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on July 2, 2006
As the librarian for my garden club, I have a small budget to buy books that meet our needs. A happy by-product of this activity is that I learn the best ones, and I can then buy them for myself. This is one of these. A great index, cultural information, plant descriptions for almost everything (not everything, but almost) make it indispensible for us as a reference at our annual plant sale and during meetings. I would say it is the most popular book at our meetings and the one owned individually by the most members.
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on November 11, 2006
We bought our first home this summer and knew we had to make big changes to the small backyard but had no idea where to begin. This was the first gardening book I bought, and I might never have to buy another! The lists of plants for various conditions is extremely helpful. The plant descriptions are thorough but easy for a beginner like me to understand. And the other gardening procedures and tips, from how to prune a shrub to how to get rid of pests and diseases are equally as readable and useful. A must-have for any Southern gardener!
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on July 9, 2007
I had the first edition of The Southern Living Gardening Book and wore it out over the years. Recently, I purchased the new one, and it's even better! If you garden in the south, you must have this book! The way the book divides the south into zones takes the guess work out of buying plants. If the doesn't say a plant will grow in your zone, don't waste your money. It simply will not. The information for each plant is excellent. And the list is exhuastive. It's the rare plant that isn't listed, and if it's not, it means one of two things: either the plant is so new it wasn't included in the book or it simply won't grow anywhere in the south.

I am a garden designer, and I find the plant lists in the book invaluable. Need evergreens? Need blooming shrubs? Need flowers? Go to the lists and pick and choose according to your needs. For the most part, the plants in the lists will be readily available at your local garden center.

Are you browsing garden catalogs? How many times have you ordered and planted new things just to have them die, making you feel like a failure? Before you spend your money on a new, exotic looking plant, check the SLGB. It will tell you where to plant, how to plant, and whether it will thrive in your garden. Big confidence builder!

Whether you are a beginning gardener or have gardened for decades, you need this book! If I could only have one, this would be it!
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on March 10, 2006
This book is an absolute must have for gardners in the south! Every plant is pictured and described clearly and there are wonderful lists of plants that do well in full sun, poor soil, partial shade, and all sorts of other conditions. As I said, a definite must have!
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on December 9, 2011
Texas is in a funny location. It's too far west to be considered southern. It's too east to be called the West. It's somewhat south to be called part of the Great Plains. Yet it's referred to as all those things. I consider it Texas and home. Nevertheless, the Southern Living Garden Book includes Texas, albeit not very well.

First off, the Southern Living Garden Book is, in my experience, the best general reference available because of its extensive plant encyclopedia and the inclusion of the American Horticultural Society's heat zones. But the book is in need of some editing and updates.

The heat zone map included in this book remains a work in progress. Their map puts us in Heat Zone 9, but we're really Zone 10, based upon my examination of historical temperature data and gardening experience. This year, due to the drought, we were Zone 11. You have to keep such variations in mind, because the El Niño/La Niña cycles may raise and lower your heat zone from year to year. This year taught me to move more towards Xeriscape. Also, a thermometer survey showed that near the south-facing street is as much as 20° hotter than just 30 feet back under the Pecans. (We're installing a 60 foot dedicated cacti/succulent bed.) Considering these factors in your landscape plan will make the Southern Living Garden Book a more valuable reference when you look for the right plants for your nano-climates.

Some plants were inaccurately rated for both heat and cold hardiness by the Southern Living Garden Book, experience showing that they aren't tough enough for our heat. For example, they claim Fatsia japonica is hardy enough for Heat Zone 12. Hah, hah. Experience shows it's perhaps good for Zone 9. We had one below-average summer and it lived. The next year, back to Heat Zone 10, and it died. This year, I tried once more, placing a new specimen in a more protected area. It did fine during the winter, despite two streaks of three 15° nights, but last summer's heat killed it. The book also says Fatsia japonica is marginally hardy for the Lower South (USDA cold hardiness zone 8, which is where we live). Perhaps the book needs to split Lower South into two zones to reflect the USDA's division into Zones 8A and 8B. We live in 8B, which may explain why Fatsia japonica is cold hardy here.

The editorial offices reside in Birmingham, Alabama, which may explain why this book is more southern oriented and not so relevant for Texas. The editors would benefit from corresponding with the experts at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Texas A&M, the latter being the source of the Texas Superstar plant list of heat- and drought-hardy plants for Texas. By incorporating this expertise, the next edition of the Southern Living Garden Book-and it definitely needs an update-will be much more valuable to Texas gardeners. The current edition doesn't include many species listed by those two Texas sources, including many Texas natives.

On the plus side, compared to the Texas-centric gardening books I've read, the Southern Living Garden Book provides the most extensive plant information and is a useful addition to your garden library.
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on January 4, 2006
The USDA provides a general hardiness zone map that does not take into effect the microclimates that many US regions experience. These zones are generally seen on store bought plants and seeds. This book takes those microclimates into consideration and makes adjustments accordingly while also giving in depth information on each plant that can grow well in our Southern states. If you have lived out West and own the Sunset Western Garden Book, this is the bible for Southern gardeners in much the same way.
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on July 19, 2005
A friend of mine let me borrow her 1998 edition of this book, as a transplant southerner I need all the help I can get. I found every plant I have in my yard, most have been given to me by friends. I didn't know some of the names or anything about the plants except the little info that was shared along with the plants. This book is wonderful and well worth the cost, I would recommend this book to anyone living in the south! The pictures are lovely and the information is great. It covers everything, the other sections about compost, planting, ect have also been of great assistance. If you buy this book or give it as a gift everyone will really enjoy it!
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on August 29, 2007
this is a wonderful guide to all the plants growing in the SouthEast. i treasured this book thru gardens in maryland, virginia, and south carolina. however, if you move to Florida, this is not the book for you. here, the growing seasons as well as many of the plants change. but it is a fantastic reference for everyone else.
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on April 16, 2007
This is the most useful gardening book I've ever seen, and I find myself referring to it again and again, both for info about individual plants and also for general gardening tips and techniques. Sometimes I just sit and read it, familiarizing myself with plants I may not own, discovering other varieties of some of my favorites, or refreshing my memory about plants I've grown for years. This book has settled several arguments, as no one will dispute that the info in the Southern Living Garden Book is the gospel for Southern horticulture information. The comprehensive index of common names makes it easy to find plants for which I've only ever known some crazy, passed-down names--even when one plant has a few such nicknames attached to it. Without even meaning to, I've learned the latin names of many of my favorite plants, just from referring so often to the plant directory. If you only own one book about gardening, make sure it's the Southern Living Garden Book. I've given a copy to several friends as a housewarming gift, because I can't imagine owning a yard and NOT having this book on hand.
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on January 18, 2014
If you are only going to buy one book for Southern Gardening, buy this one. It's that good. The first 38 pages are about the southern climate. The next 105 pages are lists of plants organized by their use - color, trees, shrubs, hedges, ground cover, type of garden, water needs etc. The next 450 pages are a detailed encyclopedia of those plants. The next 75 pages is a thorough discussion of gardening - techniques for planting, propagation, pruning, soil preparation, etc. Finally, there is a 30 page resource directory with contact information and web pages for botanical gardens, mail-order suppliers, a glossary, and contact information for each state's Cooperative Extension Service. While other books may match it or even surpass it in one area, most don't, and none of them come close in terms of comprehensive scope and detail.
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