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Reviews of The American Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants

Good Rating
Book Profile
Author (1): Christopher Brickell
Author (2): H. Marc Cathey

Hardcopy edition:
Publish date: October 2004
Published by: Dorling Kindersley (DK Publishing)
List price: $80.00
ISBN Number: 0756606160



  Garden Bookworm editor's notes:  
More than 15,000 plants in 6,000 photographs and illustrations.

The AHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants is the most comprehensive, detailed, and lavishly illustrated guide to garden plants ever published. With authoritative coverage of more than 15,000 ornamental plants, accompanied by nearly 6,000 full-color photographs, it is destined to become the essential reference work for all gardeners, from novice to expert. Plants are arranged alphabetically by their botanical names for fast, straightforward access. All names are completely up to date, and previous names (synonyms) appear as cross-references throughout. Any plant can be located quickly, even if the current botanical name is unfamiliar or not known.

Detailed plant profiles, prepared by an international team of more than 40 expert contributors, describe growth habit, leaf and flower anatomy, plant height and spread, geographical origin, and hardiness. A concise introduction to each genus provides essential details of botanical family, native habitat, number of species, and the ornamental qualities for which the plants are grown, together with succinct advice on cultivation, propagation, and pests and diseases. Specially commissioned photographs closely integrated with the plant descriptions, capture the beauty of nearly 6,000 plants. The full diversity of growth habits within a genus is shown wherever possible, and special close-up panels illustrate the range of flower colors and shapes. A comprehensive introduction and glossary guide beginners and experienced gardeners alike to a greater knowledge and understanding of the key elements of plant classification, anatomy, and cultivation.

  Feedback History and Summary  
19 positives
3 neutrals
2 negatives


Negative Noturf On Dec 28, 2009, Noturf wrote:

This book is too heavy, impossible to handle for young people or
seniors. It tries to cover too much terrain. It would have been wiser to split in four volumes.. I do not use it much for this reason. On the other hand, why is every book of this kind centered on temperate climates? Could editors and publishers get together and write one about tropical climates? After all, everyone
into gardening practices with criteria will buy it for reference, but
not as heavy as a cinder block.

Positive goofybulb On Sep 11, 2007, goofybulb wrote:

I bought this book a few months ago, and I am really happy with my purchase. It has a lot of information for the plants listed, their origins and natural environment, propagation methods, a rich display of cultivars for some plants (such as roses, camellias, tulips, daffodils) and very beautiful, high-quality pictures. It also gives us some "plant anatomy lessons" and an index of commonly used plant names for quick reference. For a beginner gardener like me, it's a very useful addition and it serves its purpose very well. I actually found information about some of my unidentified plants just by going thru its pages. I am frequently browsing it in my spare time, and find out new things every day.
Can the book be improved? Probably yes. However, encyclopedias are for quick reference, with concise information for as many species as possible. And this book does it well.

Positive Joan On Feb 20, 2007, Joan wrote:

While it's not the most complete book for a horticulturist, it is a very good reference book for gardeners. No book can completely cover every aspect of every plant genus, but this one covers a lot of material with color illustrations that will be invaluable to most hobby gardeners.

As a backyard gardener, if I could only have one reference book, I would either choose this one or The American Horticultural Society's Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers. I'd choose both if I could have two.

Positive DonnaA2Z On Jun 25, 2006, DonnaA2Z wrote:

I've found this book to be very informative and relatively easy to use. However, I have found that it lacks a bit in completion. I guess there is no book that could include every single plant in it. But I do like the book a lot and would suggest it for any gardener, especially beginners.

Neutral petit_potager On May 23, 2006, petit_potager wrote:

Gardening info by Committee:

“Contributions from 100 distinguished horticulturists”, yet in many ways this reference amplification fits the classic definition of a horse show.

Sometimes books spin their wheels attempting to be all things to all people and accomplish nothing within that venture.

A multiplication of 15,000 incomplete entries does not a good reference make.

Neutral palmbob On Mar 1, 2006, palmbob wrote:

After having looked through dozens of coffee table books like this one, I was prepared for the woefully inadequate approach to listing all the horticultural plants possible in some of the southern states (despite its ridiculous claim to be an encyclopedia), as well as a completely archaic approach to climate zones... and I was not disappointed. This is just basically a redone version of all the books printed before it. Full of information, a lot of which is redundant and some of which is wrong.. yet lacking the most useful information for those interested in less common plants and those who want to know something really accurate about some of the warmer climate zone possibilties. Oh well. Still, a beautifully done book and fun to look through over and over. However, I can't say there is anything unique about it. A true encyclopecia of plants is probably not a relatistic possibility, and if it were, I still bet there would be way too much misinformation to keep me happy. The good thing is I was able to buy this book for $19 at the local book store. Not a bad buy for so many gorgeous photos.

Neutral hardyinokc On Feb 1, 2006, hardyinokc wrote:

This is a very nice book with lovely color photos, but it has not turned out to be the resource I had hoped it would be. There seem to be many plants missing that are grown in my area and much of the information does not seem to be completely accurate. It makes a lovely, but very heavy, coffee-table book. I certainly did not feel it was worth the price once I got it home.

Positive golddog On Jan 23, 2006, golddog wrote:

Teriffic reference book! I got mine at Half Price Book Store for $39.95 a couple of years ago. It pays to look around.

Positive Taylored On Jan 8, 2006, Taylored wrote:

Unlike all of my other gardening books, I have never NOT found a listing for any plant I was looking for UNLESS I did not know the botanical name of the plant I was looking for. But upon discovering the botanical name, I have always found the plant in this book.There is a list of common names in the back, but there are SO many common names! I especially like that specific environmental requirements are provided for each plant. A growing zone doesn't really tell me much. And I also love that propogation methods are suggested. I love free plants!!!!
I'm a real penny pincher, but this book has been worth every cent! I don't even look at my other books any more!!!

Positive afr On Nov 30, 2005, afr wrote:

A joy to own! I can find myself drawn into this encyclopedia and spend what seems like hours going from one entry to the next. Especially helpful are the Heat Zones (which are usually more pertinent for predicting gardening success in Texas, my home) as well as the usual Cold Hardiness Zones.

Positive ineedacupoftea On Oct 22, 2005, ineedacupoftea wrote:

I suggest it as the twelve-pound encyclopedia it is. It does not cover food plants for the most part. A middle ground btween "Botanica" and "Flora" as far as number of plants and depth. One will find most ornamental plants in it and their size, habitat, appearance, soil, and propogation. Its best use is when you get a plant as a gift that has not interested you before and now you need general information.
Popular genera like Hedera and Clematis are written with the input of those societies. Minor faults: Sometimes lacks time of year for flowers, leaves, and fruit, and pH requirements.

Mine is marred with soil, sap stains, and re-bound twice with duct tape. A great book.

Positive DavidEllis On Jun 13, 2005, DavidEllis wrote:

I just wanted to let everyone know that a revised and updated edition of this book was published in 2004. The book link to Amazon is for the older version of the book.
The 2004 edition was edited by Christopher Brickell and Dr. H. Marc Cathey and includes hundreds of new plants and photos, along with updated nomenclature. Until the link here is updated, to find the newer book go to Amazon and search under the name H. Marc Cathey.

Positive Terry On Mar 17, 2005, Terry wrote:

Got it. Love it. Need I say more?

Okay, it's big (read: huge and heavy!) and I could bemoan the fact that as big as it is, it still isn't exhaustive when it comes to certain species and common varieties. But the images are both beautiful and helpful, and the information is concise and descriptive. Definitely a useful reference book for any serious American gardener.

Positive jamie68 On Feb 25, 2005, jamie68 wrote:

If a newer gardener were to ask me which book they should get as an all around encyclopedia of ornamentals - I would tell them this is the one to get. That said, it is not quite as complete as I had hoped, and some of the zones are VERY conservative. But if you wanted one encyclopedia with most of the plants pictured, that covers alot of ground in one volume, this is a good one. I tend to start here, then go to some other references I have, then on to the internet!

Negative seedpicker_TX On Jan 25, 2005, seedpicker_TX wrote:

I received this book as a gift for Christmas. I immediately looked up my favorite plants, and then spent an entire day going through the entire book.

I found it to be too reserved on zoning appropriations(many, many zones were way too conservative. Many things hardy in my zone were listed several zones warmer ), with no distinguishing between general hardiness, and root hardiness.

I found this disappointing, as it would really limit someone's plant choices if they were relying strictly on this book, to tell them whether something would grow in their zone.

I also looked up vigna caracalla and phaseolus caracalla. This is one of my plant "pet peaves" that "the industry" has yet to get my disappointment, this book did not get it right. In fact, phaseolus is not even listed as a listing(they missed phaseolus coccinea, phaseolus caracalla, etc.)...Phaseolus coccinea is a VERY popular climber, that even most people who don't even garden, can name(Scarlet runner bean). Plus, there are many more phaseolus, just to name one specific example... There were other plants that I could not find listed, but that is just a basic example.

In my opinion, this "encyclopedia" is just not that complete, and is although "new", it is already "out of date"...As a reference, it should be considered more of a Basic Guide, than an encyclopedia.

Sorry...but, that is my genuine opinion. I've learned much more about plants from Dave's, and other gardening sites, not to mention, my favorite encyclopedia, "the internet".

I'd say it is good for a general guide, but if there is a plant in particular, that you really want to know about, don't stop at this book, but read on, and learn more from other sources.

This book was so highly recommended, that I was pretty surprised once I read it. While I admire the time and effort it must have takent to compile this book, I also think it needs some serious editing, and I found it to be lacking...

I'd have rather paid more(even though I didn't pay for my copy, as it was a gift), and rather have seen it be a two volume set, which included better and more thorough information, that one volume, that was lacking and incomplete, but cost less. Maybe this was just what they felt was most appropriate for the general market? But, I don't think most serious gardeners would fit into the "general market" category.

Positive ladyannne On Nov 10, 2004, ladyannne wrote:

I just bought this, along with two other AHS books. Well worth the price, but I have noticed eight items that do not appear in any of them, surprising!

Positive doss On Nov 7, 2004, doss wrote:

This is the book I keep by my bed. Being organized by uses, if I want a purple annual, I can find it here. Not all of them, but enough to begin thinking, since it also gives zones. Then I can eliminate immediately any that don't grow in my zone. After that, I get on the net or go to the nursery and find the plant easily.

Trees and Shrubs are listed by size. Best of all, there are small silhouettes of each one so it is possible to find a 30 foot tree that is spreading and in my zone. Each one has a picture. What a blessing. And that makes it as good a coffee table book as a good working manual.

Positive haighr On Aug 30, 2004, haighr wrote:

This book is never out of site at our house. Second best thing to DG for plant identification and information. Provides a wealth of information and encompasses a plethora of plants, shrubs and trees.

Positive tcfromky On Apr 30, 2004, tcfromky wrote:

Encyclopedia, reference book, garden guide, etc. This one has it all. I use it practically every day throughout the growing season. And in winter, I use it to pull me through till spring plantings begin. The short botany section in the front is very useful.

Positive mystic On Feb 13, 2004, mystic wrote:

This is my all time favorite reference book. I couldn't do without it. If you could just have one book for gardening then I would tell you this is the book to pick.

Positive Horseshoe On Feb 11, 2004, Horseshoe wrote:

Excellent book! A library within itself!

This book is always within arms reach! Buy it!

(Psst! can often-times find it reduced price here and there. Shop around!)

Positive LimeyLisa On Feb 9, 2004, LimeyLisa wrote:

This is definately a must have to help you identify plants and to get basic information on plants with which you are unfamiliar. Once you know what your plant is, you need to go on to a source with more specific information. This is what I would call a "first step" book.

Positive Copperbaron On Feb 9, 2004, Copperbaron wrote:

Another nice reference book encompassing species and variety descriptions of a large number of the more common woodies, perennials, and annuals. A good reference book, but I don't find myself using it nearly as much as the more specialized books for the above classifications. It certainly looks impressive displayed in your bookshelf.....

Positive Happenstance On Feb 9, 2004, Happenstance wrote:

An invaluable resource for plant identification and cross-referencing with other more specific plant reference books. As with any other reference guide it doesn't have all the latest cultivars, but certainly a necessary basic reference.

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