Among my garden books, I probably own more references than any other kind. Part of that is because I get asked a lot of questions and part is because I’m curious and want to know the who, what, when, why, and how of just about any hort. topic.
I’m pretty picky about garden reference books, though. They’re generally expensive, which causes me to expect more from them. I want them to be well-organized and easy to use. After all, they usually sit on the shelf until I need some information, and I want to find what I'm looking for quickly and simply.
I also expect them to use language that’s accurate but accessible. If the book is marketed to the general public, the reader shouldn’t need a PhD. to understand it. That’s not to say I expect anything “dumbed down,” but I don’t want to spend three hours trying to decipher one chapter.
I’m always surprised at how few reference books meet every one of those criteria. The Southern Living Garden Book/Sunset Garden Book pass my test -- although I wish they had photos instead of drawings of the encyclopedia plants.
I also like “Miniature Orchids,” by Steven A. Frowine (Timber Press, $29.95, 264 pages, hardcover), which was published last year. It definitely delivers on its subtitle promise: “Everything you need to know to choose and cultivate 300 diminutive gems.”
Step by step you’re introduced to the world of tiny orchids – what it takes to grow them (from light levels and temperature to potting mixes and purchasing advice). The plant profiles provide what you need to know at a glance, including pronunciation of the botanic name. Decent-size color photos abound.
At the back of the book come helpful lists of mini orchids by ease of culture, size, light requirements, temperature preferences, season of bloom, and fragrance. Plants sources are also included.
It’s a well-written, well-organized book that’s perfect for beginners as well as those already hooked on miniature orchids. I consider it a true gem.
Also currently available is a 2009 calendar based on the book, which is $11.99.