Following the phenomenal success of Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs, written for gardeners in the climates of USDA zones 3-6, this companion volume is a photographic encyclopedia of trees, shrubs, and vines for "warm temperate" zones. In North America, these areas (zones 7-11) stretch from the Mid-Atlantic states to the South, include most of Texas and the Southwest, and encompass the entire West Coast up to western Canada. Any gardener who lives in an area where average winter temperatures do not fall below 0° Fahrenheit (18° Celsius) will want this book, and curious gardeners in colder zones may well want to test these select plants in their local microclimates. This remarkable volume shows both the habit and details - flower, fruit, bark, fall color - of more than 400 species and describes hundreds more cultivars and varieties. Certain genera offer myriad hybrids and selections, and photographs of many of the best of these are included as well as nearly 40 named crape myrtles, a dozen tea olives, and 11 loropetalums. In all, more than 1400 photographs join with the authoritative text to bring the plants to life.
From Abelia to Ziziphus, gardeners will encounter many new and unfamiliar plants that thrive in warmer climates. The book also reflects the author's inimitable personality, which holds nothing back when a plant deserves outright acclaim ("If prescriptions could be written for perfect garden plants, this species would come close to filling the order"), backhanded praise ("Use for accent, for novelty, or to drive visitors loony"), or frank condemnation ("Splays to the point of no redemption with time"). The book concludes with useful lists for selecting plants for a variety of conditions or for ornamental characteristics, such as flower color and fragrance, fruit, and fall color.
Decent book, but misses nuances. A follow-up post here from continued scientific study (who ever said science was concluded?) reveals many factual errors of Michael Dirr's book. One, in particular is that Girard Azaleas make a great addition to the warm climate garden. This couldn;t be further from the truth. Girard hybrids have performed terribly in warm climates. When I inquired with Dirr about other scientific questions, he dismissed me. Seems he has fallen into the "you-can't-question-me-I'm-a-scientist" anti-social , anti-civil mentality.
What I liked about this book is there are beautiful full-color pictures to go with the plants described, many of them, of the authors own garden and arboretum.
Many varieties of some of the common plants, are not so common. So I am able to be aquainted with even more plants than ever. Sometimes there are plants that are used over and again, in the typical landscape situation, and they become a bit boring.
Michael Dirr takes us to a new level, so we may gain an understanding of a wider range of plants from which to chose.
Along with Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs, these books offer the woody plant lover great descriptions and photographs of a huge number of woody species and cultivars. An additional bonus are a number of photographs of Dirr's garden in Georgia. Highly recommended.