Photo by Melody

Reviews of Western Garden Book

Good Rating
Book Profile
Author (1): Kathleen Norris Brenzel

Hardcopy edition:
Publish date: February 2001
Published by: Sunset Books
List price: $36.95
ISBN Number: 0376038748



  Feedback History and Summary  
35 positives
No neutrals
1 negative


Negative shortreach On Feb 23, 2010, shortreach wrote:

I have purchased several copies of the Western Garden Book over the years and have found them to be complete and very useful. In the latest edition, the Sunset Editors have omitted the cross-reference index at the back of the book which listed both common and botanical names. This single editorial decision greatly limits the current Western Garden Book's usefulness. Don't discard your older edition.

Positive gardenarian On Feb 1, 2010, gardenarian wrote:

Can't live without it.

Positive blomma On Jun 17, 2009, blomma wrote:

I bought this book in 2006. It is my garden bible and the one I turn to when I want information about a plant I am not familiar with.

Before I purchase a plant, I alway look it up in this book. I especially want to know the hardiness of a plant and if it is invasive, or not. It is a great book for any gardener to own.

Positive mrs_colla On Feb 18, 2009, mrs_colla wrote:

The truly One and Only! The one I keep going back to, over and over again!
If I was only allowed one garden book ( O Horrors!!) this would be it!
Some people have called it the "Garden Bible", and without wanting to insult any people, I feel the same way in that it has everything you need to know about a plant and how to make it thrive!

Positive slatwood On Oct 2, 2008, slatwood wrote:

I've used this book since the 1967 edition (4 editions), and have loved every one of them. When I magaged nurseries, there was always a dog-eared copy on hand, as our nurserymen's "Bible". It's comprehensive in its descriptions, tolerances, growing habits, and on and on. I concur with everything said about it before I chimed in. It's wonderful. And every edition was better than the last! KEEP IT!!!

Because there is now a 2007 5th edition I bought. So far as I can see, no new plants were added, and Sunset does not claim to have added any. The Plant Selection Guides seem to be smaller. Some of the pages-long comprehensive listings of varieties and/or cultivars are gone or truncated. Worst of All: The cross-reference index in the back, for common-to-botanical names is gone; they've attempted to incorporate it alphabetically within the plant listings within the book -- and missed at least hundreds. You're not going to find Cry-Baby Tree (Erythrina species) in the 2007 edition.Nor are you going to find the 30+ plants that are called "Dusty Miller" in various parts of the west.

KEEP your wonderful, comprehensive, cross-indexed and exhaustive 2001 edition, until Sunset RE-re-formats the book! My 2007 sits on the shelf, while I further dog-ear and water-spot and spine-crack my 2001!

On October 2nd, 2008, slatwood added the following:

I was wrong: Cry-baby Tree was from Hort -- but you get the picture: You\'ll be looking up only a very few common names -- so you\'d better know the botanicals -- or just hang on your 2001. It\'s a dirty, splotchy wreck -- but it\'s going to have to serve me until a new one (2012) comes out -- and then I\'ll compare and reserve judgment until AFTER I\'ve bought it.
Positive Jungleman On Aug 5, 2008, Jungleman wrote:

Sunset Magazine (The Magazine of Western Living) has been operating since 1898, so has extensive knowledge of the West, Western climates, and what grows best there.

Primarily this is an encyclopedic reference of plants that have proven track records in specific climactic regions, called Zones. These Zones are much more specific to topography, average high and low temperatures, and humidity / aridity, than those provided by the USDA (which merely consider average high and low temperatures). These Zones are very clearly delineated by the use of maps in the Book, and are described in detail.

Each plant entry is listed alphabetically by botanical name (species). Common names, Family name, type of plant, and cultural information (including Zones, sun requirements, and water needs) are clearly outlined at the top of each entry. Sunset includes the most commonly found varieties under the general information about the species. Information is very clear, thoughtful, and offer suggestions for success.

Included in the Sunset Western Garden Book are color sections designed to aide in plant selection, offering suggestions for specific color, landscaping need, attracting butterflies, plants for ponds, and for problem areas, such as planting beneath native Oaks.

There is an often overlooked section at the back of the book that outlines basic principles of gardening, such as composting, fertilizer use, pest management, disease treatment, to name a few.

This is a highly regarded, reliable reference considered indispensable to all who know it.

Positive omegabook On Mar 15, 2007, omegabook wrote:

I have used the Western Garden Book through 3 editions, and without a doubt, the current version is the best. While plants are still identified by Latin binomials, as they should be, users of common names have an easier time locating the plant they seek. This is especially true in the Plant Selection Guide section, which uses both types of names and also lists the page where the plant description can be found--much easier to use than the earlier editions, in my opinion. I also like the liberal use of color illustrations. A must have book for California gardeners.

Positive imapigeon On Jan 15, 2007, imapigeon wrote:


I bought my first copy in the 1970s, and update about every other time they re-release. I keep one copy in my car, and give the older ones to gardening newbies. I still have 3 versions at home, because there's something irreplaceable in each one.

The one I keep in my car goes into every nursery with me when I'm plant-shopping. It keeps me from falling for every pretty plant that the nursery writeup or the tag says will be perfect for my location!

Positive la_bibliotheque On Dec 31, 2006, la_bibliotheque wrote:

I am from California and this was my parents' gardening bible. Now I live in Ohio and I own the National Garden Book, also by Sunset, and it is similarly wonderful. I wish that Sunset's zone system was widely used instead of the USDA system--the Sunset system is so much more detailed and you get a much better idea whether or not a plant will do well in your area. I only wish the pictures were photos instead of line drawings.

Positive RuTemple On May 9, 2006, RuTemple wrote:

An indispensible necessary reference. Like the Joy of Cooking close to hand in the kitchen, we keep a treasured, older edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book as well as a newer edition, because things *change* just a little bit, and we love to go back and look at yesterday's wisdom, too, and not just because I got it from my dearling MIL!
If you could have just one garden book, this is the one.

Positive meanwoman On Feb 26, 2006, meanwoman wrote:

A big floppy book, a treasure trove of plant information. I took mine to the office supply store and had it "comb bound" so the pages lies flat when I open it. It was only a few dollars and well worth it. I would like a hard cover better, so it could stand up on the shelf without curling over.

Positive tardigrade On Feb 15, 2006, tardigrade wrote:

If you garden in western North America you must have this book - no ifs, ands or buts. I struggled trying to get regular garden books - most written for the UK or the Northeast US - to agree with my growing conditions. This bible takes account of the varied microclimates of the region and gives you a better chance of getting things to grow than do more general gardening books.

Positive si2 On Dec 17, 2005, si2 wrote:

This book really is a bible for gardeners in the west, serving both pros and amateurs as a bible should. Whenever I hire an expert to come talk to me about my garden they either bring a battered copy with them or sometime during our conversation ask me for my copy w/o even stopping to wonder whether or not I will have it at the ready. If I go to any nursery, even one w/o much heart like a Yardbirds, when I ask for one to look at it, they'll pull it right up from behind the counter.

Positive CastIronPlant22 On Dec 13, 2005, CastIronPlant22 wrote:

Man i love this book! its a gardeners bible! It has a lot of info for everything and how to grow everything! The new Western Garden book should be here in 2007. I cant wait, i hope they updated a lot and added more plants. Every gardener has to have this book! I have all the past ones too. The book is kind of expensive and i wish it was made in hard cover, but you must have this book.

Positive BayAreaTropics On Sep 28, 2005, BayAreaTropics wrote:

My main gripe with Sunset is that they drop plants for no reason-the new versions dont list Montanoa grandiflora or Synadenium or rareish ficus or many other species that they had listed in older issues. And they are far more available now than ever.
The other is that the listed zones for tropicalia are far to conservative.If you live in North Cal you wouldnt know from the "Sunset bible" that Giant bird of paradise,Shefflera Pucklerii or King palms, to name a very few, are growing large and healthy in Bay Area gardens-or even the central valley. C'mon Sunset editors, look around. Dont rest on your laurels-ha.

Positive tiffanya On Sep 1, 2005, tiffanya wrote:

This book and the Plant Files on Dave's Garden (with your contributed photos) is all I need. ;-)

Positive arne_kj On Aug 23, 2005, arne_kj wrote:

This book helpful for beginner and experienced gardeners. A must have for anyone west of the Rockies. It has been my first choice in Calfornia, Arizona, Idaho and now Wyoming.

Positive mt_alder On Jul 31, 2005, mt_alder wrote:

I'd been wanting the updated version of this wonderful book for 7 long months and finaly I got it on my 14th bday. I lept into it and have still not read it all. This is my second favorite book on the shelf. I LOVE IT!!!

Positive chunx On Jul 22, 2005, chunx wrote:

This book has been my gardening bible for years. It lists everything from zones, pests, grafting, seeds, plants, what to plant for every condition and effect. You name it, it's in here. I've probably purchased at least 50 copies in the past 25 years for myself and as gifts. It's also loaded with pictures of mature plants that you can't see at a nursery. I just wish they would update it every year instead of every 2 to 4 years. Of all my gardening books, this one exceeds all of the others combined. Even if you don't live in a Western state, it's worth getting for the abundance of information.

On July 22nd, 2005, chunx added the following:

P.S. You can always find the previous volume on for practically nothing (less than a dollar).
Positive dowdude On Feb 19, 2005, dowdude wrote:

I have over one hundred garden books but this is always the first book I go to. And often the last. It covers the world of plants and gardening more completely than any other work. My only complaint (comment) is that they use a different system of hardiness than everyone else so you have to interpret the numbers. But the information is more than worth the trouble. When I update to a new version, I always carry the old one in my car for plant information emergencies.

Positive Kachinagirl On Nov 9, 2004, Kachinagirl wrote:

THE book for gardners or designers. There are others, but this should be the first. I have to buy a new one every couple of years because I use it so much the pages fall out! My #1 book, all others come after! Karen

Positive TuttiFrutti On Nov 7, 2004, TuttiFrutti wrote:

As a first time veggie and flower gardener, I found this book to be indispensable! I also recommend its companion book, the Sunset Western Garden Problem Solver, for diagnosing plant diseases and identifying beneficial (as well as damaging) creatures.

Positive nevadagdn On Nov 5, 2004, nevadagdn wrote:

I refer frequently to this book when considering new plant purchases for my garden. I've been buying the most recent edition since the 1970's, and the book has only improved from great to excellent. If I were stranded on some hypothetical West-Coast Island and could only take one gardening book, this might well be the one I'd take.

Positive binky1972 On Oct 29, 2004, binky1972 wrote:

This Book is wonderful!! No wonder every body calls it there Bible. I know its mine now. Just wish I had know about it a long time ago. Its well with the money. A good investment.

Positive ladyannne On Oct 25, 2004, ladyannne wrote:

The garden bible. I am on my sixth copy, and looking for another, more current version. Can't imagine being without it. All gardeners, everywhere, should own this, not just the west.

Positive dottik On Sep 25, 2004, dottik wrote:

Am on my third volumne of this book. Can't imagine myself without it.

Positive jcangemi On Sep 7, 2004, jcangemi wrote:

Of all the gardening books I have, I've had this one the longest. . given to me when I owned my first garden by my Mom who has an original '67 copy she still uses...and it's my most used book by a long shot. . I need to update and get a new edition one day soon. For western gardeners, packed with great stuff for landscaping in all situations and the plant encyclopedia section is indispensable.

Positive nadabigfarm On Sep 3, 2004, nadabigfarm wrote:

The bible of gardening. Every household should have at least one copy. I am on my 3rd one and every edition is better and more complete than the previous. This is THE book I always turn to first for any plant and if further info is needed, it will point me in the right direction.

Positive palmbob On Sep 2, 2004, palmbob wrote:

This has been my 'bible' for non-palm and cycad or non-succulent species... I love the way they divided up the cliamte maps, too...much more practical than USDA generalities (but not without it's limitations as well). Wish the whole country was divided up that accurately... the whole world for that matter... only complaints are severe lack of most plants I am interested in... concentrates mostly at stuff you can get at average nurseries, not specialty nurseries. There are hundreds upon hundreds of missing palm and cycad species, as well as literally thousands of missing succulents and cacti... oh well. Hard to put in every plant that will grow in California- there would be probably 30,000 plus species in there then. Nice small drawings for each plant and good general guidelines for husbandry and climate. No other book even comes close to this.

Positive hopflower On May 24, 2004, hopflower wrote:

Definitely as everyone says, it is a necessary book for all Western gardeners. The only drawback is that it sometimes does not give much sowing advice, but it is excellent for upkeep of the plants and for zoning, plant needs, and suggestions for problem areas. I am on my second copy and have bought it for friends as gifts, who really appreciated it.

Positive gardenmart On Mar 26, 2004, gardenmart wrote:

This book is a treasure. Isn't it wonderful that California has just about every type of climate zone known in the United States? This is a great reference book for us on the East Coast as some things listed in the Western Garden Book are used here as houseplants or annuals or specimen plants. I have the hardbound edition and I use it often.

Positive PotEmUp On Mar 5, 2004, PotEmUp wrote:

I am on my third copy. First published in 1967 it has become a mainstay reference at virtually every nursery I have visited on the west coast. Sunset's website ( is also a good source of gardening information. Western Garden Book also offers very specific zonal descriptions for every region of the West and in a much more specific way then the USDA zones. (Over 20 zones)

Positive RichSwanner On Feb 27, 2004, RichSwanner wrote:

I live in my garden thru this book. When I put in a plant or need any feedback it is always there with the answer. I keep it by the computer to help me to look for variations of plants. It gives all the basics family, genus, hybrids, and everything else. All the nurseries here (Cal.) have it for sale, and let you use it to pick out plants .There is all the rest of gardening, tips, plant zones, and explanations on anything and everything about gardening. If you need to know, it is in this book. This book is avaialable thru for just over $25 (hardback) and free shipping. Even if you live in cold zones it is helpful in identifying all the plants everybody puts in. Almost everything I see in the database is in this book.

Positive CApoppy On Feb 16, 2004, CApoppy wrote:

Anyone living west of the Rockies MUST have this book. Whether you are a gardener, or just someone who appreciates the landscape, this book is your field guide. Thorough, accurate descriptions of almost any plant you would find in a local nursery are supplemented by advice on watering, pruning, use in a landscape, and companion planting. Hardly a week goes by without my referring to the information this book provides.

Regular new editions keep the information up-to-date and reflect new trends, hybrids, and techniques. Entries are cross referenced by common and botanical names and taxonomic changes are indicated by current and former classifications.

Positive Kelli On Feb 12, 2004, Kelli wrote:

Most gardening books are written as pertains to eastern UDSA zones 8 and colder. Anyone who has lived in the West, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions can tell you that gardening here is a whole different animal.

Positive Happenstance On Feb 9, 2004, Happenstance wrote:

No Western Gardener should be without this "Bible" of gardening. Always a dog-eared copy in my library of gardening books.

Add your own comment and rating to this book

Return to the Garden Bookworm homepage

Overwhelmed? There's a lot to see here. Try starting at our homepage.

[ Home | About | Advertise | Media Kit | Mission | Tour | Contact Us ]

Back to the top


Hope for America