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Book Review

Across the Top: Gardening with Australian Plants in the Tropics
- Compiled by Keith Townsend

Reviewed by Jan Sked

Book cover

The first edition of this book was printed in 1994. Since then many hundreds of taxonomic name changes have occurred, as well as numerous revisions of plant family connections, etc. This revised edition takes account of all taxonomic changes accepted by the Queensland Herbarium and carries forward references from the old to the new names. As well, a number of additional plant descriptions have been included.

The gardening chapters have been revised and updated where necessary to reflect current approaches and up-to-date treatments.

This is a substantial book of over 350 pages and these are filled with a tremendous amount of information on such subjects as landscaping, soils, nutrition, fertilizing, plant habitats, pruning, mulching, watering, pests and diseases, propagation, wildlife in the garden, butterflies, and bush foods.

There are 290 pages devoted to over 1,400 descriptions of plants suited to the tropics and these are listed in alphabetical order by botanical name. At the end of the book there is an Index of Common Names.

The plant descriptions have been written with minimal use of botanical terms; so that every gardener can understand and enjoy reading them without having to continually refer to the glossary. The author explains that "Space constraints have decreed that descriptions are limited almost exclusively to plants which are found growing naturally in tropical Australia. There are many species from subtropical or temperate regions which grow quite well in the tropics, but only a few of these are described. For similar reasons I have not ventured into the area of hybrid plants". This does not mean, however, that this marvellous book is limited to people in northern Australia. Many of these plants occur further south and most of them can be grown in subtropical areas.

Included at the back of the book is a glossary, charts of leaf shapes, fruit shapes, inflorescences and eucalyptus buds, and a Family/Genus List.

A few colour plates were included in the first edition and there were a number of black and white photographs. However, these have been omitted in this second edition, no doubt for economic reasons and space constraints.

This is a book that will be very useful for anyone interested in Australian plants.

Across the Top - Gardening with Australian Plants in the Tropics
Revised Edition 2008

Compiled by Keith Townsend for the Society for growing Australian Plants, Townsville Branch Inc.
SGAP Townsville Branch, 2008.
RRP $30.00*
Softcover, 350+ pages

* Available to financial members of SGAP for $20 plus postage, where applicable.

From the newsletter of the Society for Growing Australian Plants (Queensland), March 2009.

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Australian Plants online - 2009
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