The book is the most comprehensive work ever written on coleus, covering over 225 varieties with almost 400 spectacular photographs. The last half of the book (almost 100 pages) is an encyclopedia of the various coleus cultivars. The categories are in themselves quite informative. First there are the trailing ones (great for hanging baskets and container gardening), then they are broken down by leaf shape and size (elongate, fingered, duckfoot, twisted, and little), and then it starts to get really interesting. The next and largest section is “Cultivars by color or pattern”. There are 26 sub-categories in this section! Red with green edge, Red with orange edge, Red-Orange with yellow edge, Yellow with red flecks or patterns, Green with red edge, and on and on. The last section is called Unique Cultivars and these are the ones that defy categorization. The pros and cons of each variety are discussed, including such things as “when the foliage turns blotchy under specific conditions”.
The chapter on Coleus in the Garden is just incredible. It’s mostly pictures with detailed captions, but wow, what pictures. The color, shape and texture combinations with other plants is positively psychedelic. And when coleus are combined with other tropicals (such as croton) it’s as good as it gets! Coleus are after all from Java.
The photo captions are remarkably thorough, sometimes explaining what’s wrong and how to avoid it. The section on growing cuttings is very detailed and applies perfectly to many other plants that are propagated this way. Rogers lets us know that the same cultivar can have lots of different names, and lets us know what they all are. He even tells what to really expect from the different seed package mixes. If you weren’t a big coleus fan when you opened the book, you will be by the time you close it.
Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, www.timberpress.com, 2008, 978-0-88192-865-5, 288 pages, color photographs, hardback, $29.95