Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
I've been in love with Michael Dirr's brain since I was a student of his at U of I, Urbana in the 70's. Like other fans, I've got each addition of his "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants", the industry Bible. If your nursery or landscaper does NOT have a weather-beaten copy of the Manual in their shop or truck, DO NOT HIRE THEM!!! lol

I received advance notice of this book's release and placed an advance order, counting the days until arrival. And it's finally HERE<<<, in my hot little hands, and ready to be devoured and enjoyed.

Note: The weight of this book is NOT for the faint of heart. It must surpass 6-7 pounds, as a hard cover. The quality of the paper used for printing is of high quality; the way a high-priced coffee table book should look and feel.

The photos show a lifetime of passion by Dr. Dirr; this must be one of his proudest achievements, to place in ONE spot just some of the photos he's taken throughout his career. Crisp, clean and sharp; some show Autumn colour, flowers, and adult form, which will be invaluable to landscape services. When you are trying to impress upon a client just HOW BIG a certain tree will become and they don't believe you, THIS book will put that topic to rest.

This certainly does not replace the Manual of Woody Plants; it's a short cut with Dirr's usual pithy comments. There's adult size and zoning, with a paragraph or two about each genus and species, but you'll certainly need the Manual for more specifics.

What is missing from this book, which I was hoping was present but is not, is clear close-ups of terminal buds of the trees and shrubs. Even in the Manual of Woody Plants, the majority of line drawings are only of the individual leaves and rarely a terminal bud, which is KEY to identifical of the more unusual of plants. A friend of mine, who is an arborist, is weekly running into botanical oddities that were dragged from the woods of Wisconsin or Michigan, or ordered from a now defunct nursery and he has NO CLUE what these things are! He and I log 2-5 hours per week, trying to key them out from Dirr's descriptions in the Manual; if he had included terminal buds in this book, it would have made it perfect.

However, most people do not have to key out random and odd Ostrya virginiana or Lindera benzoin trees on a daily basis so they will love and cherish this fine volume. I knew I needed one copy; I was waiting to delve into it to see if I need another. Yup, I do: one for my office and one for my truck, to take to meetings.

Any Dirr fan will want/need this book to add to their collection of one of our nation's greatest living horticulturists. Do I recommend it? See above! :)
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
The internet has removed the need for so many types of book. Between the online nursery descriptions and search engine image searches, you can find basic information on many types of plant, and that's often good enough.

However, things become tricky when you're trying to compare plants. For example, recently I wanted to plant a Spirea `Neon Flash', but all the nursery had was `Anthony Waterer'. Using the internet, the descriptions looked remarkably similar, to the point where I wondered whether I was dealing with the same plant under two different names (this happens a surprising amount in the plant world).

This is where a giant, thorough encyclopedia comes in handy.

Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs is a game-changer. Twice as thick as Dirr's most famous work, Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs, it is crammed full of photos and deliciously blunt descriptions of each of the varieties listed. The book feels like a gift - the essence of Dirr, immortalized - and is clearly going to be the new must-have book for anyone serious about gardening.

The benefits of a comprehensive enclyclopedia like this are numerous. First, in my Spirea research, I was able to get a clear comparison between `Neon Flash' and `Anthony Waterer'. (If you're curious, `Neon Flash' is slightly shorter, much less wide, and doesn't have the tendency to develop cream-colored foliage reversions as does `Anthony Waterer' - in short, had I gone with the internet's advice I would have been pruning dear Anthony off his neighbors for years to come.)

Second, I trust Dirr. He's brutally sarcastic, thoughtful, and has no motive to make a plant sound better than it is (hello, nursery catalogs!). I've certainly gotten some nasty surprises over the years through ordering plants that sounded fabulous from nursery descriptions, and then had lackluster coloring or performance. Dirr cuts through all the hype and nonsense, and provides clear comparisons and quick summaries of the benefits or drawbacks of each variety.

And the photos! Oh, the photos. There are 2-6 color photographs on every page, which means that I can see for myself what the habit or flower color looks like, without having to guess what "vase-shaped" or "more red than the species" means to him.

If you've ever tried to look up an unusual plant in any search engine's image search, you know the extreme limitations of that media. Mislabeled plants, no clear distinction between named varieties, and few photos of the habit of the plant (just flower closeups) are just some of the issues.

Seeing the photos of differing varieties laid out right next to each other has already saved me enormous amounts of time when selecting just the right variety for a spot. It takes a lifetime of travel and dedication to build a photo library as extensive as this one, and it is almost as much of a gift as the text itself.

If you're a gardener and you already know and love the usual Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs, then this much-more-comprehensive encyclopedia is going to be on your wishlist this Christmas. I'm keeping my old copy of Dirr's Hardy, but mostly because it's so muddy, dog-eared, and highlighted that I feel I'd be getting rid of a personal journal to pass it on now. In the years to come, I expect this new encyclopedia to take on that same well-beloved look.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on November 8, 2011
Dirr is truly a Giant of his industry. All of his books have been invaluable go-to references. This book is a little less information rich than his "Manual of Woody Landscape Plants" but it does provide many of the critical details along with large beautiful photos. As with his other books Dirr shares his opinions openly and often with great humor. This book would be a good introduction for someone discovering Dirr for the first time.

This man truly lives for what he writes about. Almost every plant in his encyclopedia is accompanied by some personal experience or observation by the Author. I am humbled by his knowledge and grateful that he has taken the time to share it with us.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2012
I think it should be clarified that this is not an update to Manual of Woody Landscape Plants: Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propogation and Uses. The Manual is a text-heavy reference with only illustrations while the Encyclopedia is photo-heavy with some text commentary on culture and available cultivars. Format is comparable to Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia.

This book is full of beautiful photography. The kind of book I will open up to a random page and forget what I originally came to find
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2011
Dirr's Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs is a comprehensive book on trees and shrubs. This publication belongs in everyone's gardening library! Michael Dirr is the world's foremost authority on trees and shrubs. This book is a wonderful horticultural reference and includes meticulous information on planting and care. It's actually a compilation of Dr. Dirr's two books: Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs and Dirr's Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates. I heartily recommend this book for new and experienced gardeners alike. It's easy to understand and would be invaluable to new homeowners landscaping their property for the first time. The photographs are outstanding; a visual delight for the senses!
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2012
I was disappointed in this book. I'm a landscape professional and have Dirr's Manual of Landscape Plants and thought this book would be like the Manual but with pictures, but it's not. It does have a lot of pictures, half of the plants are not for my region. The plant descriptions do not give nearly enough information for plant selection. I think this book is for homeowners looking for plant pictures and general descriptions.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2011
Though mainly addressing the American gardener, this encyclopedia is still very valuable to the European enthusiast, not least because interesting new cultivars bred in the USA are now slowly reaching the old continent (e.g. Lagerstroemias, Cornus, Camellias, Nandinias). It complements such standard works as The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs or Das grosse Buch der Garten- und Landschaftsgehölze by the German authority Hans D Warda. I own both the old (in two volumes) and the new edition - both are excellent, packed with useful information and helpful photographs. The new edition is a true heavyweight in the double sense of the word, hardy and not so hardy trees listed alphabetically in one huge volume and containing many new cultivars and pictures. I only regret that the illustrated tour through the author's impressive former garden has gone from the new edition. Timber Press is to be congratulated on publishing such great garden books - they have no equal in the world!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Michael Dirr is THE recognized expert on trees and shrubs for residential landscaping, and this encyclopedic compendium of his research and observations is one of the best resources you'll find for choosing trees and shrubs for your home! Having razed our front and side yards to replace our aging driveway and front walk with beautiful brick pavers, I bought this to help me choose shrubs and a few trees for the resulting blank palette. We had hired a landscape architect to design the entire project both the hardscape and the plantings, and we used professionals to do the installation. Working with our hardscape professional, the original design was transformed in many seemingly small ways resulting in a stunning end result. When we began looking at the trees and shrubs suggested, I could see that some "seemingly small" changes and substitutions could once again have a powerful impact on the final project. Dirr's gave me the information I needed to evaluate the plants that had been suggested and also find other plants we might like more or that fit my mental image of our garden better.

PROS: 1) Each entry includes information on size, shape, color, cultivation requirements, and appropriate zones, as well as Dirr's anecdotal information on his personal experiences with and sightings of the plants. The impact of pests and diseases is also noted.
2) Each entry is lavishly illustrated with photos of the mature plant, and close-ups of leaves, fruit, and flowers. Where appropriate entries also include photos of massed plantings and seasonal variations of significance.
3) Information on varieties and cultivars of each species extends the information on choices.
4) The appendices include lists of plants for various specific purposes, e.g., color, winter interest, bloom time, shade tolerance, etc.
CONS: The book is organized based on taxonomic names, some easier to "translate" than others. Magnolia = Magnolia (that's easy!) Pinus = Pine (not so hard!), but Picea = Spruce and Thuja = Arborvitae (well, that's a very different kettle of fish!)

I used the photos to navigate, stopping to read more about plants whose photos appealed, and am very satisfied with the results so far. Filling out the palette will take several years, and I expect to find Dirr's useful right through to the end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 5, 2012
For those of us who like a picture of the plant, this is great. I have Dirr's Woody plants for plant identification class. This is a great companion book. Detail drawings of leaves and twigs are good but I need pictures of the trees & shrubs, If you need it for class, I'd buy both. If you don't want it for your reference library - Amazon has a great buy back policy. Sold back my botany book and bought this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2015
As an owner of Dirr's Hardy Trees and Shrubs, which covers zones 5 and below, I wondered if I would find this book useful. I did, in fact. Not only do I own some zone 6 plants that get extra protection, but I found that many of the plant categories in this 951 page book (up from 493) have been expanded to include cultivars introduced in recent years. If you own his books on viburnums or hydrangeas, this will not add to your knowledge. But as someone who gardens outside of my zone, and whose own zone is warming, I found this book excellent, with the usual blunt descriptions, useful comparisons and insights that make Dirr books indispensible. I have begun collecting abelias, for example, and bringing them into a protected area, and this plant was not covered in my first book. And of course the photography, as with all Dirr's books, is superb.
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