Debra Prinzing

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Meet the NEW Sunset Western Garden Book

March 7th, 2012


I’ve drawn names of all those who answered my question below and here are the five “winners” of a FREE copy of The New Sunset Western Garden Book, courtesy of Sunset. The question: What is your favorite ornamental landscaping plant (shrub, grass, perennial, etc.) to harvest for a cut bouquet? yielded these winners/answers:

Jen Y: peonies

Paula: bunnytails grass blossoms or pilotus joey

Carol: Peonies, nandina branches and berry clusters

Nicole: hellebores

Kim: dahlias

CONGRATULATIONS! You will soon be hearing from Dana Smith of Sunset Publishing, who needs your mailing address.

I recently had a chance to interview Kathleen Brenzel, garden editor for Sunset magazine – and editor of Sunset’s new, 2012 edition of The New Sunset Western Garden Book,  (Sunset Books, $34.95 for flexible binding, $44.95 for hardcover), a “bible” for western gardeners.

Whether you’re new to gardening or have logged many planting seasons with your hands in soil, it’s the single best go-to reference for garden-makers in our region. As chunky as the Yellow Pages, this essential guide to the West’s ornamental and edible landscape has been around for 80 years. I’ve owned every version since the early 1990s, including the most recent 2007 edition, which is dog-eared from much use.

When I got my hands on the just-released ninth edition last month, I thought: How different can this really be? I asked Kathy to walk us through the book’s 768 pages:

How did you go about updating this edition? Before we did anything else, we assembled a panel with landscape architects, horticulture educators from UC Berkeley and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, nursery people and new graduates who had used our last edition as a textbook. The recent grads told us that in order to make “The New Sunset Western Garden Book” relevant, it had to have a digital component. They said: “We go everywhere with our smartphones, so we want to be able to take a photo of a plant we see on the hiking trail and look it up instantly.”

How did you go digital? Now you can take the best of Sunset with you to the garden center, nursery and your yard. You can get the free mobile edition of this book’s Plant Finder on your smartphone. (Search for Sunset Plant Finder.) With it, you can access more than 2,000 plants — and search by plant name, ZIP Code, climate zone, sun and water requirements, and type. There’s a companion online Plant Finder that lets you browse by color, height, spread and special needs.

How else is the book interactive? The last section of “The New Sunset Western Garden Book” is a practical guide. We’ve added a camera icon on the bottom of the pages, pointing you to corresponding videos on our website. It’s nice to read directions on planting a tomato in a pot and then watch a video of one of our editors showing you exactly how to do that.

What are the other major updates? This is the first edition to feature plant photos exclusively, rather than illustrations. There are more than 2,000 plant photos. We also updated the entire plant encyclopedia. That was the biggest job in the whole book. Every plant was reappraised, and we added many new varieties now available in nurseries. We went to growers all over the west and compared our existing plant database with what they are now offering; we asked what they thought we should include and why.

How many new plants did you add? The new book has 9,000 plants, up from 8,000 in the last edition. We also had to check the botany of every plant because botanists are constantly reclassifying plants.

What can new gardeners gain from the book? The section “Gardening Start to Finish” is more instinctive for the beginner. We walk them through the whole growing process from A to Z. We also have practical sections on gardening for wildlife and native plants, growing herbs and water-wise plants.

What can more experienced gardeners gain from the new book? The plant encyclopedia is filled with tip boxes of additional information – like how to propagate a sweet potato vine or when to cut ornamental grasses for the vase.

You have more edibles, don’t you? We asked ourselves: “What do people want most from ‘The New Sunset Western Garden Book’ right now? You’d have to be totally checked out not to notice a huge wave of edible gardening, so we wanted to amp up our coverage. I’m really happy with the “what edibles to plant when” charts for warm-season and cool-season veggies.

What’s your favorite take-away from the book? There’s an underlying theme that acknowledges how we garden now – with an interest in natural gardening and sustainability. Our gardens are smaller, but they’re stylish and sustainable.

Note: A version of this Q&A appeared in the LA Times HOME blog on February 17th.




15 Responses to “Meet the NEW Sunset Western Garden Book”

  1. Nicole Cordier Says:

    Hellebores! They are amazing.

  2. Kim Millikin Says:

    Dahlias – stunning shapes and amazing colors!

  3. Amber Says:

    Lavender is my favorite decorative perennial for cut bouquets. It’s beautiful and smells divine. 🙂

  4. Linda Says:

    I love using the bloom stalks of lamb’s ears that are normally normally cut in the name of maintenance. They are killer with colors both brilliant and subtle.

  5. Alison Says:

    Oh, foo, only one? Dahlias, I think. Peonies are a close second.

  6. Jen Y Says:

    My favourite by far is peonies.

  7. Carol Says:

    Peonies, but for fall and winter it would be nandina branches and berries.

  8. Carol Says:

    Peonies, however in the fall it would be nandina branches and berry clusters.

  9. Pam/Digging Says:

    Guess I’m a prairie girl at heart: purple coneflower

  10. laura morton Says:

    I would say African Blue Basil……lasts a really long time and smells great

  11. Maggie Says:

    Actually, what I remember most is the daphne odora that I pick every spring! A tiny flower can scent an entire room!

  12. paula Says:

    I like to use bunnytails grass blossoms or pilotus joey for their odd shapes and textures.

  13. Debra Says:

    VOTING IS CLOSED. Winners will be drawn tonight and announced on 3/13~

  14. Bonnie’s Pick: <em>The New Sunset Western Garden Book</em> « Blog « Habitat Design Says:

    […] bible’ even more of a garden necessity — according to Susan Morrison, the LA Times, Debra Prinzing and other garden […]

  15. Meghan Wyse Says:

    Thanks for giving a breakdown of the reasons for commenting on blogs…will be back soon!

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