The NEW Sunset Western Garden Book

by Genevieve on March 22, 2012

Post image for The NEW Sunset Western Garden Book

16 years ago, when I took my first horticulture class, The Sunset Western Garden Book was the very first book I bought. Its status in the West is such that I owned three copies by the end of my first year: one old edition which had the best basic gardening tips, one new edition with the most current plant listings and up-to-date science, and a battered, muddy one which I took with me everywhere.

I’ve been through three updates over the years, and it’s one of the few books that I pre-order and squeal when the new one comes out, because this is it – if you’re a gardener on the West Coast, you either have this book or, um – you may be overestimating how seriously you’ve been taking this “gardening” thing.

You may be wondering how different this new edition could really be? Well, for one, it has photos. Yep, the charming but often-frustrating illustrations have been replaced with vivid, beautiful photographs. And thank god, they put back the plant index, which was missing in the last edition.

The Plant Finder lists in the front have been revamped, with the old sections on broad categories of plants such as “annuals, “vines” and “ferns” replaced with more useful sections on “ornamental edibles”, “plants that attract beneficial insects”, “sculptural plants”, “plants for moon gardens” and more. Altogether a solid improvement, given the Plant Finder lists are already broken down by type of plant. Having “trees” listed separately was kind of overkill given that you’d be better served by going to the section that most matches your garden, such as “plants for shade”, and looking for tree ideas there.

Even better is the thematic direction they’re taking. There’s a definitely move towards clever sustainability and a contemporary style. While I buy the book for the Plant Finder lists and encyclopedia, I confess that the new emphasis on gorgeous design had me sitting down to read more carefully. The sections in the back about different ways to use both small and large succulent plants had me jotting down ideas. I just wish the book had a “pin it” button so I could add the pics to my Pinterest boards!

My very favorite aspect of the new book is their serious discussion of regional design. A garden should have a sense of place and reflect the region it grows in. Not only does using native plants and materials in the landscape reduce cost, maintenance, and the carbon footprint of trucking foreign plants from three states away, but it just feels right. When your garden has a lovely view of the redwoods yet reflects none of the beauty of the forest, you’re missing the chance to connect your own garden to something greater than yourself.

The fact that the new Sunset is discussing this and giving tools and tips for achieving a landscape that feels connected to your surroundings – well, it fills my soul. This is important stuff.

OK, I should probably stop raving on it now as you’re either convinced you need one, or you’re a lost cause. But I will say one last thing. The actual format of the book makes it a lot easier to read. The cover bends flat and the book sits open, so you can read while eating breakfast, which is a huge selling point for a large book like this.

Want to win a copy of your own? You know you do. Sunset was kind enough to offer a whopping FIVE copies to you lucky folk. Just leave a comment below and I’ll pick five winners at random on Thursday the 29th. US only. Good luck!  Jill, Debbie, Anne, Becky and Amanda are the lucky winners – congrats, guys!

{ 65 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Moskaly March 22, 2012 at 5:56 am

When I moved here from Ohio in 2000, so many plants here were foreign and exotic to me. What to plant? I had no idea. I bought a Sunset Western Garden book, and it became my trusty friend, helping choose plants for this “New World”. I haven’t bought a new one since, so please, I would love a new edition!


Mary March 22, 2012 at 6:18 am

Great review, Genevieve. My dog eared, dirt smudged 40th edition of Sunset Western Gardening Book has been my go-to work horse encyclopedia for many years, but I’d love to own the latest edition. The addition of photos and emphasis on regional gardening is definitely a plus. Native plants and sustainibility have taken precedence in my new plant choices.


Terry March 22, 2012 at 7:01 am

I would love to have this book. I’m sure it would answer every question I have about gardening.


Gmarieb March 22, 2012 at 7:04 am

Ohhhhhh, yet another garden book for my library? Yes!!!!!!!


Debbie March 22, 2012 at 7:08 am

Oh! I have a very old copy of Western Garden and would LOVE to have an update. This is an awsome book to have as a gardener!

Thank you for the opportunity to enter the drawing!


Anne Larkin March 22, 2012 at 7:20 am

What a treat it would be to have the new addition of this wonderful book. When I retired and knew nothing about plants I bought this book. It is now nearly worn out and my garden is filled with beautiful plants.

I love this web site too!


Becky Neville March 22, 2012 at 7:33 am

It was fun to read your review of the new Sunset Western Garden Book. I love my old copy and use it often for home and business. I would love to have an updated copy of this treasure of a book!


Humboldtjen March 22, 2012 at 8:16 am

I Pinned it for you…..
And I’m ashamed to admit, I don’t have a copy of this book…but I really want one!


Andrea @ The Skinny Chronicles March 22, 2012 at 8:23 am

A girl can’t possibly have enough gardening books! Ditto with cookbooks… Also, ditto with cocktail recipe books…


Terry March 22, 2012 at 8:34 am

I already bought one, but I would sure like to win another one to pass along to some lucky person in my garden club! I love the photos in place of the illustrations too! I was so tired of the illustrations, I mean, come on, we’ve had cameras for a long time now.


Katy Bannister March 22, 2012 at 8:45 am

Of course I would love the new edition of this old favorite! Love Sunset!


Allison March 22, 2012 at 8:52 am

Hee! Since I didn’t win one from my SISTER, I’d love to win one from my favorite local garden guru!


Kate March 22, 2012 at 8:54 am

As a new gardener with what I’m pretty sure is a brown thumb, I’d LOVE to have this book, especially right now as the season is just getting underway and I’m mired in my own self-doubt on how the heck to plant my veggies and have them grow and prosper and go to college and all that.


Karen Tandy March 22, 2012 at 10:09 am

I love gardening and gardening books. They are my high point in the winter here in Iowa. I would love to have this in my collection. Happy spring!!


Evonne Phillips March 22, 2012 at 10:36 am

I would love to have the new book. I have a really old one, but the new one with real pictures and the new index sounds wonderful.


Roseology March 22, 2012 at 10:47 am

I would love an updated copy to add to my other 3 versions.
This is by far the best book for gardening in our area .. where else can you read about the details and growing habits and needs of over 8,000 plants!
Sunset is the best!


Liz Clark March 22, 2012 at 10:58 am

Oh how I’d love to win this! My edition is quite old.


Roberta March 22, 2012 at 11:17 am

I have about 3 or 4 issues of this great gardening bible! But I of course would love to have the latest and greatest new edition with….. 2500 Color Photos!!!! Yay!!! :)


Robyn R. March 22, 2012 at 11:18 am

Want, want, want! I keep putting this book in my cart, but then recoiling at spending the cash when I can just ask my dad the Master Gardener.


Nancy March 22, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Sunst has been a favorite source for over 50 years for me. I have a big collection of how to books from years ago as we started our first homes.


Michelle March 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Awesome! I just heard how great this book is. Would love to win it – thanks!


Sara P. March 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Wow, I would love to win this book! I have heard wonderful things!


Ed Remsrola March 22, 2012 at 4:40 pm

Another giveaway? :^)

I’m in. The Sunset Western Garden Book was one of the first general gardening books I purchased when I was getting started in my life-long love of gardening. Yes, it really was painted on the cave wall, but that’s what we did back then.

I think I’m ready for an updated version.


Lauren A. March 22, 2012 at 5:52 pm

I gave my Sunset book away a couple years ago when I moved to the east coast. Now I’m back on the west coast and am really missing having the Sunset book. Thanks…


Julia Graham-Whitt March 22, 2012 at 6:33 pm

If I whined a lot and told you that the rain destroyed my copy (previous edition to the new one) in the back of my work truck, would that help? :-) I was drooling over the new edition at Miller Farms the other day…


Jen March 22, 2012 at 6:55 pm

I’ve heard fabulous things about this book, would be ecstatic to have a copy!


Heather Larson March 22, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Thank you for the opportunity. I really love reading your blog!


Renee March 22, 2012 at 8:08 pm



Kaveh March 22, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Pick me! Pick me! I used to wistfully read the Sunset Gardening Book when I lived in a Manhattan apartment and dream of the day I would have a garden in zone 17 California and it finally happened. I could use a new copy and this latest edition looks pretty great.


Claudia March 23, 2012 at 7:59 am

I love books! And I really love the Sunset books. I remember how disappointed I was when I couldn’t get a copy of the 2002 Western Garden Annual. I would love to get this new book to inspire me to get out there and dig!


Jill Patterson March 23, 2012 at 8:32 am

I still use my 15-year old copy of Sunset’s Western Garden book. Time for an update! Thanks for the opportunity. One of the few books that really cover SoCal gardening.


David March 23, 2012 at 8:38 am

I just moved to California from England so am trying to transition from growing stuff somewhere where there is probably too much rain and not enough sun to southern california where there’s too much sun and not enough water. Oh well am excited to grow stuff year round and stuff like eggplant which are marginal at best in an English summer.


Teresa March 23, 2012 at 8:59 am

I would love this book. I asked for a copy for my birthday and got the abbreviated version which is okay but not the same.


Judy Sundermann March 23, 2012 at 7:57 pm

My Sunset guide is ancient, and would love a newer version.


Alison March 23, 2012 at 8:12 pm

I would love to win this book. I have an older edition, but the new one sounds marvelous!


Kathy March 23, 2012 at 11:27 pm

I would love the new sunset western gardening book.Living in the pacific northwest
it would be an excellent help in my gardening.


Kelly March 23, 2012 at 11:43 pm

What a fabulous giveaway! Your review of the book had me drooling…color photos, ornamental edibles, moon gardens, a section on succulents, and an emphasis on “gorgeous design”! Surely this edition will keep on inspiring all of us gardening addicts.


Stella Barnum March 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm

Oh I would so love to get this book! Fabulous website by the way!


Maxus March 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm

OOOO! I would love this awesome book!


Maxine March 24, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Gardening books are my favorite reading, and Sunset Western Gardening Book is an often used reference. Always good to have an up-to-date edition. Thanks for the opportunity to comment.


Laura Dodd March 25, 2012 at 7:47 am

I grew up gardening with this book, and love it to bits. I nab old editions when I find them.


Sue Merris March 25, 2012 at 9:23 am

I have been using the same old one for the past 30 years and love it but an update would be fabulous. I love this book. It is a bible for gardeners across the country.


Kelly O'Keefe March 25, 2012 at 9:28 am

Most excellent! Thanks for the contest.


Sarah Z March 25, 2012 at 9:54 am

I would love the latest edition!


Leslie March 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm

What a beautiful book.


Lynda March 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm

It was also my first gardening book. I am looking forward to getting the latest update. Saw it at Costco, but I will wait to purchase, hopefully I will be one of the lucky 5!


Kelly March 25, 2012 at 10:36 pm

Sunset is the best! Would love to Win the updated copy. Thanks!


Charlotte Owendyk March 26, 2012 at 8:16 am

It was a hot summer in the 1960′s; I was 14 when I read my parents Sunset Garden Book from cover to cover.


Susan Bulger March 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

I need a new copy because the binding wore out on my fourth edition. This book is essential for every gardner.


Coco Thorpe March 26, 2012 at 11:38 am

The thought of having photos of all the plants sounds too good to be true! I would love to have a copy of this, please!


Amanda March 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm

I’ll join the queue. :)


li March 26, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Thanks for the chance to win!


Brandon March 27, 2012 at 12:10 pm

I’d like to read the section about regional design …great blog, I’ll RSS it!


Jaydyn b March 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Love to garden, just need a little help, this book would be perfect!


Niko March 27, 2012 at 3:54 pm

I’m hoping to win either this or the $300 million lottery. Either one would be good…


Johanna Manalis March 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm

I’m planning my first garden ever this year and would love to have a gardening book! I’ve appreciated many blogs and online resources as I put together my initial plans but would love a book to help me in the process. Thanks!


Harold D March 28, 2012 at 8:41 am

Thanks for the chance to win this great book.


Justin March 28, 2012 at 10:44 am

The only copy of Western Garden I have is my Grandpa’s copy from the 70′s so I could really used an updated version. Thanks!


Ima Fishman March 28, 2012 at 1:04 pm

If I don’t win, I’ll have to go buy a new one… You’ve sold me on it!


Kat March 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm

That looks great, I’d love to win a copy :)


Katie Winston March 29, 2012 at 5:04 am

may not be in the west – but definitely would appreciate a copy to help with gardening and learning all I can…


Mindy King March 29, 2012 at 5:29 am

Growing up my Mom always had this book lying around the house. I think she actually has the first edition… The cover is a faded & tattered light minty green, with the corners of the pages folded over to remind her of the plants she bought or the ones she’s carefully deciding where to plant. She would tear the labels off of plant containers and use them as place holders in her Garden Bible. You would have to be careful not to loose the little plastic plant identifiers that she also would store in the pages of the book. My Mom is the reason I love to spend my days in the garden. She showed me the joy of planting and nurturing a garden. My garden is my pride & joy… And I’m passing the same to my 3 year old son. He loves to spend time in the garden with Mommy. Thank you for bringing me down memory lane… I can almost smell the pages of my Moms old Garden Book. : )


elizabeth March 29, 2012 at 7:54 am

I would LOVE to receive a new copy of this old favorite. Mine is several editions old and I really would like the new photos.


Veronica Roper March 29, 2012 at 9:01 am

I’d LOVE to receive one of these books!
I was at Costco awhile back and saw it and have wanted the new version ever since. I even wrote a blog post about it!

Maybe your my Garden Fair? Something about having books to sit outside with while planning the next area to work on is so beautiful.

Thank you!


Nick Merrill March 29, 2012 at 10:03 am

Just found your website — great information! Love your attitude, and your advice seems applicable to Portland gardeners so I will be back a lot. Great book review — I have a very old copy and have always loved it. Thanks!


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