If you’re looking for an easy read with substance and good photos, I think the “Pennsylvania: Getting Started Garden Guide” fits the bill. This book can be enjoyed by the casual gardener and experienced alike. Similarly, it provides foundational information for landscapers passionate about expanding their horticultural knowledge.
The book begins with introductory knowledge to Pennsylvania’s climate and soils. It provides snippets on basic plant science by stressing the importance of meeting the cultural conditions of plants (“right plant, right spot”) and providing them with proper spacing in the landscape. The book provides definitions of terms that I find are used ambiguously such as “full sun” and “part shade.” Basic design tips are also provided and tailored for general landscaping.
Most of the book is divided into sections of 1 to 2-page profiles on noteworthy garden plants. Plants are categorized by type: annuals, evergreens and conifers, groundcovers, lawn, ornamental grasses, perennials, shrubs, trees, and vines. Each profile includes pictures, size and habit descriptions, their cultural requirements, and recommended cultivars.
While this book isn’t meant to be a comprehensive inventory of all garden-worthy plants, I think it gives a well-rounded approach to many of the superior plants that are available in quality garden centers. Please note that Allegheny and Westmoreland counties exist in USDA hardiness zones 5-6 so plants listed as zone 7 (such as Philadelphia) are not cold hardy here.
Additionally included are a glossary, a list of Pennsylvania Award Winning Plants, pointers in troubleshooting garden problems, and a list of public gardens around the Keystone State. If you’re looking for a book to cover your bases in garden and landscaping, I recommend this one.