Full disclosure: Dr. George Rogers of the Palm Beach Community College Department of Horticulture e-mailed FloridaGardener.com to inquire if he could purchase advertising space on the website to bring attention to a new plant manual authored by the faculty, staff, and students of Palm Beach Community College. He was not sure he could afford to pay for the advertisement, but as owner of FloridaGardener.com (and a proud PBCC alumnus), I made him an offer – if he provided an article introducing the manual and sent me a copy of the manual for review, I would post his article, provide a banner ad linking to where the manual may be purchased and would write and post my own review of the manual after receiving a copy of it. So a deal was struck, my review of Landscape Plants for South Florida, a Manual for Gardeners, Landscapers & Homeowners, edited by Dr. George K. Rogers, follows…
Landscape Plants for South Florida, a Manual for Gardeners, Landscapers & Homeowners is a 422 page hardbound book featuring many high quality color photographs of plants specifically for South Florida landscapes. This book covers a huge number of plants, but not every plant cultivar is listed as “the number of cultivars grown in South Florida is enormous, over 1,000” and growing. A manual that includes every one would be difficult if not impossible to put into a single volume. What you will not find in this book are specialty plants such as Orchids, Bromeliads, Heliconias, Begonias and such which a gardener may easily find volumes of other manuals devoted to. What you will find in this manual are the “vast majority of significant species cultivated in South Florida.” Plant families are presented alphabetically from Acanthaceae (Acanthus) to Zygophyllaceae (Caltrop). Plant English (or Common) and Botanical names are conveniently indexed in the back of the manual.
The feature of this book that I think is the most awesome and valuable is each plant’s botanical name is listed and under that is a pronunciation (pro·nun·ci·a·tion) guide. I find this immensely valuable because even though I was in the landscape maintenance business years ago and have had FloridaGardener.com online for over 10 years now, I am almost embarrassed to admit that I, THE FloridaGardener, have spent the better part of my career mispronouncing a majority of these plant’s botanical names! The biggest reason for this is that many of the garden plant guides that you find out there will list the botanical names of plants, but fail to give the user any clues as to how these names are pronounced. Landscape Plants for South Florida does an excellent job of not only providing the correct pronunciation of these botanical names, but in every case gives an explanation of how and why these plants received their botanical names. These explanations are oftentimes fascinating in themselves. For example, the Pinwheel-Jasmine’s botanical name (page 34) is Tabernaemontana divaricata (TAB-er-knee-mon-TAN-ah die-vair-ah-CATE-ah). This is the “generic name for Jakob Theodor von Bergzebern, who Latinized his name to Tabernaemontanus."
Another great feature of this book is that every plant has a quick reference text box which gives the reader, at a glance, the particulars of the plant including Botanical Name, English Name, whether a Florida Native or not, Growth Form, Flowering Season, Typical Dimensions, Suggested Spacing, Cultural Conditions, and any Cultural Problems to be concerned about regarding insects, diseases and so forth.
I enjoyed Dr. Rogers’ Garden Guru articles sprinkled throughout the book. If you are not familiar with these articles, pick up a Sunday edition of Palm Beach Post and look for them in the Florida Home Residences section of the paper.
The only thing that I did not like about Landscape Plants for South Florida is that at first I had to continuously flip to page vi in the front of the book to use the Abbreviation Key. The easiest way to deal with this is to Xerox the page on a copier and use it as a bookmark until you become familiar with the abbreviations. Other than that slight issue, I highly recommend that you order a copy of Landscape Plants for South Florida, a Manual for Gardeners, Landscapers & Homeowners from www.plantbook.org for your gardening library.