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Book Review: The Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens

The Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens
by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

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336 pages
Cool Springs Press, 2011
List price: $19.99

So many gardens, so little time. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a travel guide that compiled all the great gardens you could visit in the U.S. and Canada, and gardening events, too? Thanks to the work of Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp and Cool Springs Press, now there is.

One of the first things I do when I’m planning a trip to anywhere, whether the purpose of the travel has anything to do with gardening or not, is to see if there are any public gardens that I can visit while I’m there. I usually do a Google search, ask friends, or look in the phone book after I’ve arrived. But with this handy guide, all the information I really need is in one place.

The Visitor’s Guide to American Gardens, by its own admission, isn’t complete, but it comes pretty close. Organized by state (and Canada), more than 400 gardens are profiled, with details such as address, phone, website, hours and any fees associated with them. Of course some of these are subject to change, but the information needed to contact the gardens is provided so you can double-check it before your visit, including QR codes for many. If your favorite garden or event isn’t included in this guide, contact information is given so that it may be provided and added to future editions.

At the back, there’s also a monthly guide to flower and garden shows, listed by state. Basic maps make up another section showing the location of the gardens. Several travel companies are listed, with flower show and garden destinations where they lead tours.

If I could make one improvement on the book, it would be to make it more pocket-sized so that I could carry it in my purse during my travels. It’s not large (9” x 6” x 1”), but it’s not really small enough for me to consider it a pocket version. Photos are sparse, so if you want a book that gives a visual preview of the gardens, this isn't it, but the information presented is all you'll need to plan your own visits.

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp is a professional writer and inveterate garden visitor. She has been writing about gardens and gardening since 1989, when she began writing for The Indianapolis Star. In addition to maintaining a weekly column for the Star, Sharp regularly contributes articles to IndianaGardening and Angie's List Magazine. This is her second book. She is co-author of the Indiana Gardener's Guide (2003).

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Read Kylee Baumle’s blog, Our Little Acre.