Most helpful critical review
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Engaging, well written reference... with a few gaps
on February 26, 2000
This is a good choice for the beginning native gardener who needs a sense of the range of native plants available. It's a pleasant browse, and provides a representative sample of the choices you might make with natives. I appreciated the straightforward tone of the writer, who studiously avoided the pretensions of some of the more unctious coffeetable books. Let's just say she's gardening in urban New Jersey, not in northern California, and leave it at that.
On the other hand, there are some gaps in Ms. Taylor's knowledge that make this a less than definitive reference. The short version is that she's often recommending a plant based on the sendup of an arboretum or public garden with which she's corresponded, and that sometimes she hasn't done the research to back that recommendation up. For an egregious example, she describes the American form of Bittersweet (Celastrus Scandens) in a way that clearly demonstrates that she doesn't know the difference between it and the invasive asian form. That sort of slip is a real problem, both philosophically and practically, for someone who's into native plants. Oops.
All in all, I'd say this is a useful book that gets you interested in the plants, but that you should do a healthy amount of leg work elsewhere before you plant. The research is half the fun anyway...
For another native plant reference, with less species but more reliable context and detail, try C. Colston Burrell's A Gardener's Encyclopedia of Wildflowers.