Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review: California Native Plants for the Garden

Allow me to introduce you to my new Sunset Western Garden Book.  Well, sort of.  I'm slowly but surely getting through all the amazing books I received this Christmas and reading an encyclopedia has never been more engaging.  I'm currently spending most of my time right now pushing this book onto anyone who breathes. 

"California Native Plants for the Garden" focuses on California native plants that the home gardener can plop into their postage stamp and has introduced me to a few plants that I had not taken the time to become acquainted with.  Written by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O'Brien and including photos by Saxon Holt and Stephen Ingram among others, it opens with a handy guide to planting with natives which includes design and care tidbits.  The back of the book includes a separate section for annuals, lists of plants appropriate for various situations, nursery resources, and just tons more.

Dudleya hassei

The book is organized alphabetically by the plants' Latin names and includes the plants' natural habitats, but also where the plant can be grown (which aren't always the same).  A full, honest description follows, along with appropriate companions and cultivars.  Beautiful coffee table book photos bolster the descriptions, but are by no means meant to aid in plant ID.  (They're way better than Sunset's colored pencil sketches, though!)  The authors' passion for the plants come through in the writing and I believe this book should be considered a gateway drug to native planting:  I found myself drooling over everything, but had a little uncertainty about if they would work in my area.  A follow up on Las Pilitas' website should be in order before making large purchases.  The book includes many plants from so many different micro-climates, from succulents to columbines, that there is something for everyone.  It certainly helps further the cause that natives aren't just those scraggly things you see whilst hiking!

One critique is that all references to plants in companion planting suggestions or photo captions name plants by their common name, while the book is organized by Latin name.  A little annoying, but the benefits of this resource vastly outweigh the nit-picky items.  Highly, highly recommended!


  1. Hi Christine,
    I agree it is a really good book on natives. Many books on natives that I have looked at do not have the photos....I am too much a visual person and really need the photos.

  2. I don't think I've seen this book before. It looks great. If I hadn't just spent a bunch of money on a used copy of Flavors of Home: A guide to edible plants in the SF bay area, I would definitely run out and buy this one too.

  3. It's all about the pictures, isn't it Susie! Descriptions help, but I want to drool a little before I'm ready to get out the credit card.

    Brad- That book sounds cool, too! I'd add this one to the top of your list for next time, though. It was a humbling experience to be able to learn so much more about our natives that I thought I knew everything about. Well, most everything!

  4. Thanks for introducing me to this book - I'm about to place a large Amazon order and will definitely add this one to the list! Nice review, too!

  5. Thanks, Rebecca! It makes for a nice perusal in this kind of weather when I can't get outside and plant!

  6. I just searched this book title and came across your blog. This is perhaps the best book on California natives I've read for the good balance of photos and information that is both useful and entertaining. These people KNOW these plants ... their varying needs (Howard McMinn manzanita vs. Louis Edmunds), their particular charms, and some interesting history thrown in to boot!

  7. Yes, I couldn't agree more! I use this literally every single day. Perhaps at some point I'll just have it memorized! It's great to show clients on site when they're a little skittish about those rangly, lanky, dried out "natives" they've heard about.