Dirty Book Club, Pt. 1

I'm going to review some of the houseplant books I've come across. Criteria such as format, organization, and ability to withstand a potting-bench accident will be considered.

Title: The Easy-Care Guide to Houseplants
Author: Jack Kramer
Published: 1999, Creative Homeowner Press

Format: Lightly bound and lightly laminated, this text is not universally durable enough for the greenhouse/lab. Also, the giant format means that it doesn't look quite as stately in the bookshelf as, say, your clothbound collected works of Shakespeare. Basically, it's ugly and has that ultra-90's look.

Pictures: It may not be a pretty book, but at least the pictures are of good quality. Carefully staged, the plant identification photos and the how-to photos are helpful and attractive. I must add that it seems funny to see a hand-model with a perfect old-school french manicure demonstrating the propagative method of "division." How does she keep her hands so clean?!?!

Nominal organization: OH MY GOD IT'S ATROCIOUS. Be forewarned that here is no way to un-see the taxonomical horrors you will see in this book. Plants are grouped by "Family Common Names," "Family Scientific Names," and the subdivided in non-alphabetical order by common name... and that's just the beginning of the goat-roap. Scindapsus argyraeus is listed under the Begonia family as "Watermelon Begonia." Curious as to what happened to the original S. argyraeus, I flipped to the section on Aroids and found a picture of Peperomia argyreia listed with the Epipremnums under the name "Satin Pothos." The ferns are a goddamn mess. After reading the orchid IDs, I wanted to find everyone associated with this book, slap them with a glove, and challenge them to a duel. Meanwhile, I know relatively nothing about orchids and this Kramer fellow is supposedly an expert. Finally, as you could have guessed, the common names which they use to categorize the plants are an entropic maelstrom of self-contradiction. I could go on about the tomfuckery, but why?

Plant background info: There is some, but it's basically shortened for purposes of coffee table reading or bathroom reading. This isn't the Kew Garden's Definitive Guide to Whatever, it's a light read published by the Creative Homeowner Press. They probably do a similar volume on decoupage. I'll let it go.

Plant care info: Good. The sections on pests/disease, propagation, and maintenance are pretty comprehensive (how many houseplant books cover things like beneficial syrphid flies? Brownie points for obscure info). They even have a great tutorial on building your own growing stand for shop lights... pictures of the manicured hand-model goin' at it with a handsaw are sadly absent.

Display/decoration info: Too much. If I wanted to know how to use houseplants to turn my living room into a fake-ass Reconstruction-era parlor, I'd buy a book on interior design.


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