Sunset Garden Book is Indispensable Resource

This edition of Sunset’s Western Garden Book, published in 1976, was the best gardening guide for a gardening greenhorn.

sunset-western-garden-blogWhen I first started gardening, I needed a lot of help. I had always thought gardening was a relaxing pastime that rewarded one with beautiful flower beds, baskets of fresh vegetables and a luxurious lawn.

I had no idea how much work it would take.

One of my indispensable resources was Sunset’s Western Garden Book. Because it was written for those of us who garden in the West, it helped me understand that gardening was definitely regional and that understanding “climate zones” was critical to gardening success.

This book also helped me understand how plants grow. This may sound elementary, but understanding roots, stems, leaves, and fruits and flowers was also a good reminder that nothing should be taken for granted in the garden.

Everything was important to a new gardener like me, from soils and amendments to planting techniques and watering. In fact the advice to “water infrequently” probably saved a few dozen plants from death by drowning.

This edition of the Western Garden Book included a “Plant Selection Guide” that listed, compared and evaluated plants for all kinds of uses in the landscape. I used the guide to become familiar with plants’ scientific names and which made good ground covers, which should be used background plants and which bloomed when.

My gardening library has grown considerably since I picked up that first book and there have been many Sunset Book updates. But, even all these years later, I still turn to the “Western Plant Encyclopedia” in the back of this book whenever I need to find an accurate plant description, to find a helpful illustration, or to remind myself when it comes to plants, there’s still so much to learn.

What’s the indispensable resource in your gardening library?


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We live in Palm Desert and need advice on what to plant in an area that gets extreme hot sun in the summer and gets no direct sun in the winter months. What can we plant here? Thank you for your time. Christine

Thanks for visiting and asking advice about what kinds of plants would do well in your location. You didn’t mention what kind of garden you’d like to plant, but I thought I’d share one of my favorite resources with you–High Country Gardens in Santa Fe: Are you familiar with them?

The HCG catalog is loaded with heat-loving plants–and planting tips–that may interest you for your hot garden. One suggestion is to look at the pre-planned Sizzling Colors Inferno Strip garden–the plants in this collection are mean for hot spaces.

I hope this will help you create the beautiful garden you’re looking for.

Best regards,

Would love to plant CA natives here but the
Dry hot sun and the cool shade are such
different differences here in Fallbrook, CA
What suggestions do you make?

Hi Cherie:

Thanks for your question about native plants for your California garden. Are you familiar with Annie’s Annuals?

Perhaps you can take a look at the site or catalog to find something that will grow in your garden. Annie could also make recommendations for you.

Best wishes for a great gardening season,

I live in minden, nevada and I really want to find a palm tree to plant outside. Is this possible, or will I need to substitute for something similar.

Thanks for your question, Mike.

I found a few resources that might help you decide about your palm tree:

The folks at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension may be able to give you specific planting and growing advice if you get in touch with them.


Why figs not getting ripe and hallow

Hi There!

Thanks for your question about figs. Because I’ve never grown them, I thought I’d recommend another resource for you. I “Googled” your question and found this site that has all kinds of Q&A about growing figs that might help you:

Good luck!

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