Baker’s Dozen recommended plant books (2020)

We are proud to present Tony Baker’s list of the best / most highly recommended gardening resource and reference books for southern California native plant gardening.  This list was first published in 2016, though it probably predates that year.  We are thrilled that Tony updated the list for 2020 and even more thrilled that he hasn’t limited himself to a paltry Baker’s Dozen!   Tony is a longstanding member of the South Coast chapter of the CNPS, prized for his knowledge of local plants and commitment to our native flora.  Thank you, Tony.

* = returning Champion from 2016

*California Native Plants for the Garden
Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien, Cachuma Press, 2005
The best and most complete book devoted to California native gardening. Covering over 500 plants with extensive profiles accompanied by excellent color photos, it also includes information on natural habitats, horticultural history, design, resources and more. This is a must have book for backyard gardeners, horticulturalists and professional landscapers.

Reimagining the California Lawn: Water-conserving Plants, Practices, and Designs
Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien, Cachuma Press, 2011
This valuable ‘companion’ book to the above resource, is a ‘how to’ reduce or remove a standard lawn with drought tolerant options including design, installation and maintenance information. Plant profiles with photos include California natives and suitable worldwide plants.

*Complete Garden Guide to the Native Perennials of California and *Complete Garden Guide to the Native Shrubs of California
Glenn Keator, Chronicle Books, 1990 and 1994
These companion books have a tremendous amount of information on most all of the native plants that are suitable for home garden cultivation. They include line drawings and propagation information.

*Care and Maintenance of California Native Plant Gardens
Bart O’Brien, Betsey Landis, and Ellen Mackey, Publ. by R.S.A.B.G., CNPS, and Theo. Payne Found., 2006
A welcome addition the native plant library that is chock full of useful information on planting watering and maintaining native gardens. The bilingual text is helpful for Spanish speaking gardeners.

*Designing California Native Gardens
Glenn Keator and Alrie Middlebrook, University of California Press, 2007
A practical native landscaping book that includes plans, photos, and plant descriptions. An emphasis on natural habitat communities make this an outstanding addition to the native library.

*California Landscape Garden: Ecology, Culture, and Design
Mark Francis and Andreas Reimann, University of California Press, 1999
A very useful guide to the understanding of the general principle of landscaping with California natives.
Highly recommended for ‘do it yourself’ gardeners and homeowners

California Native Landscape: The Homeowners Design Guide to Restoring its Beauty and Balance
Greg Rubin and Lucy Warren, Timber Press, 2013
The authors are passionate about native plant horticulture that emulates natural habitat and ecology. They show how to create low maintenance natural gardens that have year round beauty.

Drought Defying California Garden: 230 Native Plants for a Lush, Low Water Landscape
Gregg Rubin and Lucy Warren, Timber Press, 2016
This book describes how to create a wildlife friendly landscape that doesn’t need copious amounts of water. Has information on which plants work, how to establish them and how to keep them looking great.

California Wildlife Habitat Garden: How to Attract Bees, Butterflies, Birds, and other Animals
Nancy Bauer, University of California, 2012
Turn your backyard into a wildlife sanctuary with California native plants. This is a well written practical guide to natural landscaping that includes beautiful photographs.

*California Native Trees and Shrubs
Lee Lenz and John Dourley, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, 1994
This is a classic and authoritative text gleaned from years of experience by experts growing natives at the renowned botanic gardens that published the book. Long out of print unfortunately.

Growing California Native Plants, Second Edition
Marjorie G. Schmidt and Katherine L. Greenberg, University of California Press, 2012
Originally published in 1980, the second edition is an excellent hand-on guide to gardening with native plants. Ms. Greenberg has added plants, ideas, photos, and drawings to the late Ms. Schmidt’s original.

The Southern California Native Flower Garden: A Guide to Size, Bloom, Foliage, Color, and Texture
Susan Van Atta, Gibbs Smith, 2009
A spiral bound guide to 164 flowering plants that are native to our Southern California region that includes designs, detailed plant descriptions, and other useful information.

*Native Treasures: Gardening with the Plants of California
Nevin Smith, University of California Press, 2006
A compilation of native gardening profiles published in the CNPS magazine Fremontia over the years by an expert native gardening.

*Sunset Western Garden Book
Edited by Kathleen Brenzel, Sunset Western Publishing,
The bible for Western United States horticulture. Get the newest edition available since more California native plants are featured and there is a greater emphasis on drought tolerant gardening techniques.

Gardening with a Wild Heart: Restoring California’s Native Landscapes at Home
Judith Lowery, University of California Press, 2007
Beautifully written with enlightened observations on our connections with habitats and the plants. An inspiration to restore your garden into a native environment.

*Landscape Plants for California Gardening
Bob Perry, Land Design Publishing, 2010
An expansive and expensive coffee table size book with over 3,100 excellent color photographs. It covers native as well as non-native shrubs and trees that thrive in our Southern California climate. This book is especially useful to landscapers showing clients potential plant choices for their gardens.

Fire, Chaparral, and Survival in Southern California
Richard W. Halsey, Sunbelt Publications, 2005
Although this book’s focus is Chaparral habitat, it has useful information for landscaping with fire in mind in our coastal communities as well.

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