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Review of Why Grow That When You Can Grow This, by Andrew Keys

255 Extraordinary Alternatives to Everyday Problem Plants

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Review of Why Grow That When You Can Grow This, by Andrew Keys
Photograph © Kerry Michaels
First let me start with a disclaimer. Andrew Keys, author of Why Grow That When You Can Grow This, is a good friend of mine and we are working on a book together for Timber Press. That said, even if I didn't know him I would love this book. There are not enough gardening books around that are as smart, sassy, informative and exuberant as this one.

Andrew Keys is an unrepentant plant nerd, which, it turns out is lucky for the rest of us. Fortunately, unlike many plant obsessives, he is able to share is encyclopedic knowledge of the plant world in an engaging, humorous and accessible way. In Why Grow That When You Can Grow This, Andy joyfully takes on the task of calling out popular plants that under-perform and giving the reader several alternatives that will be easier to grow and better behaved. His is a crusade to fly in the face of convention--to steer us away from the herd of common, boring, prima donna plants that will only make us unhappy and into a landscape filled with easy to maintain, beautiful, and sometimes unusual finds.

While fluent in botanical Latin, this author doesn't look down his nose at those of us less well versed. The book has a wildly embracing, enthusiastic tone, while at the same time the information has not being dumbed down for novices. His advice is well thought out and superbly, presented as well as interesting.

Keys takes no prisoners in describing plants he doesn't like. According to Andy, when describing an Italian cypress, "Summoning visions of Tuscan estates, Italian cypress is forever the haughty foreign exchange student, making a bold, outrageous vertical statement wherever it goes. This conifer's exclamatory form means it's challenging to mesh well into home gardens and some see it as an eyesore. As a Mediterranean native, it gets the sniffles in cold, damp northern climates." As alternatives to Italian cypress, 'Degroot's Spire' arborvitae, 'Shawnee Brave' baldcypress and incense cedar are suggested as alternatives. Each of plant is thoroughly described in equally amusing and informative prose. In addition, a large and often gorgeous photograph accompanies each tree, shrub, grass and perennial profiled in the book.

This book would be equally appropriate for all gardening skill and knowledge levels.

Andy's love of great plants shines through on each page of this book. His passion and enthusiasm is contagious and may end up making plant geeks of us all.

Links to Andrew Keys Work:

Read Andy's blog:Garden Smackdown

You can find his podcasts for Fine Gardening Magazine here: Garden Confidential, Fine Gardening Magazine

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