Landscape Plants for South Florida, a Manual for Gardeners, Landscapers and Homeowners
The birth of a new book
By Dr. George Rogers
The prospect of sitting down and writing a book is no doubt daunting. Typing the first page must resemble the first step of that proverbial thousand-mile journey. But at Palm Beach Community College we did not deliberately set out on a big hike. There's a different path---when a book emerges "poof" like magic from everyday activity. PBCC's "Landscape Plants for South Florida" sprouted with no bookish aspirations a decade ago with a realization that no existing books were "quite right" for our classes on cultivated plant materials. Don’t get me wrong, any Florida book lover knows oodles of great garden manuals, but in our case none were sufficiently current, and sufficiently localized, and sufficiently attentive to identification characteristics, and color-illustrated, and sufficiently rich in all the bases we wanted to cover. Sort of like marriage---there may be thousands of potential spouses out there, many of them mighty fine folks, but you still need that eHarmony 19-point match. Incidentally, the websites available today are terrific, as you know or you would not be seeing this, but they were not as rich a decade ago, and we needed hard copy. Many adult students even now are not enthusiastic Internet users, and we needed the portability of paper.
So then, we did not set out to write a book. We merely accumulated data and digital images as class support materials. The instructor did it, students contributed assignments, students volunteered, and we even had some outside help, especially from Marx Broszio who contributed most of the bamboo material from his standpoint at Bamboo for You Nursery near Sarasota. Our class handout folder thickened until we started printing the entire package in our college print shop all at once, as opposed to one handout at a time. The big collective class handout looked like a book.
What put it over the top was funding from the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust in California to turn the homemade handout and associated digital photos into a real book, coupled with the design wizardry Caroline Blochlinger of CB Advertising in St. Augustine who waved her magic wand and transformed our sow's ear into an eye-pleasing silk purse.
The book covers almost 500 important landscaping species with color photos of most. The entries are arranged alphabetically by plant family, and each family features an identification key to the species pertaining to it. Beyond the usual photo, each species treatment contains the botanical and English names, pronunciation help, important additional names, nativity, recognition tips, prominent cultivars, usage tips, and a table of abbreviated horticultural attributes. Natives as well as invasive exotic species are flagged. The content is a synthesis of our experience at the PBCC Plant Nursery, other relevant experience, and information from other books and web sites cited with abbreviated references to an extensive bibliography. The manual has a companion website at www.plantbook.org where the cover, table of contents, and sample pages appear. The publication is entirely non-profit with all sales revenues returned to the project. The good in the work is not only the end product but also the educational journey in creating it, which we hope to continue. There are more cultivated plants in South Florida than we bargained for!
Dr. George Rogers is Professor of Horticulture at PBCC and a practicing plant taxonomist. He may be contacted at:
George Rogers Ph.D.
Environmental Horticulture Program
Palm Beach Community College
3160 PGA Blvd.
Mail Stop 45
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410