The Essential Plant Guide

???????????????????????????????The subtitle of this large book is “Every plant you need for your garden” and the cover, presumably generated specifically for the NZ market by the publisher and the NZ distributor, New Holland, boldly states “For New Zealand Gardeners”. It isn’t. The authors are Australian and American and the text has not been adapted for NZ conditions which are very different. Including plants like meconopsis (which will seed down and naturalise, don’t you know?) and trilliums as great garden plant options is problematic. There are reasons why you don’t see many crepe myrtles (lagerstroemia) growing in this country (they need hot, dry summers) and cornus are not great in the mild north and mid north. Arisaemas – we know quite a bit about arisaemas here. A. sikokianum is incredibly difficult to keep going as a garden plant but that is at least better than the recommendations for some which we think aren’t even in this country. Recommended camellia and rhododendron varieties are often (mostly?) ones more popular in the authors’ home countries and are not the NZ market choices. I would not be sure that they have all been imported to NZ, let alone in production.

It is a nice looking book which runs to over 800 pages. There is a double page spread on most genus, cheapened by the ubiquitous “Top Tips” which sometimes aren’t. The organisation into sections (trees, shrubs, fruit trees, cacti and succulents, orchids etc) makes it a little clumsy to use. Ferns are lumped with palms and cycads.

The bottom line is that a book for NZ conditions would take into account what performs here and what is available here. This is just a generic plant reference book with no specific application to gardening in this country.

The Essential Plant Guide by Tony Rodd and Kate Bryant (Global Book Publishing; ISBN: 978 1 74048 035 2).

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.