Elisabeth C. Miller Library

Gardening Answers Knowledgebase

Knowledgebase record #192

Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes by Kathleen A. Robson, 2008

Reviewed by: Brian Thompson
Review date: 2008-10-01

For gardeners, the most important new book of the year will be the "Encyclopedia of Northwest Native Plants for Gardens and Landscapes". A trio of southwest Washington writers brings extensive experience in botany, propagating and growing native plants, and photography together in this very comprehensive and extensive book that will be a standard reference for many years to come.

A brief introduction lays the ground rules: only natives -- nothing naturalized since the arrival of "non-indigenous human explorers". Plants that are rare and nearly impossible to grow in cultivation are out, too. An example being the various lovely but sensitive slipper orchids.

There are some seeming exceptions to this last rule, such as Erythronium montanum, the stunning but notoriously difficult-to-cultivate avalanche lily seen at Hurricane Ridge. However, the authors note, it can be grown by gardeners who live at higher elevations.

The heart of the book is a listing of over 500 species that gives a basic description, cultivation requirements, native range and habitat, plus notes about related species, ethnobotany and selected varieties. Propagation tips are included, with a strong emphasis on conservation of plants in situ.

The excellent photographs make this a pretty good identification book, too, and will convince you to add more natives to your home garden, including ferns, shrubs, and trees, both broad leaf and conifers. The appendices include helpful lists of plants to meet various gardening needs (for shade, for wildflower meadows, for hummingbirds, etc.). This book is a must have!

Excerpted from the Fall 2008 Arboretum Bulletin.

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