I love succulents. The veritable banquet of books written on succulents for avid gardeners over the past few years has influenced me as much as any gardener. I get pulled in by the glossy covers and the dazzling dream-big photographs; I buy them, read them, plan the space, and then… I am left frustrated. Living in a region with reliable hard frosts throughout the winter and brutal sun and dry heat throughout the summer, I am left longing for too many plants that I would have to grow as annuals—not a sustainable solution. Ahhh, but then there are sedums—a gorgeous group of plants that many of us can grow year-round no matter where we live. I was thrilled to see The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums was one of the four introductory titles in Timber Press’ new plant-based series.
When I saw the announcement for this new collection, part of me thought—really? Another formulaic series on staple plants that have been well-covered before? However, several critical points made me change my mind and dive in with an open mind and a hopeful gardener’s heart. For one thing, all of the plants included in the series—like sedums—are favorite plants with many new introductions from the
horticultural trade AND new discoveries and identifications in the botanical world in recent years.
During that same time period, much has changed as to how and why we garden—sustainability and climate change being the most obvious changes to the philosophical gardening landscape. So updated coverage is well deserved all around. Another aspect to these books that drew me in, like many of Timber Press’ star books of the past, was that they are written not by garden-writing glitterati (not that there’s anything wrong with the well-known among these), but by hard working gardeners, plantspeople, and designers whose fingers are in the dirt and whose feet are on the ground among the plants they write about. This day-to-day intimacy and working knowledge shows in the several books in the series that I have had the pleasure to read so far.
The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums is enthusiastically written by a young—and pretty hip, given the look of the surfboard in his hands in his bio picture—Brent Horvath, of Intrinsic Perennial Gardens, Inc. in Hebron, Illinois. The very fact that Horvath is based in the mid-west instead of being from one of the far coasts drew me to his point of view immediately. His introduction “Why I love Sedums” made it clear to me from the start that Horvath knew his stuff, and assumed I knew mine (meaning he was not academically talking down to me). Horvath brings the reader up to by speed very succinctly summing up the key botanical issues of plant reclassifications and divisions among the group of plants we know as Sedum before getting us into the heart of the book—how others use them to nice effect in a variety of gardens and then a useful and easy-to-read reference of the different kinds of sedums currently available and how to grow them, including useful hardiness and water needs information. Lovely detailed photos of plant profiles as well as interesting and thought-provoking sidebar lists such as “Perennials to Combine with Border Sedums,” “Hardy Stonecrops,” and “Favorites for Containers,” round out the content.
Overall, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Sedums is well worth adding to anyone’s garden library and I commend Brent Horvath for his well-done book. Ideally, I would have liked to see more photos of sedums looking good and to scale in landscape settings throughout the dictionary part of the book. And, coming from one of the sections of the world from which sedums hail, I would have liked to see a “Sedums of North America” list. Maybe in the next edition? I have plenty to enjoy in this edition in the meantime.
Jennifer Jewell, PHS board member