What are your favorite garden books?

There's a good garden book for every gardener.

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Are there gardeners who don't own at least one book about their favorite hobby? Not many, I'd guess. And those well-thumbed favorites are just as varied as the gardeners who own them and as their favorite plants.

Recently I was looking over my collection of garden books, trying to decide which ones I could donate to new homes. I thought this chore would be easier than I'd found it to be in the past, because of so much information being available online.

But it wasn't.

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My garden books are heavy on references, which makes sense because I'm a garden writer. I often need to look up things I'm probably not going to find online -- and I like a book I can count on  as a trusted source, which may not be true online.

Since I know Larry Hodgson, for instance, I believe what he tells me of his experiences in "Perennials for Every Purpose" and "Houseplants for Dummies." (I know, I know. But buy it anyway. It's one of the top houseplant books I've ever read.)

I've also become used to the way some books, such as the "Southern Living Garden Book" and the "Sunset National Gardening Book" (which have similar formats, but are regionalized), are organized and therefore it's faster for me to find information in them than online.

And I'm a stronger believer that regional garden books belong on every gardener's shelves -- or, really, in their hands out in the garden, because they're going to give the right advice for where you live.

All too many books for a national audience aren't accurate for California or the South.

I love reading garden books that are entertaining -- Beverley Nichols's British tales of his gardening exploits and the humorous book "The $64 Tomato" come to mind, as does collected correspondence between outstanding gardeners.

But I tend not to hang onto this type of book. I quickly pass them along for a friend to enjoy.

I'm not sure why I never read them a second time, but I don't. Probably too many books already on my nightstand waiting their turn.

I also like garden books that shake up my preconceived notions. I wish there were many more! Jeff Gillman's "The Truth About Garden Remedies," for example.

But I'm also hesitant to recommend a garden book to someone -- unless it's one I've written, of course! -- if I don't know them well. Everyone is at different levels of gardening expertise and has different ideas of what's appealing.

But I'll go out on a limb here and say that if you're a lover of all things British gardening, do take a quick peek at Garden Monkey's Book Flange, which is quirky and definitely not for everyone. I love it, though, even when I don't always know exactly what they re talking about.

What do you look for in a garden book? And which are your favorites, the ones you use over and over? And what's your latest purchase?

(NOTE: We invite you to visit the main page of the Monitor’s gardening site , where you can find many articles, essays, and blog posts on various garden topics.)

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