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The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World: A Comprehensive Reference to More than 2000 Species Hardcover – Illustrated, October 18, 2011
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“A book like this is as restorative as a three-week vacation, minus the hassles with airplanes.” —The New York Times
“Sure to be valuable for botanists and gardening enthusiasts.” —Library Journal
“Comprehensive and accessible volume. . . . Recommended for all.” —Booklist
“A fascinating compendium and homage to succulence, amply repaying exploration to both expert or experienced novice who thirsts to know more.” —The Garden
“A great companion book for beginners as well as avid collectors of these fabulous plants.” —Detroit News
“You’ll learn about more than 2,000 succulents, their natural history, and how to enjoy them in your garden or in your home.” —Halifax Chronicle Herald
“A new reference for newbie fans and avid collectors.” —San Diego Home and Lifestyle Gardens
“Without question, the best contemporary presentation of this vast group of plants that are primarily from southern Africa and Mexico.” —The Desert Sun
- Publisher : Timber Press; Illustrated edition (October 18, 2011)
- Language: : English
- Hardcover : 344 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0881929956
- ISBN-13 : 978-0881929959
- Item Weight : 3.36 pounds
- Dimensions : 8.88 x 1 x 11.31 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #227,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The jacket states that it contains "detailed descriptions of more than 2000 plants" and "more than 750 photographs", which is one of the main problems: more than half of the species mentioned are not illustrated, and since those mentions are usually unaccompanied by more detailed information they're not very helpful in identifying particular species. And while it's interesting to see many of these plants photographed in their natural habitat, the small size and often cluttered nature of the photographs makes identifying particular species difficult - to say nothing of the fact that many of the species photographed in situ are ones that the average succulent enthusiast are unlikely to encounter at a nursery or botanic garden.
What practical information there is is overwhelmingly directed at the Californian gardener (which comes as no surprise since the author is based in the Bay Area) and will be of very limited usefulness for those living elsewhere.
Overall, the book feels too specific in some areas (taxonomies, geographic descriptions) and not specific enough in others (practical knowledge for home gardeners, particular differences between species), so it's difficult to understand who it's intended for. I consider myself an "advanced amateur" when it comes to succulents, and it wasn't for me.
However, its aims make it less than satisfactory for someone interested in choosing or identifying succulents for the garden, houseplants, etc. As others have commented, most of the photos are of succulents in habitat. Some of these are spectacular; in others, it's almost impossible to distinguish the plant under discussion from other vegetation, rocks, etc. Generally, they don't help either to identify an unknown succulent or to picture how it might appear if you grew it. Furthermore, the selection of plants covered is clearly slanted toward the rare, hard-to-access, or distinctive. This allows for very little coverage (much less photos) of the proliferation of hybrids and visually distinctive cultivars produced by nurseries and sold for the garden or as houseplants.
So, I'm glad I bought the book: it is cool to know about where these plants come from & get an idea of what they look like in their native habitat. The author describes some of the more extreme places where commonly-grown as well as unheard-of plants come from vividly, making the book an armchair voyage to some of the planet's most inhospitable terrain. Socotra sounds horrible, but I was fascinated to read about it.
But I wish someone would write an equally authoritative reference work on succulents in the garden. (And leave out the categories that have no place in a landscape & are unlikely to be grown successfully by someone without a greenhouse, etc. - living stones are cool, I personally find "root succulents" repulsive, neither is a landscape plant.) No-one could keep up with the proliferation of wild & crazy hybrid Echeveria, sedums, etc., never mind all the cross-generic hybrids, not to mention the radically different appearance of genetically identical plants under different cultural conditions (with / without rain, etc.).
But I'd really like to have a book that covered the top 10 most common Aeonium species / established varieties in cultivation, with clear pictures of each one - and the equivalent for the main species & standard hybrids of the other prominent succulent genera used in the garden. I don't want to buy multiple volumes per genus - I'm not planning to open a nursery - and there are already *plenty* of books on landscaping with succulents, choosing and arranging succulents for containers, crafting with succulents, etc. Meanwhile, I'm still not sure what species several of the aeoniums I'm growing are, even though I'm a plant person (and a Latinist), and I've been obsessively propagating & slightly less obsessively researching these things for a year.
So, buy this book by all means. It's very cool, and the author is both a top expert and a lively writer. But don't expect it to answer all or even most of your questions about succulents you encounter in gardens, nurseries, etc.