What is a conifer? If that question makes you wrinkle your forehead and hesitantly think of pines and Christmas trees, these books may not be for you. On the other hand, if you know that conifers come in many colors—far beyond "ever green"—and that some are even deciduous, at least one of these books deserves a place on your bookshelf, especially if you're a serious gardener or a professional landscaper.

If you are hooked on conifers and would like to meet other like-minded people, I would highly recommend the American Conifer Society. The members of that society are incredibly knowledgeable, and know more about conifers than you would believe possible.


1. I'm including this first book even though it won't be released until mid-November. Some of my old favorites are out of print, and this book is much anticipated. It looks like an excellent source of information, and I'll definitely be adding it to my library.


Conifers of the World 

This is what the publisher has to say about it: "Researched for more than three decades, this definitive work provides up-to-date descriptions of all the true conifers of the world, including 545 species of trees and shrubs. Written for accessibility to both horticultural and botanical audiences, it is the first comprehensive update of conifer taxonomy in nearly a century. Noted conifer taxonomist James E. Eckenwalder also discusses the relationships among the groups, practical usages, champion trees, fossil occurrences, and biology.

New identification guides for the families and genera are based whenever possible on foliage features and thus should be easier to use than traditional conifer keys, which focus on seasonal, and often microscopic, cone characters. Eckenwalder shares the reasoning behind his taxonomic decisions, many of which are unique to this book, reflecting a comprehensive reevaluation of conifer classification.

He also outlines the features sought in cultivars of each genus, particular cultivation concerns, and conifers recommended for cultivation under various conditions and to achieve different effects. Some 3,000 cultivars have been available in recent times, more than five times the total number of conifer species.

Several hundred original illustrations include drawings of the seed cones for all genera as well as for representative species. Maps of the natural distribution of each genus allow for easy comparison of ranges. Handsome black-and-white photographs of species in their natural habitats and attractive color photos further enrich the volume. More than 100 images reproduce foliage of many genera as an aid in identification.

With its unprecedented attention to detail and extensive bibliography, this major work is an essential reference for botanists, naturalists, and horticulturists." 


Manual of Cultivated Conifers

In a 2001 survey of the top ten Conifer books, members of the American Conifer Society put this book right at the top of the list. The author of the survey noted, "Survey results listed this as the number one conifer book, by a two-to-one margin. It is the most comprehensive conifer book currently in print. Although it is a bit technical for beginners, I recommend it for those seriously interested in conifers. It is easy to grow into and includes excellent worldwide information. This book is frequently listed as a reference for conifer articles. It’s a must for every serious conifer enthusiast." The Brooklyn Botanic Garden calls it one of the "most complete books on conifers."

The publisher says this about it: "Over 600 conifer species and 2100 varieties and cultivars—all those known to be in cultivation—are described in this reference work, a companion to the same author's 3-volume "Manual of Cultivated Broad-Leaved Trees and Shrubs." Standard trees and dwarf forms and cultivars are covered—and in addition to accurate, concise, complete plant descriptions, there are full details of the plants' uses, cultural requirements, and place in the garden design or landscape. Keys to all substantial genera are included. All the more notable plants are illustrated. There is a note on the general question of hardiness and 'hardiness zone' ratings as applied to the British Isles. The work is aimed at gardeners, landscape architects, plant collectors, and libraries."





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