This is the third (alphabetically) of a 20 volume set. I give the set as a whole very high marks, and this particular volume is possibly my favorite. There are very few books which focus on these kinds of plants, and I’ve learned more from this volume than any other single book. I should admit that I have a large rock garden that has many succulents, so I am particularly interested in this topic.
This volume, Cacti and Succulents, begins with an introduction to these specialized plants. There is a fast overview of the various types, and the differences between cacti and succulents. There are a number of especially beautiful photographs of gardens featuring these kinds of plants.
Next there is a chapter about propagation and care of these plants. Although they are very tolerant, there are some basic needs that must be attended to if they are to thrive. Propagation methods are also rather different for succulents than for other plants. There is a large chart with genuses and their temperature ranges and other requirements: soil, light, humidity, water, ease of culture and their most attractive feature. This is very helpful, since many of these plants can be too fussy for the average gardener, and although many of them do bloom, it is often another feature that makes the plant most interesting.
Next there is a section about landscaping, indoors and out, with these plants. There are pictures of impressive gardens, especially in warm, dry climates. There is a whole chapter devoted to developing a collection of these plants. It is often difficult to find any but the most common succulents. And often finding the right container is also important to show off the plant’s features.
The final 50 pages of the book are a plant selection guide. This lists species of succulents or cacti and their features; it begins with a glossary since these plants have many specialized parts. Most entries are by genus. The family is given, origin, general description, flower description, propagation, culture, and some suggested species which work well for gardens. Each entry has a picture of the plant. The final two pages have a directory of common names.
When I was just beginning to build a collection of succulents I must have read this book cover to cover more than five times. It is mind-boggling how beautiful of a garden can be grown just using these water-thrifty plants. Of course, the let-down for me is that a lot of them are not hardy in a Michigan climate. However, over the years I’ve collected quite a few that will make it through our winters. And it really all began with this book.
This set of books was published in 1981 by Ortho for the American Horticultural Society. I signed up on one of those “get one book every 6 weeks and stop when you want” deals. I was determined to come up with the money to get the entire set, and managed to do just that. At the time each volume cost about $15. I now find that they are considered rare and the volumes I am able to locate on line are selling more in the $30 range. The books are richly illustrated with color photographs which do a good job of expanding the text.
Each book is 8.5 x 11.25 inches, hardcover, and 144 pages including the index. The bindings could be higher quality; they are tending to crack.
If you pick up the softcover Ortho books from the racks at your local garden center, you will find some of the same pictures, and some overlap of information, but this encyclopedia goes into more detail and covers many more topics than the Ortho series.