giveaway: dirr’s dangerous new woody-plant bible

MAKE ROOM ON THE SHELF—a big, fat space in a prominent spot, since you’ll be reaching for it a lot—and also in your garden. With Mike Dirr’s massive new “Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs,” all 3,500 photographs and 3,700 species and cultivars of it, the man we’ve relied on for decades to tell us what’s what in woody plants outdoes even himself. By the time I’d gotten through the “A’s,” I had a list so long of new must-have’s (Abies and Acer, especially–oh, those firs and maples!) that I’d have to rate this book as not just “smart, opinionated, comprehensive, wonderful,” which is what it says in my blurb on the back cover, but “dangerous,” too. So like I said, make room–maybe for the copy that I bought to share with a lucky one of you?
The new book came at just the right time for me on two fronts. I manhandled a 1983 edition of Dirr’s thorough-but-not-illustrated “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” from then until it fell apart, when I replaced it with a 1998 edition, which now is looking far worse for wear, too. There is hardly a workday in all those years when I have not gone to see “what Dirr says” about a tree or shrub I’m growing, thinking of buying, or writing about: How big will it get? Where is it native to? What conditions must I offer it?  All of that is covered in “Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs,” but the chance to see shots of the plant–details and often full-grown versions as well–makes all the difference.

And then there is the other fact that made the publication date so right: the recent October snowstorm manhandled me–or at least the garden–making spaces for some newcomers. I’ll spend the winter deciding just who, with Dirr’s help.

Upcoming Dirr Lectures

Michael A. Dirr was a professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia since 1972 until his recent retirement, and now lectures and teaches widely. I was happy to learn I will have two chances to hear him speak in the coming months: At Brooklyn Botanic Garden January 31 (information here) and at Berkshire Botanical Garden in Massachusetts–not far from my home–on February 18 (information here). I failed to find a full calendar of his travels online anywhere, but I see he’ll also be presenting in Spartanburg, South Carolina, on December 2 (details).

How to Enter to Win the Book

TO QUALIFY TO WIN the copy of this $79.95 masterpiece that I purchased for the giveaway, all you have to do is comment below, answering this simple question:

What woody plant—whether an individual species or variety, or a whole genus like Malus or Pinus or even a group of plants, like blue-needled conifers—would you say is your most-loved? I have confessed many times that the genus Viburnum is a favorite here, but lately I find myself veering into conifers, especially firs. Hmmm…which will it be for you?

If you’re feeling shy, just comment by saying “Count me in,” or “I want to win” and your entry will be considered in the random drawing I’ll do after midnight on Tuesday, November 15. Good luck to all!

Can’t wait for your own copy?

  • You can preview the 952-page book at the website of Timber Press, the publisher.
  • Buy the book now on Amazon. (Disclaimer: If you, do, I get a small commission that I put toward books for future giveaways.)
Categoriestrees & shrubs
  1. Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum. As an artist / sculptor / plant nut, i must confess that i am madly in love with these reddish-purple Asian beauties. They have so many great functions and can be formed into so many curvy figures if you’re into topiary. Loropetalum ‘ Purple Pixie’ gives me tingles up and down my spine when she is showing off with Artemisias and Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ ( Creeping Jenny ). You can paint your small seaside garden with these as they are quite salt tolerant. Cape Codders could probably get away with growing Loropetalums if they give them some protection from the north winds. The richer the soil the richer the color will be on these plants. Created superbly deep shades of color by spoiling them rotten with deeply prepared aged chicken manure, organic compost and granite rock dust (scree or screenings) along with a tad of good topsoil and a healthy dose of fish meal. Green used to be my favorite color, but not any more. Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy, Scott

  2. Edith Allison says:

    For me it is Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum, commonly called doublefile viburnum. It is spectacular in bloom, looks great in the fall, the birds like it and the deer don’t seem to.

  3. Edith Allison says:

    Question about the book; how does it differ from Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants? Does it contain all the same information but with pictures? Why would you buy one over the other?



    1. margaret says:

      It’s loaded with photos, Edith, and of course brand new (well, last year) so many new varieties that didn’t make the earlier book. I love the earlier book for its details, but this helps if you are wanting to see the plant and learn about the “best” more recent selections and so on.

  4. Nancy says:

    It’s so hard to pick a favorite but from a ‘bones’ point of view in the garden I would have to say the Ilex group..any holly does it for me. Also blue needled evergreens which are very difficult, if not impossible to grow in the South.

  5. Steve Martin says:

    From childhood or somewhere in that time when I became aware of the plants that engulfed my little part of the planet, I was drawn to the massive Bougainvillea These grand bushes were growing everywhere, Up the sides of our houses and in great mounds in the middle of fields. The colors were as varied as the shapes they took and it seemed like there were many variations or species too. Some had very large thorns and small leaves, some had very large foliage and very small thorns or none at all. Today I have many of these plants in my collection. Golden, yellow and deepest red to the crispest orange orange. Bougainvillea is by far my favorite. They aren’t so picky and don’t complain in the best or worst conditions..

  6. Beth says:

    I have loved viburnums, particularly doublefiles, forever; but my current crush is Franklinia alatamaha. It sweetly flowers in September.

  7. Catherine Giordano says:

    By far the one tree that has made an everlasting impression to my spiritual love has been and always will be – Ginko Biloba. Perhaps it’s because it is the most ancient of trees or the beautiful fanlike shape of it’s leaves. Takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes each time I have the pleasure to lay eyes on it.

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