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A Good Read

.....what's current in print?

Reviews in this issue cover "The Grevillea Book, Volumes 2 and 3" by Peter Olde and Neil Marriott, "Sub-tropical Australian Native Gardens" by the North Coast Group of the Australian Plants Society (NSW), "A Beginner's Botany" by Barry Kemp and "A Dictionary of Botanical Names" by Don Perrin. The first two, although not new titles, should still be available. Books Diagram

The Grevillea Book - Volumes 2 and 3
Peter Olde and Neil Marriott

Published by Kangaroo Press, 1995
Hard Cover, numerous line drawings, distribution maps and colour photographs;

Reviewed by Paul Davies

Have you ever thought about having a garden containing only one genus of plants? There aren't too many Australian plant genera you could try this with, but having just browsed through Volumes 2 and 3 of "The Grevillea Book", I'm convinced that you could plant nothing but grevilleas and have an absolutely stunning garden. There really does appear to be a Grevillea for every need, and we're talking natural species here, not cultivars such as "Bozzo's Bonanza". Thick, low groundcovers such as G.obtusiflora and G.x gaudichaudii, shrubs for wet, shady areas such as G.shiressii, spectacular trees such as G.robusta, and colours from the vibrant orange-yellows of G.pimeloides to the deep pinks of G.quercifolia.

To select and grow them you need only consult the exhaustive information presented in these volumes (and Volume 1, of course). Some may balk at the $65 per volume price, but once you've glanced at the sheer amount of detail in these books, plus considered the enormous effort put into collecting and sifting through all the background information, you'll soon realise that you're getting value for money.

Every one of the 340 species receives a thorough treatment, with details of distribution, ecology, varieties, conservation status, cultivation, propagation, horticultural features and history of cultivation. There is a distribution map with each species plus drawings and photographs to complete the picture.

Like every book, you can be picky and find something that you don't like. My only criticism is the small typeface, particularly for the descriptions, which tended to make my eyes wobble after about 10 minutes (and I've got 20/20 vision).

Overall though, I can't fault the books and only hope that one day other native genera will receive a treatment similar to this.

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Note. "The Grevillea Book, Volume 1" was reviewed in the March 1996 issue of "Australian Plants online".

Reprinted from the August 1995 issue of "Blandfordia, the newsletter of the North Shore Group of the Society for Growing Australian Plants.


Sub-tropical Australian Native Gardens
Australian Plants Society (NSW) - Far North Coast Group

$8.50 inc. postage within Australia from P.O. Box 4083 Goonellabah, NSW, 2480.

Reviewed by Fran Bright

This excellent small book should appeal to anyone starting a new sub-tropical Australian plant garden in eastern Australia. Although only 46 pages in length, it contains a wealth of concise information and helpful advice designed specifically for those unfamiliar with the wide variety of native plants, their requirements and uses. It is a guide also for the beginner who wishes to introduce the character of the Australian bush into their garden design.

The "plain English" text is easily understood, with not too many difficult technical terms to frighten the beginner. For example, the section about "choosing the right plant" explains why we use scientific names in preference to common names; the "Recommended Plant Tables" all give common as well as scientific names.

This is definitely not your "How to ...." Book. The contents are comprehensive. There are sections on planning your garden, soils and how to improve soil structure, planting and choosing the right plants, with a special section about popular beginner's plants. Ferns, palms and orchids receive attention, with advice and some recommended "easy to grow" species. The rainforest section, although small, contains sound information about fertilizers and mulching, as well as a list of suitable plants.

Special features of this book are its attractive line drawings by Lesley Cordery and the "Tables of Recommended Plants" which follow each of the specific sections (ie. Seaside Plants, Rainforest Plants, Popular Plants, etc.). These tables list not only the names but also the various particulars relating to each plant. For example, growth habit, soil preference, flowering and fruiting times, propagation, whether bird or butterfly attracting. A key is provided for each table.

At the end of the book an index offers a "quick find" reference for any specific areas the reader may wish to refer to. There is a very good list of references and suggested books for further reading.

I am confident that anyone reading this book will find it both enjoyable and informative. The hard-working members of the Far North Coast Group should be complemented on this very professional effort.

Reprinted from the September 1996 issue of the SGAP Queensland Region's "Bulletin".


A Beginner's Botany; 2nd Edition
Barry Kemp, Coffs Harbour Group, Australian Plants Society

$9.50 inc. postage within Australia from 11 Bligh Drive, Boambee, NSW, 2450.
Soft cover, A4, 29 pages


Dictionary of Botanical Names
Don Perrin

$14.00 (postage extra) from SGAP (Qld) Book Sales, 28 McGhie St, Zillmere, Qld, 4034.
Soft cover, A4, 62 pages.

Reviewed by Tony Cavanagh

These two small books were written with the average grower of native plants firmly in mind. As Barry Kemp says in his introduction...."This book is intended to help all those who wish to broaden their knowledge without delving too deeply into academic botany. - this is essentially a book for amateurs, written by people without formal botanical training, but checked by professionals to ensure its accuracy." Don Perrin is interested in helping people become more familiar with those obstacles many beginners fail to surmount, botanical plant names. He believes that once we understand what the names mean, it is a lot easier to remember them, and the knowledge gained leads to greater interest in and involvement with growing native plants.

There are no beautiful coloured photographs in either book, just simple but clear line drawings. The text in A Beginners Botany is easy to follow yet is a surprisingly comprehensive coverage of basic botany, running through naming, classification, the various plant groups and what distinguishes them, basic floral structures, structure of seeds and fruits, vegetative structures and an introduction to keys. A short glossary and a good bibliography round the book off – and all in 29 pages!

The Dictionary of Botanical Names is densely packed with information and the small type face might put some readers off. Perrin gives the origin of both generic and species names; if they commemorate a person, he includes a brief biography. He is an advocate of users investigating why a botanist gave a particular plant its name – look at the leaves of Banksia serrata (saw-edged) or the flowers of a Callistemon (beautiful stamens); a further extension is then to find out what a “stamen” is. Perrin discusses the terminology of flower parts and the numerous terms applied to leaves, always tied to plant examples, and gives a useful list of common prefixes and suffixes eg. "-folia" = leaf, "erio-" = woolly. A supplement with the meanings of many Family names completes what to me was a most interesting and detailed handbook.

I recommend both these books. They both contain a mass of useful, basic information, written in plain language, and are priced so that everyone can have their own copy. The fact that both are in a second impression/edition indicates that they do indeed fill a need.

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Note. The first edition of "A Beginner's Botany" was reviewed in the September 1997 issue of "Australian Plants online".

Reprinted from the March 1999 issue of the newsletter of the Australian Plants Society (Victoria).

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Australian Plants online - March 1999
The Society for Growing Australian Plants