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BOOK REVIEW: The New Sunset Western Garden Book (w/ video)


wgb_cover_front-only-228x300-1985381-3443207I consult the Sunset Western Garden Book whenever I choose a new plant for my garden, but I don’t buy it every time it’s updated. Plants don’t change that much over the years, do they?

However, I was curious about the new (ninth) edition, released this month just in time to plan this year’s gardening. I don’t know whether recent editions have addressed climate change, but I was curious to see what the new guide would have to say about it. After all, Northern Nevada’s first and last frost dates have changed in recent years, and it’s been a long time since we’ve seen 20 degrees below zero here.

So the first thing I looked at in The New Sunset Western Garden Book was the climate zone section and found that it still shows our minimum temperature as 20 below. The editors do discuss “Climate Change and Gardening”: They say average temperatures in the West have risen a degree or two in the past 30 years but that does not change the zones.

Northern Nevada, by the way, is in Sunset garden zone 2B. Both Reno and Carson City are actually on the edge between 2B and 1A, “the coldest zone west of the Rockies.” (Sunset climates zones are different from USDA zones, which are used by many seed and plant catalogs.)

The Sunset guide has always been a complete package of gardening knowledge for Western gardeners, and the editors seem to have added even more to the new edition.

A section I used a lot when I had to landscape a bare half acre in the 1980s was the Plant Finder. That section seems to have grown. Now it has 11 lists of plants to solve problems such as wind or hungry deer and nine lists of “earth-friendly” plants adapted for certain growing conditions or attractive to birds, bees and so on.

It also has seven lists of plants for “special effects.” Do you know what a moon garden is? No, it’s not round, and no, it’s not rocky and pitted. It’s a garden filled with plants that are attractive at night.

Can’t wait to buy the book? The Sunset site has a searchable Plant Finder.

The Gardening, Start to Finish section of the book probably will allow you to get rid of all your other gardening books. It provides everything you need to know, including planning, soil preparation, planting, growing various types of plants, watering, fertilizing, staking/training, protection and managing pests, diseases and weeds. All of the advice is based on years of experience in the western states.

The heart of the book, of course, is the encyclopedia of 9,000 plants (compared with 8,000 in the previous edition). Each entry gives a plant description, the zones the plant will survive in, sun and water needs and potential size. The encyclopedia includes color photos for the first time.

The plants are listed by their botanical names, but the Sunset editors have thought of everything. If all you know is a common name, you can find it in the index. They even provide an explanation of botanical names and a pronunciation guide.

Sunset is publishing the “paperback” version of the new edition with what it calls “flexible” binding. It’s sturdy paper with a glossy finish, and it overlaps the pages like a “hard” cover. It’s supposed to be more durable than a regular paperback cover. It will be interesting to see how it holds up with the heavy use I will be giving it.

The New Sunset Western Garden Book has a cover price of $34.95 for the flexible binding and $44.95 for the hardcover, but I’ve already seen it for less at Amazon.com. If you would like to try to win a free copy, you have until 9 a.m. Feb. 12 to submit up to 75 words about what makes a great western garden.

Laurel Busch
Laurel Buschhttp://www.laurelbusch.com
Laurel Busch came to Reno in the 1970s to go to college and never left. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UNR. Laurel likes the way This Is Reno welcomes all news from all sources and finds it exciting to take advantage of technology to do things old media can’t do.