If you only ever buy one gardening book make sure that it is the Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers from Dorling Kindersley. This beautifully illustrated book is newly revised and updated and provides you with everything you need to know about 8,000 plants and varieties suitable for North America.

Whether you are a novice gardener or a green fingered expert, you will find value in these pages.


The book begins with an explanation of plant names and origins, and you are then presented with an illustration – the “Visual Key to Plant Classification” which makes it easy to understand everything from family & genus to species, sub-species, varietas, and cultivar.

Next, comes the “Creating a garden” section. Starting out with a light discussion on styles it takes you into the assessment of your soil, how to provide seasonal interest, using colour and basic planting techniques. This section is especially useful if you are new to gardening and do not want to be weighed down with a lot of detailed information. The guidelines and instructions are clear & concise, providing you with enough confidence to begin laying out and planning your garden but without overwhelming you.


The plant selector section is also excellent for new gardeners or for those who have moved to a new home and find themselves with different soil condition than those they are used to. Find yourself with sandy soil? Just turn to page 32 and discover the types of trees, perennials, rock plants, climbers and many many more, that will thrive best in those conditions. Or perhaps you want to plants with aromatic foliage? Page 52 details everything you need to delight the nose as well as the eye!

The main body of the book is broken down into:

  • Trees
  • Shrubs
  • Roses
  • Climbers & Wall Shrubs
  • Perennials
  • Annuals, biennials & bedding
  • Rock Plants
  • Bulbs
  • Water & Bog plants
  • Tender & Exotic plants

Each section is further broken down into plant size, the main season of interest and then colour. This makes it very easy to search for a plant to serve a particular purpose. For example – you would like a perennial for the flower bed – it mustn’t be too big because it’s going to be in front of other plants, you’d like it to flower in the spring when the bed is light on colour, and you would like something white. The intuitive layout of this books makes it easy to find suitable candidates in just moments – Solomons seal anyone? Larger families of plant have special pages dedicated to them – such as lilies & penstemons; others have special sections detailing different varieties.


If the 4000 illustrated varieties aren’t enough for you, there are a further 4000 additional listings in the plant dictionary.This 8000 listing section provides you with descriptions, characteristics and cultivation information and cross references where there is an illustration. If all of that info isn’t enough for you, the book rounds off with a  “common names” section.

Now I have a bit of a confession – our garden is mostly mulch with a couple of trees and a scrubby patch of lawn. I could not, by any stretch of the imagination be described as a gardener, but I love this book! It’s luscious illustrations call out to be looked through. Each turn of the page surprises you with a new nugget of knowledge and although I like to share my books – my “don’t hurt it” instincts kicked in when Gabriel wanted to look too. It took all of my self-control not to step in as he gently looked through.

Gabe with Plants and Flowers

This isn’t just a book to help design your garden; it’s a book to curl up with on the sofa and leaf through. It’s a book that has proved invaluable in our homeschool lessons and a book that friends are drawn too – even if that does mean they try to convince you to let them take it home!

The Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers is available  from Dorling Kindersley