Gardening books should inspire, inform and be enjoyed. If a book does well in all three areas then it is a 'must have' for us all. Few books are like this but are nevertheless still good because they excel in at least one of the above areas. All too many books on the market today are pretentious, ill-informed, badly written and almost unreadable, repetitive, and often contain errors cribbed from other books. The list I have here consists of many books which I have found useful over the years and without which I would feel quite uncomfortable. It also contains books which I am certain will serve me well in the future. Others have been recommended by gardening friends. There are many excellent books, especially specialized works dealing with single families of plants or even genera, which I have not listed; these books are generally aimed more at collectors than at gardeners. Some of the books below may be out of print.

Riffle & Craft, An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms, Timber Press, 2003 (Standard text)

Gibbons, Martin, Palms - The illustrated guide to over 100 palm species, Apple Press, 1993 (Superb value, a 'must have' for palm addicts)

The Royal Horticultural Society publishes encyclopedias of plants. (This is the 'standard' guide but is not without its faults. A 'must have')

Phillips & Rix, Conservatory & Indoor Plants (vols 1 & 2), Macmillan, 1997 (Do not be misled by the title - a vast number of the plants described can be grown outside in mild areas)

Latymer, Hugo, The Mediterranean Gardener, Frances Lincoln, 1990 (Although not recent and limited in terms of plants described, this book has probably not been bettered as a basic guide to the Mediterranean flavour)

Rix, Martyn, Subtropical and Dry Climate Plants, Mitchell Beazley, 2006

Giles, Will, Encyclopedia of Exotic Plants, Timber Press, 2007 (A very useful book and often opened although not my favourite)

Innes & Wall, Cacti, Succulents and Bromeliads, Cassell (The Royal Horticultural Society), 1995 (Very good value and very informative)

Brickell, Christopher, [Christopher Brickell's] Garden Plants, Pavilion Books Ltd, 1995 (Another 'older' book but one I refer to again and again)

van Wyk, Ben-Erik & Smith, Gideon, Guide to the Aloes of South Africa, Briza Publications, 2005 (An aid to identification, growing & hardiness, natural habitat & distribution, and diseases. Several full colour photographs of each plant. Very strongly recommended for Aloe enthusiasts)

Irish, Mary & Gary, Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants, Timber Press, 2000 (A handbook for the more serious gardener but useful even for the more relaxed )

Lloyd, Christopher. A very inspirational writer whose books can easily be read from cover to cover (even several times). In particular, Foliage Plants, (new edition), Viking, 1985 (original Collins, 1973) and The Well-Tempered Garden (new edition), 1985 (original Collins, 1970). Christopher Lloyd's only book on the subject of exotic plants, Exotic Planting for Adventurous Gardeners (BBC Books, 2007) was published posthumously; it contains contributions from his gardening associates.

Starr, Greg, Agaves - Living sculptures for landscapes and containers, Timber Press 2012 (An excellent mouth-watering book for succulent specialists dealing with some eighty of the most beautiful types.)

McMillan Browse, Philip (ed.), Gardening on the Edge - Drawing on the Cornwall Experience, Alison Hodge, 2004. (This book of ten chapters each by a distinguished horticulturalist delves into the finer details of exotic gardening, describes a large number of plants worth trying in a mild exotic niche in the South-West and is generally broad in scope as well as very informative; however, some of the optimism expressed may have to be dampened down after the experience of the winters 2008-2012; this book is a favourite of mine)

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