Garden Gear - Gardening Books

Book review: An Illustrated Guide to Maples

by Antoine le Hardy de Beaulieu, Timber Press, 464 pages, hardcover, $95.95.

This survey of ornamental maple trees by French nurseryman Antoine le Hardy de Beaulieu should find a receptive audience in Canada, where we dis-play the familiar three-lobed leaf across our flag and our hearts. The selection of trees was guided by a concern that many attractive (and moderately sized) maples are unknown to home gardeners, and underutilized outside of parks and arboretums.

The value here is in the photography: more than 250 maples are beautifully revealed in perfect focus, ideal light and cloudless spring or autumn seasons. And with sensitivity to scale, an unobtrusive male figure (perhaps the author?) appears in photographs of larger specimens so the reader may understand how big the tree actually is. Smaller yard-sized maples are well represented, and I especially appreciated finding such beautiful plants as Shantung maple (Acer truncatum), with its glossy, miniature leaves, and the many new hybrids of Tatarian maple (A. tataricum) and trident maple (A. buergerianum) that are rock-hardy and blaze with autumn brilliance.

For gardeners considering ornamental maples for large or small spaces, this is an opportunity to view the available landscape material at its best and near to maturity. Or, conversely, if you already own maples of uncertain provenance, the book is useful for identification purposes. A lesson in maple taxonomy is provided, along with simple botanical drawings and an interesting chapter on Acer discoverers and botanists. Bear in mind that hardiness zone listings are based on U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

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