Book Review

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  • 1 University of Florida/IFAS/MREC Apopka, FL

Woody Cut Stems for Growers and Florists: Production and Post-Harvest Handling of Branches for Flowers, Fruit and Foliage. L. Greer and J. Dole. 2009. Timber Press, Portland, OR. 512 pages. 147 color plates. US$39.95/£25.00. Hardcover. ISBN 978-0-88192-892-1.

Although a number of books are available aimed at educating cut flower growers, information in them about using woody plants as sources of flowers and decorative foliage and fruit is minimal. Therefore, this book helps fill a gap in the knowledge base for new and existing cut flower growers, the primary target audience. However, this reference book should also prove useful to extension agents and other horticultural educators, as well as floricultural hobbyists. In addition, it could serve as a resource book for teachers and students involved in landscape plant materials courses. Be aware that this book deals almost exclusively with plants to grow in temperate climates.

The authors start the book with a generalized overview chapter that defines woody cuts and outlines their production and marketing. This chapter is followed by a slightly more detailed “getting started” chapter covering the gamut from crop selection, planting, and market determination. A production chapter follows that deals a little too superficially with fertilizer, soil pH adjustment, shade structures, and weed control topics. This chapter could have been improved by adding more complete information and listing more detailed reference sources. More specialized chapters covering pruning, defoliation, harvesting and postharvest care, and forcing provide more in-depth information on those topics. The good-quality color plates help illustrate a number of methods and processes discussed in the text, as well as providing pictures of many of the crops. These chapters, and the whole book, are populated with information derived from scientific studies and interviews with dozens of growers. The authors have done their readers an invaluable service by capturing this knowledge from these growers; otherwise, it could have been lost. This action is especially true since the body of published literature on woody cuts is rather limited.

In the chapter on wild harvesting (wildcrafting), the authors do a good job of dealing with the complexities of the practice. However, their definition of wild harvesting as collecting “from land that does not belong to the grower or collector” is more restrictive than is commonly used. The authors stress responsible harvesting—whether of invasive and noxious plants or threatened and endangered ones.

The largest chapter by far (299 pages) is the one listing, in alphabetical order, “proven woody cut species.” It is full of practical information and covers the following topics for each crop: pros and cons, species and cultivars, production (general growth, spacing, pruning, pests and diseases, propagation), harvest and postharvest (stage of harvest, expected yields, conditioning, storage and shipping, vase life), marketing, troubleshooting, landscape usage, and how used by florists (with helpful suggestions for attendant foliages and flowers). The authors again stress responsible growing by pointing out many potentially invasive plants; however, many other listed plants were not noted as potentially invasive (e.g., Callicarpa dichotoma, Clematis orientalis, Corylus avellana, Euonymus alatus, etc.). The horticulture industry has been responsible for the introduction of most of the woody invasive plants in the United States, and we should do all that we can to educate growers to avoid introducing and spreading them. Of course, invasiveness varies greatly with location so only growers in certain locations would need to be concerned about the invasiveness of a given plant.

The next chapter is one-tenth the size and lists “species worth trying.” The inclusion of plants in one or the other of these two chapters seems to be somewhat arbitrary and is sometimes, but not always, based on their potential adaptability to fairly large sections of the temperate hardiness zones rather than on durability or established market acceptance. For example, there are “proven” species listed where the authors state that there is “not much call for cut stems,” “the market is not established,” or “vase life is short.” On the other hand, well-established and durable products commonly used by florists such as Alexandrian laurel, podocarpus, ruscus and salal are relegated to the “worth trying” chapter. In both chapters, USDA hardiness zone information is provided for most crops but AHS heat zones are not; however, the authors do a good job of providing verbal summer heat tolerance information for a number of crops.

A number of short chapters follow. A tiny one, “species best avoided,” lists five genera to avoid. The “quick guide for choosing the right plant” provides useful listings for selecting plants based on flower or fruit color, fragrance, and season(s) or cut stem parts of interest. The final chapters list sources of additional information and plant sources. The book concludes with a quite complete bibliography.

This book is an inexpensive and valuable resource for cut flower growers, floriculture educators, and individual homeowners. And it is a pleasure to read due to a writing style that is inviting, friendly, and full of good humor.

Robert H. StampsUniversity of Florida/IFAS/MREC Apopka, FL

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