|Be sure to visit Robert Lee Riffle's Tropical Image Gallery too||
by Jana Meiser
Robert Lee Riffle's newest book The Tropical Look: An Encyclopedia of Dramatic Landscape Plants is one of the best gardening references to join our collection of gardening books. The author is a kindred spirit who believes, as my husband and I do, that the tropical look has an "irresistable appeal," is achievable far away from the tropical climates, and is underutilized by gardeners outside zones 10 and 11. As anyone who has visited my website or my husband's garden knows, we love the tropical look! We were growing the tropical look in Oregon, long before we moved closer to the equator. As Robert Riffle aptly describes this type of gardening, "it is the stuff dreams are made of."
Aside from finding information on most everything we have in our garden, my reasons for liking this book are many. A pronouncer guide is provided to help overcome those verbal stumbling blocks when referring to plants by their botanical name. A foreword emphasizes the importance of botanical names, and I appreciate the helping hand in integrating these important references into my daily vocabulary. A list of common names is provided only in the index, so a person looking for "banana" will be at a disadvantage until such time that the botanical name is the first one that comes to mind.
Each plant listed has a quick reference guide and a detailed description. The quick reference includes a brief description of the plant's appearance, its zone rating, sun and water preferences, soil requirements, and methods of propagation. The author describes plants in ways that make them sound like his personal friends. Phrases such as "spectacularly beautiful," "gracefulness of form," and even "checkered past" make the plants seem more like companions than something you stick in the ground and hope they grow.
Riffle defines the tropical look as "all plants with relatively large or boldly shaped foliage and flowers, and all plants with colored or variegated leaves and large and spectacular flowers or flower clusters." Palm trees are the quintessence of the tropical look, and those unfortunate souls in this world who are unknowledgeable about palms often think that none of them can take any frost. The plants included in this book are much more than tropical plants. A true tropical plant will not tolerate any frost. Thankfully, most of the plants listed in Riffle's book are not tropical at all. They just "look" tropical. More than 50 genera of palms are included in this book. The author includes plants based on "tropical looking landscape subjects whose appeal is of at least a reasonably permanent status."
I first encountered Robert Lee Riffle through internet when he became a regular visitor on my "Tropical Attitudes Gardening Message Board." Most of the questions involve palm trees, but numerous other plants are discussed there as well. Riffle generously shares his knowledge of plants in this forum as well as the message board for the International Palm Society. As the months went by, I was continually impressed with his ability to answer the assortment of questions with such good information.
I knew he was working on a book, but it was not until he sent me an advance copy that I realized his book is an encyclopedia! He also provides helpful advice in attaining the tropical look in subtropical climates and includes a zone map for both the United States and Europe. Further help is provided by lists based on categories such as aquatics, bamboo, bromeliads, drought tolerance, erosion control, fast-growing, ferns, fragrance, palms, salt tolerance, shade tolerance, "cactusy" look, and more. Over 400 color photos, many taken by the author himself, put the finishing touches on this outstanding piece of work.
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Robert Lee Riffle's The Tropical Look Today!
of the World by David L. Jones and John Dransfield
Hard cover, 410 pages (October 1995). More than 800 species are listed alphabetically, including more than 400 color photographs and 60 line drawings.
of the World by David L. Jones, Dennis Stevenson
Hardcover - 296 pages (April 1, 2000) Smithsonian Institution Press; ISBN: 1560982209 ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.04 x 10.58 x 7.81
Guide to Landscape Palms by Allen Meerow
Hardcover 4th edition (September 1997). Color photographs, descriptions of palms, landscaping and maintenance information, and documentation of diseases and nutritional deficiencies.
The New Compact Study Guide and Identifier by Martin
Hardcover - 80 pages (March 1993). A full color guide at an unbelievable low price.
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