Bromeliads The Connoisseur's Guide

Author: Andrew Steens

Publisher: Random House, Godwit $45

The opening words of this new book by an eminent New Zealand specialist grower read:

This is a book for gardeners who have progressed from having a garden full of mixed plants, with 20 to 30 different bromeliads, to being completely addicted to bromeliads, with a bromeliad collection that is taking over the house, the conservatory and the lawn, prompting mutterings of enclosing the whole property in one large greenhouse.

Taken literally, that should narrow the potential readership to a few score only because while broms are a common feature these days and enjoy a popularity which rivals conifers in the seventies, most gardeners still prefer to do some mixing and matching.

But this is the best book around for the aficionado. The beginner may be better with Steens’ 2003 book, “Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden” because that focuses more on the use of these curious plants in gardens and landscaped settings as well as giving sound cultural information and technical info on the different genera. This new book is dedicated to those who are hooked on the rare and the exotic, to collectors rather than gardeners. It covers hybridising and importing but the greater part of the book is specialised technical detail on individual members of the extended brom family.

It has many gorgeous photographs and good information written by an author who is passionate about his topic and who makes it readable. It is a great specialist book. It is just a shame that Random House are economising so much on the production of their books – I have the same complaint that I had on the recent Julian Matthews book from this publisher. It has a cheap and nasty cover which curls and bends and will not last the distance.