The Tree Book: Superior Selections for Landscapes, Streetscapes, and Gardens

Timber. Apr. 2019. 900p. photos. index. ISBN 9781604697148. $79.95; ebk. ISBN 9781604699180. REF
Two giants of horticulture collaborate to produce a book of considerable heft—a “bible” for tree nerds. Both authors are plantsmen, but Dirr comes from academia (emeritus, horticulture, Univ. of Georgia; Manual of Woody Landscape Plants), while Warren is a retired tree breeder and nurseryman. Urging readers to “choose wisely, plant carefully, and plant often,” Dirr and Warren present more than 2,400 species and cultivars suitable for the temperate northern hemisphere (“tree” is defined in terms of mature height—15 feet as the rough lower limit). Each profile includes common and botanical names, details on foliage, flowers, seeds, fruits, cones, native range, availability, adaptability, and popular uses in landscapes. Recommendations and disapprovals are plainly stated, as in the good (any oak), the bad (Callery pear), and the ugly (Siberian elm). Most of the nearly 3,000 color photographs were taken by the authors and strongly support their observations on arboreal form and texture. The writing entertains with its lively stylistic mix of technical, impressionistic, and, occasionally, irreverent approaches to tree selection.
VERDICT Readers familiar with Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs will miss its generous back-of-book selection aids, and some will find the current volume’s index erratic, especially concerning common names. But these are quibbles: Dirr and Warren have given those who plant, care, and love trees an essential reference.

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