Thursday, September 26, 2013

Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas by George Oxford Miller: A review

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was shopping at Lowe's the other day when I happened to spy this book on a rack near the garden gloves that I was trying on. The title was appealing so I picked it up and thumbed through it and then dropped it in my shopping basket. One more success for the art of product placement. One more impulse buy.

As impulse buys go, this turned out to be quite a useful one. I'm always looking for more information to help me with the establishment and improvement of my Southeast Texas habitat garden, and this book is quite chock full of such information.

The author, George Oxford Miller, is an environmental photojournalist and the book features his pictures of the plants which he discusses in the text. There is an amazing variety of them - wildflowers, shrubs, trees, vines, cacti, and groundcovers. These are all native plants that are adapted to the ecosystems where they thrive, and, thus, a gardener within one of those ecosystems can be pretty well assured that the recommended plant is going to do well for him or her. There are few things more deflating to a gardener than placing a beautiful, healthy plant in the garden only to watch it decline and wither. Not much chance of that with these tough plants.

The trend toward using native plants in landscaping has been one of the more heartening occurrences in gardening practices in recent years. It is easy to understand their appeal. Native plants meet many of the needs of the home gardener. They can provide year-round beauty with virtually no maintenance. Moreover, using native plants contributes to the repair of the natural ecosystem and makes our gardens a more integrated part of the environment.

The vast diversity and spectacular array of native plants in Texas provides species that can combine ornamental qualities, beauty, adaptability, growth habit, and low maintenance for the maximum value to the landscape. That diversity is very much on display in this book in which the author provides in-depth plant profiles that describe the habitat requirements of the each plant and help the gardener select the ones that meet his/her needs.

In an early section of the book, George Miller provides drawings which illustrate Texas' landscape zones. These illustrations include information about the mean annual precipitation in the various zones, as well as the cold hardiness of the area.

There is also a map which shows the ten vegetative zones of the state and the descriptions of those zones detail the prime geological features and the type of vegetation that is native to them.

Overall, I found the book well-written, devoid of jargon, and presented in a way that was very practical and useful to me as a gardener. In addition, the pictures of and descriptive text about the native plants will be helpful in clearing up questions of identification of plants. I do have useful field guides, but many species are very similar to each other and sometimes it helps to have just one more perspective from one more picture.

So, this is not one of my impulse buys that is destined to be thrown out with next week's trash. This one is a keeper.  


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