Cool Green Gardens

Book Giveaway Exclusively for California Gardeners

California Gardener's Guide, Vol. II by Nan Sterman
California Gardener's Guide, Vol. II by Nan Sterman

Author’s Note: When I started this blog a few years ago, I explained that a lot of what I write about would be West Coast-centric. Well, I’m going to narrow that down a little bit more and target just my fellow Golden State gardeners. We’ll be giving away a copy of this book to one lucky California gardener who leaves a comment at the end of this blog. Don’t try anything sneaky; we’ll know if you’re playing fair when we contact the winner for his/her shipping address.

I’m sorry. I’m really late. I should have posted this blog before you sent your letter to Santa. But there’s a book that needs to be in every California gardener’s collection, right next to the big green one I’m not going to mention by name. (Hint: it rhymes with “Unset Cistern Pardon Crook”).

Nan Sterman’s California Gardener’s Guide, Volume II, (Cool Springs Press) fills in much of the info that (okay, you pried it out of me) the Sunset Western Garden Book sometimes leaves me guessing about.

Although Sunset includes more than 8000 plants in their encyclopedia, the specific information about each plant is sometimes inconsistent. I can look up one plant and find out everything I need to know (including its SSN and high school transcripts), while another plant’s listing leaves out something critical, like how wide the plant gets at maturity.

Filling In The Gaps

That’s why I always happy when a plant I need to know more about is listed in Sterman’s book. California Gardener’s Guide takes a “less is more” and a “more is more” approach: It lists only 186 plants, but packs each entry with well-researched, vital information that helps me make intelligent plant selection decisions.

The book starts with inspiring and informative introductory chapters explaining California’s enviable Mediterranean climate and its affect on the garden. Sterman explains the pronounced differences in growing conditions throughout this diverse state, including easy-to-understand tables showing typical rainfall and high/low temperatures in major five regions.

Sterman’s advice about planning, installing, and caring for a garden is steeped in the most fundamental concepts of sustainable landscaping: Know your site and the growing conditions each plant will face; apply the principles of water-efficient gardening; and take the time to intelligently match the right plant to the right place.

Practical and Easy To Use

The book is organized by plant categories: annuals & biennials, bulbs, fruits, ground covers, herbs, shrubs, succulents, trees, and vines. Each listing includes interesting facts, observations, and descriptions. When, Where, and How To Plant explains which regions of California are best suited to each plant, the amount of sun or shade it requires, and soil preference. Growing Tips discusses watering and fertilization, and Care gives insights into the best way to prune, and possible pests that might stop by for a munch.

African Daisy ( Arctotis Hybrids ) African Daisy (Arctotis Hybrids) Page
icons My favorite feature is Sterman’s spot-on recommendations for Companion Planting and Design, suggesting ways to use each plant (as a hedge, erosion controlling ground cover, windbreak, etc.), as well as other plants that look good with it.

If the featured plant has a close relative or there are variations on the species, Sterman lists those as well, opening up a greater range of plants to suit your needs.

You even get a state map showing where the plant is hardy, as well as colorful little icons at the bottom of each page indicating water usage, sun preference, whether it attracts butterflies, its wildlife habitat value, and a dozen other useful factoids.

The last chapter, Tips and Techniques for California Gardening, rounds out this marvelous book, explaining soil drainage, mulching, pruning, caring for perennials, and more.

I was going to close by writing, “Add this wonderful reference to your book shelf,” but my guess is it’s not going to be spending much time there. More likely, it’ll be found on your nightstand, or next to your morning bowl of granola, or in the garden conveniently balanced on your wheelbarrow.

Post a comment for a chance to win a copy of California Gardener’s Guide, Volume II

To enter the drawing, register for this site (or log in, if you are already a member) and post a comment about this review. One lucky winner will receive a copy of this book.

To be eligible for the drawing, you must be a California resident, and your comment must be posted by February 28.

Author Nan Sterman

Find out more about Nan’s writing, speaking, garden coaching, design, and TV/radio adventures at Nan Sterman’s Plant Soup website.

View Comments


  1. PureManureTea 02/02/2011

    As a true California toil in the soil garden gal I would be honored to have a copy of this book to grace the table in my ranch house : )

  2. Roblaluna 02/02/2011

    Everyone should be aware of HR875 and S425 and the Congresswoman who proposed them Rosa L DeLauro. This bill could shut down organic farmsteads and even small gardens with Federal authority overseeing what you put in the earth,,Monsanto is all for it,,,go figure.


  3. starbreiz 02/03/2011

    Ooooo. If I don't win this, imma have to buy it. I used to think I had a brown thumb, but then I moved to California. No water softener, no harsh winters.

  4. karebearrawr 02/03/2011

    Oh, how awesome! I'd love that book. I'm in the process of building a raised bed garden in my backyard, and have never been so excited for Spring!

  5. alamedagardener 02/04/2011

    OK, I'm intrigued. I think anyone who wants to tackle the gardening throughout the entire state of California has to be a little bit nuts, but I'll bite. I'd love to check out the book.

  6. rhusovata 02/05/2011

    I look forward to a book that doesn't try to replicate English or East Coast landscaping. California has a Mediterranean climate. We can revel in those wonderful plants that survive and thrive in our summer-dry climate. (Not forgetting, of course, year round veggies, fruits & herbs.)

  7. gabev23 02/06/2011

    Hi im gabe, Im a student at fresno state in plant science hoping to pursue a career in horticulture. Possibly design, or in public gardens. I as you mentioned use the Sunset Garden book a lot and feel that it either provides mostly to little of information to me. I would really like to see how your book narrows in on just california plants and gives presice detailed info on them helping us californians out :)

    thank you.

  8. luv_goldens 02/07/2011

    Oh, this looks like such a fun book. I was immediately interested by the beautiful pictures of the Matilija poppies on the cover. California is such a wonderful place for gardening, and I am love trying new plants all the time.

  9. knitcat 02/07/2011

    I'll check out this book to see if it really gives information about my zone - the rocky Sierra foothills. I am so tired of books devoted to English or east coast style gardens. California is beautiful and we should celebrate it.

  10. jimmy_ja 02/07/2011

    Roblaluna is well intentioned, I am sure, but posting unresearched and unverified information in a forum such as this does no one any favors. Reading the actual bills referenced shows Robert's post to be ill informed.

    Additional reading could begin with:



  11. Tengrain 02/07/2011

    The description of your book makes it sound really useful to us Left Coast Gardeners. So much of the garden press is either UK-centric or US East Coast centric that I often wonder why I try to research anything because the information is almost never written for me. So I usually turn to Sunset.

    "I can look up one plant and find out everything I need to know (including its SSN and high school transcripts), while another plant's listing leaves out something critical, like how wide the plant gets at maturity."

    That's such a good observation; the info--when it is complete--is very good, but you can tell that they don't go back and update existing plant descriptions often or with enough rigor.I found an old Sunset Western Gardening Book (maybe from the early 40s?) and looked up an annual, and looked up the same one in the current edition; it was virtually the same.

    Still, whenever I have friends and colleagues move to California from elsewhere, I always give them a copy of Sunset as a Welcome present. Now I may have to give them a copy of your book instead.

  12. morksgarden 02/07/2011

    I'm with knitcat! In the California foothills it's colder in the winter and hotter in the summer so I'm hoping this book gives a better than average nod to us. We're Californians too.

  13. Lindakm 02/07/2011

    The cover of this book is gorgeous! I am tired of wasting my time with plants that are inappropriate for my area and would love to invest my time towards plantings that will be successful and thrive.

  14. aacrane 02/07/2011

    Looks like a good reference specifically set to my climate! Woohoo! No more reading gardening info with "a grain of salt" making sure it was true for the sunbelt! I do like my Sunset reference as well, but if it has more info, I'm all for it. This is a book to use, regularly!

  15. Funcooking 02/08/2011

    Living just over the hill from Santa Barbara the wonderful selection of plants in Santa Barbara does not always work for my garden where the winter nights can get down into the low 20's. It would be great to have a better guide to plants that will make it through our winter and handle our warmer summers. Looking forward to finding a copy to peruse through.

  16. mtngirl 02/08/2011

    I need this book. Is it too early to prune? too late? When do I plant winter crops? What do I sow directly into the soil? My area is so full of micro climates I can't even figure out my zone.

  17. donnamac216 02/08/2011

    This book is going to be s-o-o-o helpful to me! I am a new resident to SoCal from Ohio. I have talked to garden center experts but still seem to find myself roaming aimlessly through the rows of plants and see SO many that I would love to have (ones that would not grow back in OH) and end up getting nothing. So far, my garden consists of all succulents given to me by a friend. I will now have the perfect guide to get me started!!!

  18. rebeaton 02/08/2011

    I have been an avid and passionate Eastern gardener where I have lived for my adult life thus far. However, I have just remarried and my husband is at UC Davis where I will move once my home sells in Maryland and so I am scrambling to learn all I can about Califonia gardening in order to hit the ground running when I get out there. Needless to say it is quite overwhelming because California is so different from the gardening I know. I have aquired a few references (The Sunset Western Guide, for one)but this one sounds like the perfect one to help me fill in the gaps and plan properly so I feel I need to add it to my California gardening library and would be very pleased to 'win' a copy at this time of too many extra expenses. Thanks.

  19. LevanaCondon 02/08/2011

    this book looks like it would be an excellent resource for an impulsive over purchaser who loves all plants and tries to have them all even if they aren't in my zone. I'm always sure I can make it work until the poor plant dies off. The height of glory has been my daughter recently getting a home with a yard of her own and what do you know but that she is asking mom for gardening advice! There is hope after all that the next generation will love gardening as much as I have. the book looks like it would be an indispensable resource for multiple generations in our family.

  20. annielizabeth 02/08/2011

    Wow, I could always use a greener thumb (through education)! I am re-doing my front yard and this would be so helpful in choosing the best plants to put where. Thanks for offering this book giveaway. Maybe you could giveaway more than one copy??

  21. Ilovesuculents 02/09/2011

    Calling California home now (just a few more boxes to unpack!) a blank canvas awaits me outside my patio garden home, purchased just 3 months ago. My goal? To create an oasis...a peaceful and restful place to relax and unwind...but one created as a caring human, respecting our planet, applying principles of sustainability and water-efficiency. With this in mind and really not knowing where to begin as a beginner gardener, guidance and insight from the simple-to-use format of the California Gardener's Guide, is sure to lead me and others down the right path in creating eco-friendly garden and landscaping spaces to enjoy for years to come.

  22. Jane_A 02/09/2011

    Love the Matilija Poppy on the front, I hope I can get them established at my place. This book looks like a winner for California gardeners, I'm eager to see a copy - either won or purchased!

  23. isismorningstar 02/09/2011

    This book sounds like just what I need. I have other gardening books but I want one that specifies the plants that will grow in Southern Californa. I am a new gardener and want to plant the right plants for my area.

  24. S_tresslis 02/10/2011

    Having lived in SBar now 10 years moving from Honolulu, I can truly call Santa Barbara the other Paradise! Every day collecting more gardening instructions, tips and visions allows me to "dig deeper" into what would make my gardens happier. I would love to add this special book to my library of references.

  25. SBChris 02/15/2011

    I am a librarian at the SB Central Library. After reading Billy's review of this book I did a check of our catalog -- Santa Barbara Public Library does not have it! SLO has it, Santa Maria has it, but I fear that our shrinking book budget (or our oversight!) caused us to miss this book. We try to buy the best books on sustainable horticulture, water-wise garden design, native gardening, permaculture, drought-tolerant planting, and related subjects, but clearly we missed this one. I would love for the SB Central Library to win this book for all library patrons to use and enjoy. And if we do, I'll buy a second copy for the Goleta Library!

  26. mpstinson 02/16/2011

    As a newbie gardener with few gardener friends, so I rely on web sites and books. Unfortunately, and to my surprise considering the population of California, I have found few California-centric gardening resources. I did purchase Sunset's Western Garden book but it didn't do much for me. It looks good on my bookshelf but it hasn't been very useful to me. Is this the answer? We'll see. On the basis of this review, I'll put this on my wish list. Thanks!

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