Late Summer Reading...

The Eye Witness Series of Garden Handbooks Publisher: DK Publishing, fee,, 95 Madison Ave., New York, NY

I first noticed this series of books at a Tucson discount store. There were several: Annuals, Perennials, Roses, and Herbs. Since then I have also seen Garden Herbs, Trees, and Shrubs. Prices have ranged from $8.99 in Tucson to the $15.00 to $20.00 range locally.

The books are well organized, informative, and best of all, a color picture of each species discussed is printed on heavy, glossy paper. I have invested in two: Perennials and Herbs. The herbs book contains pictures, descriptions and information on 700 herbs from around the world. It is aimed toward people interested in medicinal uses, but includes culinary information. The book starts with illustrated information about each part of the plant which may be useful. Two pages each are devoted to roots, seeds and fruits, bark and wood, leaves and stems, and flowers. Several pages are devoted to each category of use for herbs, such as cooking or healing. Each description includes habitat and coded information concerning which plant parts are used. The photographs are annotated so you know what you are seeing. Characteristics of the plant are provided, such as when and how many blooms. Species with multiple useful varieties are grouped, with both general and specific information, and numerous photographs. There are also small "filler" articles, such as drying or harvesting leaves. The Garden Herbs book has fewer entries and leans more toward culinary applications.

The perennials book is similar, except that the organization of the book is keyed to plant size, bloom season and color. This can be a little frustrating at first to those accustomed to the Western Garden Book listing by botanical name, but the index is great and other qualities of the publication quickly make up for minor changes required by the user. The color pictures include multiple photographs of varieties of more popular species. Each plant description has lots of information in an uncluttered format.

The only major drawback I have found is that the books are somewhat specialized. You won't find trees and perennials in the same volume. However, if you are concentrating on one aspect of your garden and need an informative well-prepared reference, the Eyewitness publications I have seen are worth serious consideration.

Gretchen Kent
September, 1998