If I want to identify a plant that I have seen somewhere this is the book I turn to. It has sat on my bookshelf for over twenty years and has been referred to on numerous occasions.
The book is in two main sections; the Plant Catalogue and the Plant Directory. There you will find photographs, descriptions and cultivation advice for thousands of plants.
Illustration from the RHS encyclopedia.
The Plant Catalogue has 4,000 plants divided into groups: Trees; Shrubs; Roses; Climbers; Perennials and many, many more. If you know a plant but cannot recall its name, have a specimen that you want to identify, or simply wish to choose plants for your garden based on their size or colouring, the plant catalogue is the place to start.
The headings on each page reflect the way in which each plant group is subdivided – usually by size and main season of interest. Colour photographs assist in the identification and selection of plants.
The Plant Directory contains entries on every genus in the Catalogue section and expands on the information contained there, such as the distinctive characteristics, hardiness, cultivation, propagation and so on. It gives the botanical names, synonyms and common names for the plants. If you know the name of a plant and want to find out what it looks like the Directory is the place to start. Look up the plant name and then associate it with a picture in the Catalogue section.
First published in 1989 and now in its fifth edition, it has sold over 3 million copies. I would say this was an essential for any gardeners’ bookshelf.
Over 1400 Selected Plants for Every Situation in the Garden.
This book has been my plant bible for over 20 years. I use it to suggest plants for those places where regular plants do not do well. For example, part of my front garden only gets a glimpse of the morning sun and then spends the rest of the day in the shadow of the house. When we moved here our back garden was heavy clay with all the top soil scraped away by the builders. Years of plant growing and composting has improved the soil but at the beginning I was glad of some suggestions as to what would do well.
Illustration from Right Plant Right Place.
The book is divided into sections such as ‘Plants suitable for heavy clay soils’, ‘Plants suitable for dry soils in hot, sunny sites’, ‘Plants tolerant of dense shade’, and so on.
Each plant suggestion has a photograph and information about its flowering season, colour and height. This is followed by a paragraph describing the plants particular features and where it is best grown.
The large pages generally have six plants to a page. The way I have used the book is to go to the section that best describes the area I want to plant, such as damp shade, and then choose some plants from the suggestions. I can then go to my local Garden Centre and select the plants from of position of knowledge.
My version of the book was published in 1986. It was re-published in hardcover in 2005. I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is planting out a new garden or to someone who is going to make major changes to their planting scheme.