Gardening is an art and a science. It takes not only intuition and a sense of aesthetics, but also solid information. Every skilled gardener benefits from both experience and scientific know-how, and most have shelves full of gardening books. Gardeners now have the added resource of the Internet for opinions, ideas, and information.
While it’s hard to single out just a few of all the excellent gardening encyclopedias and resources, the following books and websites are among the best, according to the avid gardeners who use them.
Garden Resources on the Web
GardenWeb is an online community of and for gardeners. In addition to forums, blogs, and photo galleries, GardenWeb has an impressive collection of gardening resources, including a glossary of botanical terms, a searchable database with plant images and information, and a directory of gardens and gardening organizations.
Cornell University’s Department of Horticulture has a portal to gardening information from the school. Resources are divided into categories such as vegetables, flowers, fruit, weather, soil, composting, pests, landscaping, etc.
The National Gardening Association home offers a large online collection of garden information, including a pest control library, how-to videos, a weed library, a seed swap, and plant care guides. The site also carries state-by-state gardening guides.
In-print Garden Encyclopedias
American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants covers 15,000 plants and includes 6,000 photographs. Entries contain information about each plant’s appearance, cultural requirements, pest and disease problems, cultivars, and propagation. This 1095-page encyclopedia includes 310 photos and 26 pages on roses alone. American Horticultural Society A to Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants is both a content-rich reference book and a beautiful coffee table book.
Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is the latest version of what has perhaps been the most comprehensive guide for organic gardeners for over 50 years. In addition to updated sections on growing vegetables, trees, fruits, annuals, perennials, and shrubs, this newest edition covers the latest thinking on earth-friendly gardening techniques, horticulture therapy, and organic pest control. Written by American gardeners for American gardeners, Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening is a practical resource that deserves a spot on every gardener’s bookshelf.
Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia and Manual of Woody Landscape Plants are two of many horticulture reference books written by the legendary Michael Dirr, author and professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia. A well-respected expert on woody trees and shrubs for the landscape, Dirr compiles comprehensive information on thousands of landscape plants in these two companion books. Many horticulture professionals and home gardening enthusiasts find these books to be their most valuable references on trees and shrubs. Plus, reader-friendly layouts make the volumes easy to use.
Written by Donald Wyman, Wyman’s Gardening Encyclopedia includes comprehensive information on 9,500 plants. Well-organized and thorough, Wyman’s Gardening Encyclopedia is full of well-researched scientific information as well as the author’s opinions and observations. The 1248-page volume includes thorough descriptions and growing information about trees, shrubs, fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs, and lawns. Wyman’s Gardening Encyclopedia remains one of the most complete single-volume gardening resources.
Gardeners are fortunate to have so many resources for learning. Online sources and print volumes complement each other, providing a vast array of information and multiple ways of accessing data. In addition to the general resources noted above, gardeners can find print encyclopedias and websites on specific gardening topics ranging from aphids to zinnias and everything in between.
Lynne Lamstein gardens in Maine and Florida and is currently working on a sustainable landscape. She has a degree in ornamental horticulture from Temple University.