What books are on your shelves? Which ones should be?

It goes without saying – doesn’t it? – that if you’re in commercial horticulture, you have the bibles written by Drs. Allan Armitage and Michael Dirr, both professors emeritus of horticulture at the University of Georgia, Athens. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or new to the game, these are the books you need. Not the only ones, of course, but here’s your foundation:

The premier perennials expert is, of course, Allan Armitage, whose hallmark Herbaceous Perennial Plants: A Treatise on their Identification, Culture, and Garden Attributes, isnow in its third edition. But there are more, of course, so let’s list them here:

  • Armitage’s Garden Perennials
  • Armitage’s Native Plants
  • Armitage’s Vines and Climbers
  • It’s Not Just About the Hat: The Unlikely Journey of a Plantsman
  • Legends in the Garden (co- author with Linda Copeland)

The must-have for anyone who grows, plants, maintains woody plants is, of course, Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants, now in its sixth edition. But there’s also Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees & Shrubs, plus:

  • Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs: An Illustrated Encyclopedia
  • The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation: From Seed to Tissue Culture
  • Hydrangeas for American Gardens
  • Dirr’s Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates: An Illustrated Encyclopedia
  • Viburnums: Flowering Shrubs for Every Season

Both Armitage and Dirr have apps, of course. There’s Dirr’s Tree and Shrub Finder, an app based on The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants and Armitage’s Greatest Perennials & Annuals. But we’re talking about hold-in-both-hands, ink-on-paper books here.

If you’re in production, you also probably rely on Carl Whitcomb’s Production of Landscape Plants II (covering field operations) and Plant Production in Containers II. Also from Dr. Whitcomb: Establishment and Maintenance of Landscape Plants II, as well as Know It and Grow It III: A Guide to the Identification and Use of Landscape Plants.

We’ve compiled a few handy lists of best-selling horticulture books to help you decide what to read and to get some insight into what others are reading. And we’d like to make the point here: We are not endorsing books by their inclusion here, nor are we purposefully omitting the literally thousands of other outstanding titles that are available. What we are doing, however, is asking for your input.

What are others reading?

There are so many publishers and vendors, and the topic is just so broad, that it’d take light years to make our way through the offerings. Best-seller lists can tell us something, though, and a quick look at a few of them gives us a good indication of what’s on the minds of colleagues and customers alike.

Our favorite bookstores – those lingering brick-and-mortar holdouts – may have best-seller lists, but they’re not often broken down by subject. Online outlets, however, have built-in technology that tracks sales and handily offers information about what’s hot.

Here’s the list of top-selling horticulture books from Alibris:

  • Soil Science and Management, by Edward Plaster
  • Hartmann & Kester’s Plant Propagation, by Hudson T. Hartmann and Dale E. Kester
  • Introductory Horticulture, by Carroll L. Shry and H. Edward Reiley
  • An Encyclopedia of Cultivated Palms, by Robert Lee Riffle and Paul Craft
  • The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation, by Michael A. Dirr and Charles W. Heuser Jr.
  • Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, by Tradd Cotter
  • Roses Without Chemicals, by PeterKukielski
  • The Art of Floral Design, by Norah T. Hunter
  • Garden Revolution: How Our Landscapes Can be a Source of Environmental Change, by Larry Weaner and Thomas Christopher
  • Greenhouse Operation and Management, by Paul V. Nelson
  • All the Presidents’ Gardens, by Marta McDowell
  • Botany, by James D. Mauseth
  • The Grafter’s Handbook, by R. J. Garner
  • The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control, by Fern Marshall Bradley
  • Introduction to Agricultural Accounting, by Barbara M. Wheeling
  • From Seed to Pumpkin, by Wendy Pfeffer
  • Magic Mushroom Grower’s Guide, by Principium Quaesitor
  • Where Our Food Comes From, by Gary Paul Nabhan
  • Agriscience: Fundamentals and Applications, by L. DeVere Burton
  • Hydroponic Food Production, by Howard M. Resh
  • Plant Propagation: Principles and Practices, by Hudson T. Hartmann and Dale E. Kester
  • American Horticultural Society’s Pests and Diseases: The Complete Guide to Preventing, Identifying, and Treating Plant Problems, by Pippa Greenwood, AR Chase and Daniel Gilrein
  • The Commercial Greenhouse, by James William Boodley
  • The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower’s Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers, by Lynn Bycznski
  • Following closely on the heels of these are Introductory Horticulture, The Biology of Horticulture, Practical Horticulture, So You Want to Start a Nursery and Practical Woody Plant Propagation for Nursery Growers

What are your customers reading?

Wow. If you’re trying to keep up with the gardening public, you’ve got a lot of reading to do. We turned to premier horticulture publisher Timber Press to find out what the gardening public is reading; the following list, as you can imagine, is the best-selling books published by Timber.

  • Gardening for Butterflies: How You Can Attract and Protect Beautiful, Beneficial Insects, by the Xerces Society
  • Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes, by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West
  • Carnivorous Plants: Gardening with Extraordinary Botanicals, by Nigel Hewitt-Cooper
  • The Plant Lover’s Guide to Hardy Geraniums, by Robin Parer
  • Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants, by Doug Tallamy
  • The Magical World of Moss Gardening, by Annie Martin
  • How Plants Work: The Science Behind the Amazing Things Plants Do, by Linda Chalker-Scott
  • The Plant Lover’s Guide to Ferns, by Richie Steffen and Sue Olsen
  • The Plant Lover’s Guide to Magnolias, by Andrew Bunting
  • The Plant Lover’s Guide to Clematis, by Linda Beutler
  • The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, by Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy
  • Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs, by Michael A. Dirr
  • Botany for Gardeners, by Brian Capon
  • The Plant Lover’s Guide to Primulas, by Jodie Mitchell and Lynne Larson
  • The Art of Gardening: Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer, by The Chanticleer Gardeners and R. William Thomas
  • The Creative Shrub Garden: Eye-Catching Combinations for Year-Round Interest, by Andy McIndoe
  • The Culinary Herbal: Growing and Preserving 97 Flavorful Herbs, by Susan Belsinger and Arthur O. Tucker
  • Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard, by George Adams
  • The Drought-Defying California Garden: 230 Native Plants for a Lush, Low-Water Landscape, by Greg Rubin and Lucy Warren
  • Wildflowers of New England: Timber Press Field Guide, by Ted Elliman and The New England Wild Flower Society
  • The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums, by Brent Horvath
  • Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard, by Jessi Bloom
  • 50 Deer-Resistant Plants: The Prettiest Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Shrubs that Deer Don’t Eat, by Ruth Rogers Clausen
  • Plants with Style: A Plantsman’s Choices for a Vibrant, 21st-Century Garden, by Kelly D. Norris

What are your customers buying from Amazon?

If you’re interested in what the home gardener is reading, you’re in for a wild ride. We contacted monster book seller Amazon, and here’s their list of best-sellers in “horticulture.”

  • Urban Farm Projects: Making the Most of Your Money, Space, and Stuff, by Kelly Wood
  • Bonsai (101 Essential Tips), by Harry Tomlinson
  • Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide: 33 Healing Herbs to Know, Grow, and Use, by Rosemary Gladstar
  • All New Square Foot Gardening, Second Edition: The Revolutionary Way to Grow More in Less Space, by Mel Barthlomew
  • The Drunken Botanist, by Amy Stewart
  • Marijuana Horticulture: The Indoor/Outdoor Medical Grower’s Bible, by Jorge Cervantes
  • Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on ¼ Acre; by Brett L. Markham
  • The New Western Garden Book: The Ultimate Gardening Guide, by the Editors of Sunset Magazine
  • The Encyclopedia of Country Living 40th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual of Living Off the Land & Doing It Yourself, by Carla Emery
  • The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, 2nd Edition, by Edward C. Smith
  • The Kaufmann Mercantile Guide: How to Split Wood, Shuck an Oyster, and Master Other Simple Pleasures, by Jessica Hundley
  • Let it Rot!: The Gardener’s Guide to Composting, by Stu Campbell
  • The Herbal Apothecary: 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them, by JJ Pursell
  • The Cannabis Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to Cultivation & Consumption of Medical Marijuana, by Jorge Cervantes
  • Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods, by Thomas Elias & Peter Dykeman
  • The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming, by Jean-Martin Fortier
  • Marijuana Grower’s Handbook: Your Complete Guide for Medical and Personal Marijuana Cultivation, by Ed Rosenthal
  • Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte
  • Succulents Simplified: Growing, Designing, and Crafting with 100 Easy-Care Varieties, by Debra Lee Baldwin
  • Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, by Scott Cunningham