Wow! This book is a must-have for serious ornamental gardeners in tropical and subtropical regions. People living in zones seven and lower should definitely visit this book, although they may not want to own it. Riffle defines the tropical look as one of "flamboyant form and contrast," and goes on to distinguish between tropical plants, and plants that have the "tropical look." The concepts are brilliant and are very well explained.
The heart of the book is a 340-page encyclopedia of plants. The pages are large, with lots of excellent-quality color photographs. The entries are extremely complete. Toward the end of the book is a 32-page section of landscape uses with myriad lists. The lists are very intelligent and useful - "Invasive Plants," "Large Trees," "Fragrant Plants," "Salt-Tolerant Plants," etcetera.
The great garden writer Elvin McDonald says this about Riffle's book: "The Tropical Look is a rarity, a masterpiece." I couldn't agree more. This book won the book award from the American Horticultural Society. It stands head and shoulders above all other books in its field. This book would be cheap at double the price.
Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 1998, (800) 327-5680, www.timberpress.com, 0-88192-422-9, 524 pages, 409 color photographs plus black-and-white drawings and maps, hardback, $49.95