In a few seconds anyone can turn to their favorite plant to learn some additional features they had never known before. Or, one can query the book about an unusual plant sitting before them in a nursery, learning just about anything they might be curious about; size, sunlight, flower season, regional suitability and so on.
The information in the book is not poetic, nor idealistic. It is straightforward and it's factual. Unlike so much gardening information, "The Western Garden Book" isn't trying to convince you of anything. This book simply delivers information; it's up to the reader to do with the information as he or she pleases.
The lasting popularity of this gardening reference is remarkable. Volumes of information on plants and gardening are now only a computer mouse click away, yet "The Western Garden Book" remains the standard, the first place a gardener turns when considering all things growing: how big does it get, when does it bloom, will it grow in my area, what's its botanical name and so on and so on.
What other book is still relevant after 50 years and why has "The Western Garden Book" endured in an era when any other reference book is obsolete almost before the ink is dry?
The answer is two-fold. First, this book is the compilation of an army of experts; it is a collaboration. Second, it is continually revised, re-written and updated.
I was fortunate to have been a contributor to the previous edition of "The Western Garden Book." A few weeks ago, I was again asked to share my advice and suggestions to an upcoming ninth edition of this classic.
"Of course", I replied, followed by, "Which plants or species should I focus on?"