopedia – my version is a sort of one stop shop.
But putting my grumbles aside, which are purely based on the fact that I have an earlier version, this book really is an essential acquisition for all keen gardeners and horticulturists. It is obviously an A-Z and each Genus is set out with an introduction, general cultivation information and then individual plant entries which start with the botanical name. The plant entry has specific details about the plant with descriptions of flowers, leaves, stems, overall height and width, geographical origin and hardiness. The entry is then further sub-divided into variants and cultivars. Not all plants have photographs but there are sufficient to make it very appealing. In addition there are drawings of distinct or complex features of the larger genera which show any variations in flowers or leaves.
The price of the book is £75 but I think this is reasonable given the amount of information you get which even with the seemingly never-ending plant name changes will provide probably the most valuable resource the gardener ever needs. I have to admit to drifting to tapping into the internet more these days for plant information as its so easy but it is also quite limited and there is never the breadth of varieties as there are in this book.
So yes if you are looking for that very special present or if you have someone who might indulge you then I would really recommend the RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants