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Review of RHS Encyclopedia of Conifers published in Garden Design Journal


A review of Encyclopedia of Conifers is published in Garden Design Journal.

An author of review Chris Reynolds, Curator, Bedgebury National Pinetum, states that "AS A FORESTER AND BIBLIOPHILE I have acquired many books on the subject of trees and forests. Over the years these have come via bookshops old and new, gifts from people who know about my addiction and more recently the internet. As the curator of Bedgebury National Pinetum my focus has naturally swung towards conifers over the last few years. I have added all the obvious titles on the subject to my groaning shelves. Many of these are regarded as classics on the subject of conifers, both species and cultivars.

However there is only so much you write about on this subject so there have been recent additions to my library. Then along comes the RHS Encyclopedia of Conifers. I had known that this was in production but I had no idea what to expect and now that the two volumes are sitting in front of me I am duly impressed by the quality, thought and sheer amount of work that has gone into its production. There are fairly standard details on the 615 recognised conifer species, but it is the amount of information on the cultivars which is really astounding.

With 8,185 descriptions of cultivars from around the world it is a unique reference for this incredibly important group of garden plants. Around half – 4,795 in fact – are illustrated with high-quality images and very importantly a large number show the differences over the seasons and even the age of the plant. The photographs demonstrate the almost infinite range of size, form and colour available.

The wealth of detail and information is truly astonishing. In recent years it has been almost fashionable amongst the horticultural fraternity to dismiss conifers out of hand. Picking up and reading through this encyclopedia, I am sure, would make even the most hardened cynic think twice. I would defy any gardener or landscaper not to be impressed and inspired and find a place in their plantings for a conifer or two.

If I have a criticism it is related to the international nature of the work, as cultivars from all over the world are included: rightly so, I may add, for an international publication. The knowledge that obtaining some of these plants will be impossible due to restrictions on the trade in plant material will be a frustration.

This is a minor consideration as the vast bulk of the plants are available but may take a little hunting down. The authors are to be commended on their efforts and I would advise all serious gardeners and landscapers to get a copy: it will be well worth it. It is not a pocket book but a true reference tome and I now need to brace up my bookshelves as it weights in at a whopping 8.4 kilos! I will be turning to this frequently as I seek out new plants for the Bedgebury collection in my hope to enthuse a new generation of `coniferphiles`."

A full version of the article is available in Garden Design Journal.