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Kirsten Albrecht Llamas - Tropical Flowering Plants: A Guide to Identification and Cultivation

I happened to be in Costco on the same day that I first looked at Tropical Flowering Plants by Llamas. I noticed in Costco's book section a really big, fat book titled Flora: The Gardener's Guide for $60.00. It looked to be six to eight inches thick, and quite tall and wide as well. Heavy and unwieldy is the most complimentary thing I can say about its size. It really should have been in more than one volume. Some tropical plants were included, but the key word is "some." A more accurate subtitle would have been "A Temperate Gardener's Guide." I've never seen so many pages on irises, outside of an iris book. I'm quite an iris fan, but I'm not tempted to try to grow them here. Not when there are so many easy and extravagant tropical flowers to choose from. As I was browsing through the fat Flora book, I reflected on what an extraordinary book I had seen earlier in the day.

Tropical Flowering Plants is a lifetime treasure. That's about the highest compliment I can think to give a book. Thomas Jefferson said that a good book should make you give away half your library. Well, that's this book, folks! I've now had time to compare it with other excellent tropical ornamental reference books. Nothing else comes close. Even plants with rather inconspicuous flowers like Snowbush and Croton are included.

But it's the plants known for their flowers that really get their day in this book, as the title tells you. I know of no other book with as many listings of Brunfelsias. There's so much more to this genus than Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow or Lady-of-the-Night. The same is true of Tabernaemontana. Most books only show divericata. This book even shows pachysiphon, which is rare to see illustrated in any book. Pachysiphon happens to be one of my all-time favorite fragrant plants. It's trouble-free and has a perfect smell direct from heaven. I recommend this plant all the time, and now I can finally show folks which exact plant I'm referring to. Not all fragrance was created equal.

The introduction is a power-packed (and wisdom-packed) six pages. Here she notes that Hawaii is notorious for its microclimates. What a marvelous thing to be notorious for! She also says, "It is impossible to overstate the beneficial properties of mulch." Never a truer word was spoken!

There are 346 pages of descriptions listing more than 1400 plants. There are lots of color photos on every one of those pages. It's impressive and large, without being unwieldy.

The index is everything you'd want --- and I don't say that lightly. I'm pretty demanding of an index. It can make or break a book in my opinion. Also, one of the appendices informs us which of the plants are invasive in Hawaii. You don't see that handy bit of information in every book.

Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2003, (800) 327-5680, www.timberpress.com, 0-88192-585-3, 424 pages, 1553 color photographs by author, hardback, $69.95

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