This section contains floras, acclaimed garden guides, and horticultural encyclopedias. Each item includes: name; citation information; URL, if available; ISBN and list price (which might be lower through vendors); purchasing links to Powell's, Amazon, if available; and description of the resource's importance. Because a library's budget might not always allow purchasing, I provide WorldCat links so that you can utilize interlibrary loans to borrow books. Also, since some of these books are out of print, eBay is another option for obtaining them if the other links do not show availability. I divided them into two sections, those specific to California and other general, but useful horticulture books:

In addition, do consider browsing through the products of a couple of publishers known for books on plant topics. First, University of California Press (UC Press) publishes thorough and authoritative resources on botany, gardening, and agriculture. Second, Timber Press, an imprint of Workman, publishes highly-regarded trade resources focusing on horticulture and botany—a couple which are noted below.

These sources would help you answer the following questions as a reference librarian, as well as assist you in becoming a subject specialist in horticulture:

  • Where can I look up definitions of horticulture terms?
  • Where can I find more information on how particular plants are best (or poorly) suited for cultivation in California?
  • Where can I learn more about the geography and climates in California?
  • Where can I get information on food and medicinal plants?

Note: Starred (*) resources are available through San José State University's King Library, which includes San José Public Library holdings.

Books specific to California

The California Native Landscape*

Rubin, G., & Warren, L. (2013). The California native landscape: The homeowner's design guide to restoring its beauty and balance. Portland, OR: Timber Press.

ISBN 9781604692327; $34.95.
Hardcover, 304 pages, color illustrations.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

Rubin and Warren's book will provide for you an extensive introduction to gardening with native plants within Californian environments. It contains clearly written sections on plant selection, garden styles, installation and maintenance, troubleshooting, environmental impacts, and much more—each with beautiful color photographs and illustrations. It has 270 gorgeous color photos and over 100 pages of information on plant species—quite a bit of visual plant information for a book focused on landscape design. The book comes highly recommended by American Reference Books Annual (ARBA), as "an essential purchase for California academic and public libraries, but also belongs in larger library gardening collections in other states with similar physical environments." While this book outlines landscape design with California native plants, it lacks information on food cultivation—an important trait of California horticulture!—thus this resource is best complemented with the books by Peirce and Creasy.

Golden Gate Gardening*

Peirce, P. (2010). Golden Gate gardening: The complete guide to year-round food gardening in the San Francisco Bay area and coastal California (3rd ed.). Seattle, WA: Sasquatch Books.

ISBN 9780932857101; $29.95.
Paperback, 448 pages, black and white illustrations.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

Peirce's book is the gardener's bible for vegetable and fruit growing in the San Francisco Bay Area and other coastal California regions. While this is a definite go-to book for gardening enthusiasts, both you and students will find the book a friendly and clear introduction to plant food propagation and cultivation. Peirce also provides valuable month-by-month planting calendars for both warm inland areas and cool coastal regions—a feature strangely lacking in many gardening books. The plant selection chapters—totaling nearly 200 pages—contain entries per vegetable, fruit, or herb, with not only care instructions to level of particular soil amendments and pests (and diseases) to watch out for, but also the ideal cultivars and varieties for particular regions. However, this book does not have as much information on garden design or landscaping (only a short chapter), compared with the Rubin and Creasy books.

The Jepson Manual: Vascular Plants of California*

Baldwin, B. G., Goldman, D., Keil, D. J., Patterson, R., Rossati, T. J., & Wilken, D. (Eds.). (2012). The Jepson Manual: Vascular plants of California, thoroughly revised and expanded (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: UC Press.

Print: ISBN 9780520253124; $131.95.
Hardcover, 1600 pages, black & white illustrations.
Ebook: ISBN 9780520952898; $125.00.
Powell's | UC Press ebook | Amazon | WorldCat
Publicly accessible Jepson Horticultural Database, based on the 1st edition (1925)

This is the most recent edition of Willis Linn Jepson's famed botanical key—originally called the Jepson's Manual of Flowering Plants in California (1925), then penultimately The Jepson Manual: Higher Plants of California (1993). This is one of the essential books for a library that serves students and researchers of any botanical field related to California plants—not to mention an exemplar reference for librarians to use. It will familiarize you with how floras are arranged, and show you the breadth and depth of California plants from a botanical perspective. It describes 7,600 species, as well as 240 introduced plants you might encounter in the wild. Note that coverage of vascular plants means that fungi, lichens, algae, and bryophytes are excluded. The Jepson Manual has four sections: an introduction that describes the ecology and geology of California, abbreviations, and a glossary; an identification key that is the lion's share of the book; an index with both common and scientific names; and an appendix with statistical information on plant taxa.

Mushrooms Demystified*

Arora, D. (1986). Mushrooms demystified: A comprehensive guide to the fleshy fungi (2nd ed.). Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

ISBN 9780898151695; $39.99.
Hardcover, 959 pages, color illustrations.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

Arora is one of the leading mycologists in America, so his encyclopedic book fills the gap that is lacking in most horticulture and botany books: coverage of fungi, specifically mushrooms—which, after all, appear in both gardens and in the wild. The first edition focused primarily on species in California. While the second edition aims to cover all of North America, the book retains a Californian perspective, such as foraging notes. Like a flora, it contains sections on terminology, ecology, and a thorough identification key—covering over 2,000 species, with more than 950 photos, and even a checklist of 70 mushrooms a novice might encounter. Moreover, as a librarian you are likely to find Arora's inimitable writing engaging and informative, as the book is enhanced with clear how-to identification guides—as well as thoughtful FAQs about mushrooms—an encouraging feature in our generally mycophobic society.

The New Book of Salvias*

Clebsch, B. (2008). The new book of Salvias: Sages for every garden (2nd ed.). Portland, OR: Timber Press.

ISBN 0881929133; out of print—check vendors or other libraries.
Paperback, 344 pages, color illustrations.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

This book is a fine example, for both librarians and horticulturists, of a thorough resource for a particular genus—in this case Salvia, a taxon found throughout the western Americas. Clebsch is a leading authority on this genus. Because salvias grow so well in California, they are quite popular in gardens—be they house, formal, or botanic. The author arranged the plant descriptions alphabetically by scientific name with common names also included in the description. She clearly writes about cultivation needs, as well as identifies physical and historical characteristics—most species have an accompanying color photograph, too. Booklist reviewed this as "a zealous and intimate knowledge of these beautiful garden specimens … [covering] 150 species and hybrid varieties … [and serves] as a growing guide as well as a fine resource for a bevy of ornamental and beneficial plants." In addition, Clebsch thoughtfully provides information on where to obtain (and see!) salvias, as well as sections on cold-hardy salvias, shade-tolerant salvias, and lists by foliage type and flower color.

The New Western Sunset Garden Book*

Sunset Magazine, & Brenzel, K. N. (Eds.). (2012). The new western Sunset garden book: The ultimate gardening guide (9th ed.). Birmingham, AL: Oxmoor House.

ISBN 9780376039200; $34.95. Also available as an interactive iPhone/iPad app: $19.99 at iTunes.
Paperback, 768 pages, color illustrations.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

Even though Sunset produces consumer level books, the content appeals to a broad audience, including garden enthusiasts and professional horticulturists. You will find this frequently updated guide—also available as an app for iPads and iPhones (great for roving!)—a timely and an excellent introductory encyclopedia to garden styles and plants characteristic of the Western US, especially California. It is filled with color photographs, maps, and illustrations—and has sections describing western gardening zones, an encyclopedia of about 8,000 plants, and a landscape guide. Moreover, it includes a glossary and plant name information with a pronunciation guide (great for brushing up on taxonomy), and two indexes: a subject index and a plant name index. The American Horticultural Society (AHS) lists this book as one of the "75 Great American Garden Books."

Where on Earth*

Stevens, B. C., & Connor, N. (1999). Where on earth: A guide to specialty nurseries and other resources for California gardeners (4th ed.). Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books.

ISBN 9781890771171; out of print—check vendors or other libraries.
Paperback, 408 pages, black & white illustrations.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

Rather than providing nursery and garden information in this bibliography, refer to Stevens and Connor's book instead. If you want to know about, or wish to visit a few of the 300+ specialized nurseries or botanic gardens in California, this is by far the most comprehensive resource. It will inspire you to take research field trips! The chapters are organized geographically, with maps, and entries listed alphabetically by city. Each entry describes the venue's specialization, e.g., water plants, natives, etc. Bear in mind that since the last edition came out in 1999, some of the venues have sadly gone out of business—so if you want to follow up on them, try to contact them first.

Useful general horticulture books

The American Horticultural Society (AHS) Encyclopedia of Gardening*

Brickell, C. (Ed.). (2003). The American Horticultural Society encyclopedia of gardening (rev. ed.). New York, NY: DK Publishing.

ISBN 9780789496539; out of print—check vendors or other libraries.
Hardcover, 648 pages, color illustrations.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

Of the many AHS's illustrated encyclopedias written and edited by Christopher Brickell, this one received the warmest review from Booklist: "This outstanding encyclopedia … brings gardening into the 21st century." Moreover, as Library Journal stated, "This beautiful, truly comprehensive, one-volume horticultural resource belongs in all gardening reference collections." This lushly photographed and illustrated book—with over 3,000 color photos and 400 how-to guides—has three sections: garden design by plant type with plant descriptions (and cultivation needs) organized by trees, shrubs, vines, roses, annuals, fruits, and so forth; garden maintenance by subject, i.e., tools, structures, soils, propagation, troubleshooting, etc.; and a final section with glossary, map zones (hardiness and heat), and index with clear cross references. Though not limited to California, any librarian with horticultural needs or interests would find this a helpful and enjoyable resource.

Cornucopia II

Facciola, S. (1998). Cornucopia II: A source book of edible plants (2nd ed.). Vista, CA: Kampong Publications.

ISBN 9780962808722; out of print—check vendors or other libraries.
Paperback, 713 pages.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

Facciola covers not only vascular plants, but also fungi, algae, and bacterial cultures utilized as food. If you can obtain a copy of this book, do so, because it is the exhaustive, one-stop encyclopedia of all the world's edible plants—3,000 species, 7,000 cultivars and varieties of crop plants, and over 1,300 plant and seed resources are described. Having this book at hand can be a more convenient resource than searching through state or federal agricultural plant databases (covered in the Organizations page), especially when Internet access is not dependable. However, the book's organization is a bit confusing, as there are two large sections with plant descriptions, one by taxonomic families and the other alphabetically by major crop (common) name—it would've been clearer to use the former, rather than having to flip back and forth trying to locate entries—even with the cross-referenced index. Nevertheless, the book contains excellent information on suppliers, a guide on usage and consumption (by plant morphology and chemistry), and a detailed bibliography. This is an essential item for any horticultural collection concerned with edible plants.

Edible Landscaping*

Creasy, R. (2010). Edible landscaping: Now you can have your gorgeous garden and eat it too! (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books.

ISBN 9781578051540; $39.95.
Paperback, 384 pages, color illustrations.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

Creasy is a leading authority on landscape design using fruits, vegetables, and edible herbs. This book has been lauded by food writer Michael Pollan and Michelin star-rated restauranteur Alice Waters. Even though Creasy resides in California, much of the content is applicable to other regions in the United States. You will find this a great complement to Rubin and Peirce's books, as the trio will give you a sound foundation on Californian home gardens. This book contains several chapters on design by topic (physical and financial planning, plant category, small spaces); an "Encyclopedia of Edibles" covering over 60 plant crops—although better served by the Peirce and Facciola books; and appendixes with plant lists based on garden size, diseases, maintenance, and further resources. The AHS recognized Edible Landscaping as one of the "75 Great American Garden Books," as well as an AHS Award recipient.

Handbook of Medicinal Herbs*

Duke, J. A. (2002). Handbook of medicinal herbs (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

ISBN 9780849312847; $294.00.
Hardcover, 896 pages; black and white, and color illustrations.
Ebook: ISBN 9781420040463; $279.95.
CRC Press book information
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

There is a long tradition of medicinal gardens, not to mention great pharmacologic interest in the areas of ethnobotany and agricultural science. Duke is world renowned for his many books on medicinal plants, and this is his capstone work. ALA's Guide to Reference described it as, "well-documented information for 800 plant species having medicinal or folk medicinal uses. All entries include the species' scientific name and authority, the scientific name of the plant family, and one or two colloquial or common names. Most entries have four sections giving uses, folk medicinal applications, chemistry, and toxicity. Most plants are illustrated." There are also informative tables, bibliography, and index. Not only does this book helpfully enhance an horticultural collection, but you will gain knowledge in a botanical field that is ancient as well as full of potential for the future of medicine. Duke's book was also a nominee for the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries (CBHL) Literature Award.

Hortus Third*

Bailey, H. L., Bailey, E. Z., & The Staff of the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University. (1976). Hortus third: A concise dictionary of plants cultivated in the United States and Canada (rev. and expanded ed.). New York, NY: MacMillan.

ISBN 9780025054707; out of print—check vendors or other libraries.
Hardcover, 1,312 pages, black and white illustrations.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

While this book covers all of North America, it serves as a useful extension of The Jepson Manual as a dictionary of plants that are introduced into California horticulture. This and its more botanical complement, Bailey's Manual, will greatly help extend the breadth of your plant knowledge, especially with botanic term definitions. Compared with Bailey's Manual below, though, this has over 30,000 plant entries (by scientific name) and over 1,000 terms listed alphabetically. Moreover, the language is aimed primarily at horticulturists, so common names are also used and crossed-referenced with scientific names. This is along with Bailey's Manual are indispensable, where both serve students and researchers alike to provide more thorough knowledge of horticultural terms and plants. Guide to Reference recommends Hortus Third: "Entries include names of subspecies, varieties, forms, cultivars, common names, and notes on plant uses, propagation, and culture. Illustrations are provided with descriptions of plant families. Common name index and glossary are helpful … Although more commonly found in academic libraries, this classic title belongs in public libraries with large collections in gardening, botany, and horticulture." The AHS also recommends this as one of its "75 Great American Garden Books."

Manual of Cultivated Plants*

Baliey, H. L. (1949). Manual of cultivated plants most commonly grown in the continental United States and Canada (rev. ed.). New York, NY: Macmillan.

ISBN 9780025055209; out of print—check vendors or other libraries.
Hardcover, 1116 pages, black & white illustrations.
Powell's | Amazon | WorldCat

This is known as the Manual of Cultivated Plants, or simply Bailey's Manual. This complements Hortus Third by consisting primarily of an identification key with language aimed primarily at botanists. Although more scientifically technical and broader in scope than The Jepson Manual, it will boost your terminology knowledge while helping patrons and conducting library research. One confusing aspect about the book is the omission of a table of contents; and unlike Hortus Third, this book lacks a handy summary of taxonomic and terminology statistics—other than seeing that it has over 1,000 pages. Nevertheless, after a quick introduction, the Manual has a linguistic guide to plant names, an illustrated glossary, an authority list of plant discoverers, and a plant index cross referencing scientific and common names—all which are intrinsic to using and understand the book's large identification key.


Liberman, S. (2007, 2009). White Cistus, Bleinheim apricots, Halimium x Pauanum. Retrieved from Botany gallery | Liberman.

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