by Mark C. Tebbitt
by Peter Wharton, Brent Hine, and Douglas Justice
Reviewed by Caroline McCullagh
Regular readers of this column may notice that we review a lot of books from Timber Press. It’s no secret that they send us free copies for review. Lately, I’ve received two books from them. They’re similar in design, content, and purpose, so I’ll put them together in one review.
What these books have in common is that they are useful books for people with special interests, but they will probably be of less interest to the general reader.
The first book is Begonias: Cultivation, Identification, and Natural History by Mark C. Tebbitt. I read, with interest, that Dr. Tebbitt holds a PhD in begonia taxonomy. Talk about specialization. He may be the only person in the world who could have written this book.
His writing style is easy to read and interesting, but unless you have a strong interest in begonias, it may not be your cup of tea (and yes, they do make begonia tea). The author has the particular goal of filling a gap he sees in begonia literature. He has a short introductory section on the history and cultivation needs of begonias, but his main interest is in identification. One hundred ninety pages of the book are in a chapter titled “Descriptions of 100 cultivated begonias.” Each description also has a section on the history of that particular species and its garden or hothouse requirements.
Begonias has five useful appendices including: “Begonias recommended for beginners” and “Begonias recommended for terrariums.” It also has a first-rate, six-page illustrated glossary of the technical terms used in the text. It is 360 pages, with 212 color photos and 106 line drawings.
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The Jade Garden: New & notable plants from Asia by Peter Wharton, Brent Hine, and Douglas Justice is a similar book. Information from the publisher states that it includes descriptions of 150 little-known ornamental trees, shrubs, and perennials. This book is 228 pages with 218 color photos.
It has a different focus from the begonia book in the preliminary text. These three authors write individual essays about the geography of the areas where the plants were found (primarily China) and about the history of plant collecting in Asia. They include a series of short biographies of the most noted collectors of Asian plants.
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Along with free books, I get a lot of free advertisements from Timber Press—surprise, surprise. They’ve sent me several ads lately for books that sound interesting, including: Fragrant Orchids: A Guide to Selecting, Growing, and Enjoying by Steve A. Frowine; Growing Hardy Orchids, by John Tullock, and Poisonous Plants, Second Edition: A Handbook for Doctors, Pharmacists, Toxicologists, Biologists and Veterinarians by Dietrich Frohne and Hans Jürgen Pfänder. This last book promises “special attention to North America.” I haven’t seen these three books, but you might want to check them out.
Caroline McCullagh’s Book Reviews come from recent issues of Let’s Talk Plants from the San Diego Horticultural Society at sdhort.org and Page Turners from the American Mensa Bulletin available at americanmensa.org. Reviews appear every 4 days on carolinemccullagh.com