The alphabetically arranged text includes many worthwhile species. Although the listing appears to favor warmer zones of the United States, all parts of the country are represented. I was perplexed, however, given the goal stated above, that ubiquitous plants like Forsythia x interinedia (Border Forsythia), Euonymus alatus (Buming Bush), and Abelia x grandiflora (Glossy Abelia), all of which most gardeners would consider largely available and overused, were chosen, while many other more useful and noteworthy plants were not. Poor and Brewster rightfully state that space limitations preclude any treatment of the extensive genus Rhododendron but then include a few roses and conifers which one could easily argue are plant groups too extensive for inclusion. Their choice of roses and conifers seemed quite arbitrary.
When I was finally successful in putting my opinions of plant choice aside, I proceeded to enjoy this book immensely. The authors tapped the experience of dozens of cooperators. This enormous effort has resulted in the compilation of an accurate and technical text. The only negative of this "outside influence" is that the reader in confronted with a systematic and dry text, without the personal flair so often interjected by plant persons such as Michael Dirr (Manual of Woody Landscape Plants) and Wayne Winterrowd (Annuals for Connoisseurs, Prentice Hall, New York). The text reads more like a report than an experience. Yet, given the number of inaccurate, vacuous landscape books (containing all pretty pictures and no content), it was a pleasant relief to enjoy and learn simultaneously. This is a serious text for serious gardeners.
The photographs elevate this text over similar treatments in two ways. First, most texts that are "reference" type rather than the "coffee table" type have either no photographs or at most a sampling. This book is filled with color photographs. Second, the photos are conveniently located adjacent to the plant description, not in a sequestered section reserved for glossy paper. In fact, all the paper in this text is sumptuous and resilient. The photographs are informative and the quality is excellent. The only aesthetic detractor is the somewhat uneven photo layout on many pages.
The book has some of the familiar additions such as a list of plants by hardiness zone and a list of plants that will perform well under certain environmental conditions. Some of the more unique and clever additions include a directory of botanic gardens, arboreta, and parks, and a nursery source directory. Each plant in the text has a code that directs readers to a garden location where they can view the plant and sources where they can purchase the plant. I actually located a plant that I had heard of years ago but was never able to find. I have mail-ordered it, thanks to this helpful index!
After finally putting this book down (it was difficult), I felt myself longing for my former life in Zone 7b, knowing that now that I've settled in Massachusetts (Zone 5), my only hope of seeing many of my favorite plants on a moment's notice is an excellent photographic text such as this one. Plants the Merit Attention, Vol. II. Shrubs should be included in the library of every horticulture department, landscape architect, and serious gardener. - Michael Marcotrigiano, Dept. of Plant and Soil Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst