By Robin Y. Rivet, for Let’s Talk Plants! December 2022.
Do-it-yourself Help - Tree Pulp for Your Bookshelf.
Our Mediterranean tree canopy is diverse and its stressors unique, so short of hiring an expert arborist, are there are worthy arboriculture books for DIYers? Yes, but plant guides are ubiquitous, and most are geared for temperate climates, so here are some of my favorite, well-thumbed, and illustrated tree reference books – all suitable for local information.
A must-have book for your library is Matt Ritter’s “A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us”. This beautifully illustrated gem of prose reveals a keen reverence for what it means to be a tree. Dr. Ritter prepared academic-styled dichotomous keys that use ordinary, descriptive words to make tree-identification easier for non-botanists. You can glimpse the updated edition here. And, if you’re unfamiliar with the online urban tree key to identify hundreds of California trees visually, this Cal-poly SLO web-site is sure to be your friend.
What if tree pests and diseases are driving you crazy? The University of California & Agriculture and Natural Resource (ANR) published a reasonably priced, comprehensive volume that homes in on species-specific pests and diseases, and how to manage them. Third Edition: Pests of Landscape Trees and Shrubs: An Integrated Pest Management Guide. It compiled a “Problem Solving Guide” with tables of tree woes, and what to look for in the field. If you’re a real sleuth and seek books that target IPM for agricultural species, you can order excellent ANR volumes specifically addressing stone fruit, pome fruit, avocados, citrus and more here, as well as for abiotic issues and solutions.
Fruit tree growing is trendy, but there are myths out there - and IMHO (in my humble opinion,) much dubious advice. If you want help with fruit tree selection, planting, pruning, and fertilizers; this is your all-around best resource, “The Home Orchard – Growing Your Own Deciduous Fruit and Nut Trees”. Published by the University of California/ANR, it covers all facets of backyard orchard culture with an appendix of month-to-month crop calendars of “to-do lists” for common fruits, as well as tables describing types of pruning, which species prefer which methods, and when to cut them. A word of warning to those still using R. Sanford Martin’s time-honored fruit tree pruning guide - published in 1944. Still sold today and touted as gospel, there’s modern arboricultural research that contradicts some of his instructions, so unless you know where he errs; do practice caution…
If you’d like to experiment with locally adapted sub-tropical and tropical fruits, Julia Morton’s “Fruits of Warm Climates” is an encyclopedic view of unusual edible species. Although not written for Southern California, many of these rarer fruits are adaptable in our county, so it’s a venerable addition for an edible plant lover’s library, along with this “Ultimate Fruit and Nuts” tome.
Global comprehensive plant volumes are often overrated, but if money is no option, do invest in “Landscape Plants for California Gardens”. The cover appears bland, but its content is dazzling, even if the author missed the boat on some of San Diego’s notable trees (like crape myrtles), and categorizes plants using the vaguely unknown WUCOLS watering designations.
If price matters, buy this gorgeous book: I covet this “American Horticultural Society Southwest SmartGarden™ Regional Guides” wildly colorful spines and photographs, luring the reader to drool over its organized tree choices for butterflies, weeping habits, colorful bark, and so much more! It is out-of-print, but you can still purchase editions online. It’s truly a dessert book for the eye.
Notable additions for bibliophiles:
Landscape Palms: Very useful illustrated book for distinguishing palm species
A New Tree Biology: Dr. Shigo’s seminal research about modern arboricultural understanding and practices
Up by Roots: Architect James Urban’s scrutiny of tree root growth, especially in containerized specimens
Structural Tree Pruning: ISA Industry standards and specifications
Wood Decay Fungi: UC printable PDF guide to common CA fungus
Trees of Balboa Park: Older volume describing the park’s trees from ~2003.
Eucalyptus: Brooker and Koenig’s Illustrated Guide to Identification of Eucalypts
Street Trees Recommended for Southern California: Street Tree Seminar’s bound volume on useful municipal species
A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants: Comprehensive index of world plants; contains useful propagation tips
Trees and Shrubs of California: A basic field guide with a dichotomous key for ID of native California trees and shrubs
Guideline specifications for Nursery Quality: A printable PDF via Cal-Fire to educate public awareness
Developments in California Arboriculture Law: Ever-changing compilation of CA tree case laws and statutes
Arborists' Certification Study Guide, Fourth Edition Do you want to become a certified arborist?