Win the book, "Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens" by Gil Nelson

Book Review: "Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens: A Handbook for Gardeners, Homeowners, and Professionals" by Gil Nelson published by University Press of Florida. 2010.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
If you'd like to win a copy of this fabulous book, leave a comment here on (not on FaceBook) about how much you would use this book. Leave us a way to contact you in your comment.  We'll choose a winner from the comments. Thanks to University Press of Florida for sponsoring this contest.  Post your comment by August 4th.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

"Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens" is filled to the brim with important information on native plants and is a must for any serious gardener in the southeastern region of the country.

The southeast, as defined for this book, includes the eight states from Virginia to Louisiana, but excludes the more tropical south Florida. It's beautifully illustrated with photographs that capture the essence of the plants and what they look like growing in their own environment with both close-up and wider views. While hundreds of native plants are described, this book is so much more than just a plant list. Gil is a great gardening coach and explains how we gardeners can be more successful with our natives.

While this is a beautiful book that would look great on your bookshelf, I predict that once you get your hands on it, that you'll mark it up and really use it to increase your success growing native plants. It has enough information and detail for professional landscapers and native ecosystem restorers, but it's an easy-enough read for the more casual gardener as well.

In the introductory chapters, Gil explains the terms used in the book such as weedy vs. invasive, describes the different types of native plant gardeners, and provides an interesting history of gardening with native and non-native plants. He also covers various methods of and reasons for recreating and restoring natural plant communities for both small home or community-based landscapes and large-scale projects.

In the second section titled, "Favorite Groups of Native Plants," Gil groups and describes native plants with chapters such as, "Native Azaleas, Mountain Laurel, Blueberries, and other Heaths," "Magnolias and Their Relatives," "Maples, Buckeyes, Sumacs, and Wafer Ash," Hollies," and "Perennial Asters." Also in this section, Gil has included "Old Timey Natives," and the hard-to-grow "Challenge Plants." (And speaking of challenge plants, we've highlighted a really challenging plant right here on the FNPS blog: Ghost Orchid Controversy.) In "Vines, Groundcovers, and Spring Ephemerals," he's classified the vines to be "less aggressive" such as coral honeysuckle, Carolina jessamine and passion vines or the "aggressive" vines such as trumpet creeper, cross vine and Virginia creeper. Gil also provides lists of groundcovers and mixed perennials, divided into shade-loving and sun-loving groups. This is just the information a gardener needs to make good decisions in choosing plants: not every native is a good choice for your garden.

Sprinkled throughout the text, there are offsets with interesting science or historical references. Examples include "The Morphology of Trilliums," "Cedar-Apple Rusts" (with a photo of what it looks like and the plants that it attacks)," "Bergamot Orange" (as opposed to our native bergamots, the monarda). These educational asides help us to be better-informed gardeners.

In the third section, Gil provides us with a catalog of one hundred of "the best, most readily available, and most easily grown native plants" for the region. For each plant he provides: at least one photo; the native range and habitat; the planting zones (cold and heat); form and size; characteristics for identification; culture or where to plant it; typical use; best features; recommended companion plants, and similar and related species. This list consists of mostly woody plants and some perennials. I think it's particularly useful that he includes other plants that grow well with the highlighted plant.

The appendices include information on the regional native plant societies; sources for native plants, listed by state; a list of common names & scientific names used; a bibliography; and a complete index.

Highly recommended! Wouldn't it be great if all the southeastern municipalities and developers started using this book as a guideline for their new plantings?

Ginny Stibolt

Note to Floridians: if you already own Gil's "Florida's Best Native Landscape Plants" as I do, "Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens" provides a lot of additional background material for better native plant gardening and is definitely not just a repeat.


We've made leaving a comment here easy by allowing you to choose any of several online IDs or you can comment anonymously. Use the drop-down menu next to "Comment as:" to choose.

For this contest, though, you need to identify yourself and leave some way to contact you just in case your reasons for wanting/needing this book win the prize.

But if you'd like to keep your email private, you may also send an email along with your identity to Don't tell us your story in the email, though--we will choose only from the comments.

Good Luck!
Lise Michelle said…
I would love a copy of this book, as a recent graduate of the Master Gardener program, it is always good to have new resources.

Thanks, Lise
Mary said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said…
Even though I'm disappointed that this book doesn't include Florida, I would love to have it! I live in Central Florida, zone 9a. There are other areas in the south which are int he same hardiness zone, like around New Orleans and Houston. Many of the natives from those areas will do well where we live.



This book definitely includes Central Florida; it just does not include tropical south Florida. If you're in zone 9, your area is included.
Amy Morie said…
I recently returned to my home state of Florida from California. I am a designer specializing in helping individuals and communities create landscapes that use water-wise, habitat-creating and edible plants.
I am avidly relearning the plants of my childhood and incorporating them into my work; this book would be an invaluable resource in helping others to create sustainable and beautiful landscapes!!
PlantieBea said…
My kids and I have found Gil Nelson's books to be incredibly useful in learning about our native plants out in their natural setting. His newest book, The Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens, sounds like it would inspire us to jump start the process of putting more natives into our sadly lacking home landscape! Perhaps adding a Nelson touch to our home would inspire other residents in this sea of non-native azalea, viburnum, and St. Augustine grass to go native. I'd love to add this new title to our well-used collection of Nelson books.
Anonymous said…
This is Ginny and I'm testing the anonymous commenting. Normal when commenting as my self I choose a name and a website.
Ginny Stibolt said…
When you have typed in everything you'd like, you hit the Post Comment button and then scroll down to type in the letters that appear in the box to show that you are human. Yes, they should be visible on the current screen, but I know you can do this.
Anonymous said…
I would LOVE to have this book! I use my native plant books in many, many ways. I take them to our monthly native plant society meetings and display them for members and guests to use. And, they do! I also take them for display at events when the native plant society has a booth. I encourage attendees to look through the books. I have used them for beautification projects in my home City of Neptune Beach. We revamped a butterfly garden with all natives, we have planted native trees for Arbor Day, and we were funded with tree mitigation funds for a project on a main road. All native trees were planted. We will start a new project soon in our Beaches Town Center, called "Operation Asparagus Fern," and will remove all this invasive species and re-plant with natives. We are using native plant books to research the plants. Finally, I use my native plant books for home garden projects and to advise my family, friends, and neighbors.

Barbara Jackson
Anonymous said…
"I'm in Florida for 6 years but as a native New "Yawker" I still struggle
with the gardening here. I guess the 50+ prior years of Northeastern
Gardening is etched permanently into my psyche so having a book such as this
in my reference arsenal surely would help."

Anonymous said…
Well, this process just ripped off my comment. I never did trust computers, but prefer to have a hard book in my hand. Gil's new gardening book is just the expert advise to transform my yard of many non-native plants to a more natural native plant bower.
Phyllis Gray
Anonymous said…
Phyllis, thank you for making the effort to comment! If you want to post again and put back whatever got "ripped off", please go ahead and try again. So glad your yard is going native.
Floridagirl said…
Wow, I tried several times on two different days last week to post a comment, and none ever showed up.
Garfield said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Garfield said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Popular posts from this blog

Australian Pine: One of Florida's Least Wanted

Native Trees and Plants You Will See Nearly Everywhere in Florida