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Great Books for Plant Lovers
by Daryl Pulis

With the holiday season nearly here, I thought I'd focus on books for both those who garden and those who merely like to look at pretty pictures. My previous holiday book columns are on this newspaper's website, www.appnews.com for those of you looking for general gardening books or other holiday gift-giving ideas, and I'll write more in my next column about some of the newest practical books but I'll concentrate today on some of the specialty books.

As you might imagine, I have gardening books - dozens, perhaps hundreds of gardening books. They range from my Mom's first gardening book, purchased as a new homeowner more than 50 years ago, through my landscape design textbooks, to the latest offerings from many publishers.

One publisher, Timber Press, stands out on my shelves, and most particularly in that stack of books that sits by my computer for quick reference. Whether I need to know the Latin name of "Mind Your Own Business" plant (Dictionary of Plant Names), or the origin of an obscure Salvia, there's a Timber Press book that will cover it.

Many of the books are incredibly detailed. In The Genus Hosta, Atlanta's W. George Schmid gives parentage, leaf and flower descriptions for hundreds of Hostas, including over 3000 synonyms! Not a book for everyone, but for the Hosta-phile, over 400 pages of required reading.

Much slimmer is my well-thumbed copy of J.D. Vertrees' Japanese Maples. It's a wonderful book with gorgeous photos of one of the most diverse and loved trees. The Japanese have been developing new types since the 1600s and the variation in color and leaf shape is remarkable. A new third edition has just been published, with over 300 color photos.

Probably the most unusual plant family is the Aroids, and Timber recently published an expanded edition of Deni Bown's Aroids, Plants of the Arum Family. Aroids? What in the world are Aroids? You probably know some of the members of this diverse family, which includes the Duckweed that floats on your pond, the Elephant Ears and Cut-leaf Philodendron that your mother had, and the Peace Lily that's on your desk. The family also includes the Jack-in-the-Pulpit that you see on your spring walk in the woods, and the amazing Titan Arum, the plant with the largest flower in the world - over 6 feet tall - and the smelliest. Deni Bown traveled the jungles of the world to photograph these plants and created a superb book that mixes scientific description with often hysterically funny details about the plant's unusual life cycle.

Whatever your garden passion, Timber Press probably has a book that covers it. Camellias, Ferns, Moss Gardens, Orchids, Bamboo, Carnivorous plants - there's something for nearly everyone. Our local bookstores have a great selection of gardening books, Our local bookstores have a great selection of gardening books, or you can order from Amazon.com.

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