Reviewed by Susan C. Eubank

Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, Arcadia, CA
 
Conifers Around the World: Conifers of the Temperate Zones and Adjacent Regions by Zsolt Debreczy, István Rácz; a much revised and extended translation by the authors of their Fenyők a Föld körül [...]; edited by Kathy Musial.
Budapest: DendroPress Ltd., 2011.
 
Reviewed by Susan C. Eubank
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, Arcadia, CA
 
There have been scholarly reviews of this book else-where, most notably Peter Del Tredici's review in Amoldia, July 2012 http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/2012-70-l-book-review..., so I won't try to reproduce that scholarship in this review. Instead, I'd like to share my perspective as a librarian and book lover. In library orientations, I talk about certain books that represent a life's work. Think of Howard Scott Gentry's Agaves of Continental North America (Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press, 1982). There are authors who write on the same subject over and over, bigger and better. Think J.D. Vertrees and the four editions or revisions of Japanese Maples. Or Michael Dirr and his works on trees and shrubs published as a textbook; several glossy, color-illustrated books; a CD; and an interactive DVD. 
Conifers Around the World is the culmination of both these approaches. To understand earth's conifer diversity, it takes lifelong dedication to the subject. Paging through the fourteen pound, two-volume set, I was flabbergasted at the dedication of everyone involved. The books are composed of full page layouts for each of the more than 500 species with descriptions, photographs, and an additional paragraph of interesting facts about the species and its environment. In addition there are sections on conifer habitats, classification, conservation, bark, etc. 
    One of my favorite pastimes is to look for information about common ornamental plants in their native habitats. I spent a lot of time in Colorado wondering about the Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila), but there was only one book in the Helen Fowler Library that had a small, grainy photograph of its native habitat. Now I don't have to wonder about it anymore or about the habitat and form of Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis). Aleppo has been in the news lately and that has fueled my curiosity about Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis) and its natural environment. My mother planted it in our front yard in Pasadena 45 years ago along with Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo subsp. mugo). I can live her daydreams as well as my own with the photographs and descriptions in this book. It is a tie between us, now that I can no longer communicate with her. I think she would have soaked in the landscapes just as I did.
    The volumes may appear daunting to the amateur, but really, anyone can dip in anywhere and come away with a sense of wonder. Sometimes it is the wonder of why we try to grow a plant in an environment so different from its natural one. There is that Mugo Pine my mother bought for the Pasadena front yard with its hot summer, Mediterranean climate at maybe 950 foot elevation. How much water did she need to give the little pine that is native to the Alps, Carpathian, and Balkan mountains at 1200-foot elevation at the lowest? From this book you understand it is a timberline tree, buffeted by high mountain alpine winds. What were we thinking when we thought it was a suitable conifer for California foundation plantings? The timberline part explains why it is multistemmed and dwarfed, making it a perfect looking foundation plant, but not sustainable. I don't think it is in front of the house anymore. All these musings are easily entertained when flipping through the book. Obsessions are indulged too, especially for me in volume 2. I can travel with the authors through the western U.S. and wonder: "What road were they on when they took that photograph?" And, yes, Half Dome in Yosemite is the perfect backdrop for the illustration of Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa). I can just hand this to a customer and say, "If you like conifers,
spend a little time here." Now as a librarian, I ponder, "How is a book better than Google?" That's an easy answer in this case, but not obvious to those craning their necks to look at their smart phone or transfixed by a screen, unable to get up from the computer to go to a library. It's all about the detailed thought process and the years of effort to create something scholarly, comprehensive and thought-provoking: developing the idea, deciding on the scope, gathering information, editing (by both scientists and copyeditors), designing. Every stage included a group of experts who were continually vetting the information. "Do we have the best photograph of Ponderosa Pine?" "How does the Baja California population of the rare Cuyamaca Cypress relate to those in the San Diego area?" This may seem absurd to point out, but that's where we currently stand in the information world. I can imagine (sort of) a future for this information as a website with links to all the parts of the book, habitat, range maps, bark photographs, and the main entry page, but that wouldn't bring me all the joy I had browsing page by page and reciting facts to my volunteers as we were working on our used book sale. It's also hard for me to imagine that a website would make my heart sing the way these books did. The package is available from DendroPress http://www.dendropress.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=7 and was €186 joyfully spent.
 
Susan C. EubankConifers Around the World: Conifers of the Temperate Zones and Adjacent Regions by Zsolt Debreczy, István Rácz; a much revised and extended translation by the authors of their Fenyők a Föld körül [...]; edited by Kathy Musial.
Budapest: DendroPress Ltd., 2011.
 
Reviewed by Susan C. Eubank
Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, Arcadia, CA
 
There have been scholarly reviews of this book else-where, most notably Peter Del Tredici's review in Amoldia, July 2012 http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/2012-70-l-book-review..., so I won't try to reproduce that scholarship in this review. Instead, I'd like to share my perspective as a librarian and book lover. In library orientations, I talk about certain books that represent a life's work. Think of Howard Scott Gentry's Agaves of Continental North America (Tucson, Ariz.: University of Arizona Press, 1982). There are authors who write on the same subject over and over, bigger and better. Think J.D. Vertrees and the four editions or revisions of Japanese Maples. Or Michael Dirr and his works on trees and shrubs published as a textbook; several glossy, color-illustrated books; a CD; and an interactive DVD. 
Conifers Around the World is the culmination of both these approaches. To understand earth's conifer diversity, it takes lifelong dedication to the subject. Paging through the fourteen pound, two-volume set, I was flabbergasted at the dedication of everyone involved. The books are composed of full page layouts for each of the more than 500 species with descriptions, photographs, and an additional paragraph of interesting facts about the species and its environment. In addition there are sections on conifer habitats, classification, conservation, bark, etc. 
    One of my favorite pastimes is to look for information about common ornamental plants in their native habitats. I spent a lot of time in Colorado wondering about the Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila), but there was only one book in the Helen Fowler Library that had a small, grainy photograph of its native habitat. Now I don't have to wonder about it anymore or about the habitat and form of Canary Island Pine (Pinus canariensis). Aleppo has been in the news lately and that has fueled my curiosity about Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis) and its natural environment. My mother planted it in our front yard in Pasadena 45 years ago along with Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo subsp. mugo). I can live her daydreams as well as my own with the photographs and descriptions in this book. It is a tie between us, now that I can no longer communicate with her. I think she would have soaked in the landscapes just as I did.
    The volumes may appear daunting to the amateur, but really, anyone can dip in anywhere and come away with a sense of wonder. Sometimes it is the wonder of why we try to grow a plant in an environment so different from its natural one. There is that Mugo Pine my mother bought for the Pasadena front yard with its hot summer, Mediterranean climate at maybe 950 foot elevation. How much water did she need to give the little pine that is native to the Alps, Carpathian, and Balkan mountains at 1200-foot elevation at the lowest? From this book you understand it is a timberline tree, buffeted by high mountain alpine winds. What were we thinking when we thought it was a suitable conifer for California foundation plantings? The timberline part explains why it is multistemmed and dwarfed, making it a perfect looking foundation plant, but not sustainable. I don't think it is in front of the house anymore. All these musings are easily entertained when flipping through the book. Obsessions are indulged too, especially for me in volume 2. I can travel with the authors through the western U.S. and wonder: "What road were they on when they took that photograph?" And, yes, Half Dome in Yosemite is the perfect backdrop for the illustration of Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa). I can just hand this to a customer and say, "If you like conifers,
spend a little time here." Now as a librarian, I ponder, "How is a book better than Google?" That's an easy answer in this case, but not obvious to those craning their necks to look at their smart phone or transfixed by a screen, unable to get up from the computer to go to a library. It's all about the detailed thought process and the years of effort to create something scholarly, comprehensive and thought-provoking: developing the idea, deciding on the scope, gathering information, editing (by both scientists and copyeditors), designing. Every stage included a group of experts who were continually vetting the information. "Do we have the best photograph of Ponderosa Pine?" "How does the Baja California population of the rare Cuyamaca Cypress relate to those in the San Diego area?" This may seem absurd to point out, but that's where we currently stand in the information world. I can imagine (sort of) a future for this information as a website with links to all the parts of the book, habitat, range maps, bark photographs, and the main entry page, but that wouldn't bring me all the joy I had browsing page by page and reciting facts to my volunteers as we were working on our used book sale. It's also hard for me to imagine that a website would make my heart sing the way these books did. 
 
Susan C. Eubank