Deciding to review a book by a friend can be a gamble – what to say if it turns out not to be good? Fortunately there's no such problem with the British edition of How To Grow Plants in Pots by Martyn Cox (Dorling Kindersley), which is full of well-presented practical advice and planting ideas for both ornamentals and food plants.
There's guidance on familiar container planting ideas like growing pelargoniums in pots and tomatoes, but also on growing aquatic plants and topiary and tree fruit and bananas and orchids and salads and even pineapples in containers. There are one or two unexpected omissions but in general a very wide range of ideas is presented. And all the information is presented in bite-sized nuggets so it's easy to get at and act upon.
This is a very useful book and well priced.
The book also comes in an American edition, called more simply Grow Plants in Pots, and this is where things go wrong. The original British edition needs quite a transformation to be useful to American gardeners but the work is perfunctory at best. There are no North American hardiness ratings included for perennials and shrubs; John Innes composts, popular in Britain, are recommended for American gardeners who can’t buy them; I immediately looked for advice on dealing with permanently planted containers in the cold winters so many American gardeners have to deal with, but there's none. There's little recognition of the fact that in some parts of the US no containers can ever be left outside all winter while in others they can all be left out as frosts are so rare.
The cover picture and title have been changed and, yes, the spelling has been Americanized, that's the easy part – the spellchecker in Microsoft Word will do that for you. And there are some small, but sometimes mysterious, changes in phrasing: "as these will be" in the UK edition becomes "because these will be" in the US edition; "blossom in pots" becomes "blossoms in pots" in the US. But the tomato varieties shown in the US edition are those recommended for Britain, not one of the many many heirloom tomato varieties sold widely in Home Depot and elsewhere in the US is included. The entry on lilacs fails to mention Bloomerang ('Penda'), the repeat flowering lilac now so popular in the US.
None of this, I hasten to say, is the author's fault. Martyn Cox is a highly respected British gardening columnist and he's written a very useful book for British gardeners. But the book needed a far more thorough transformation to be equally valuable in the North America.
- Effective presentation of pictures and information in bite-sized nuggets.
- The author's name is not on the cover. Why not?! In Britain his name is a selling point.
- There are too many pictures from British flower shows.
- Why make the UK edition hardback and the US edition paperback?