Evolution of the Annual Book Award Program
The American Horticultural Society honors outstanding garden-related books published in North America through its annual Book Award Program, which began with a list of 75 Great American Garden Books as part of the Society’s celebration of its 75th anniversary in 1997. Each year since then, a distinguished committee of garden communicators selects the award recipients from among the year’s new books submitted by publishers. Books are judged on qualities such as writing style, authority, accuracy, and physical quality. Because of this focus on the overall quality of the winning books, the award is presented jointly to the author and publisher of each book.
Nominations are accepted for the AHS Book Awards each fall.
The Complete Book of Ferns
by Mobee Weinstein. Cool Springs Press.
Mobee Weinstein, foreman of gardeners for outdoor gardens at the New York Botanical Garden, offers readers an in-depth, yet not overwhelming, ode to the fern. Within its pages are sections on the history of the fern, botany, growing techniques, profiles of 70 different varieties, and even fern projects. Judge Amy Campion appreciated that the book includes both indoor and outdoor ferns contributing to its appeal to gardeners and houseplant aficionados alike. The judges were impressed by the beautiful photographs throughout; Viveka Neveln noted that making a book visually appealing when the plant photographs are mostly green is no small feat.
Plant Partners: Science-Based Companion Planting Strategies for the Vegetable Garden
by Jessica Walliser. Storey Publishing.
Bringing science-based evidence to the lore and old wives’ tales, author Jessica Walliser brings a fresh approach to companion planting and eye-opening information about plant interactions above and underground. Susan Eubank, judge and botanical librarian, declared that the book, “made me happy” because of its practicality and ease of use. Kim Toscano Holmes commended the author for taking the time to “compile all the research and put it together in a really great package.” She has found that there is a growing interest in this topic and feels comfortable pointing people to an evidence-based resource.
Additional Titles from the Committee’s Top 10 Books of 2020
In selecting this year’s award winners, the AHS Book Committee also considered the following eight books that emerged as top candidates from the more than 50 books that were nominated for the award.
Growing Under Cover: Techniques for a More Productive, Weather-Resistant, Pest-Free Vegetable Garden by Niki Jabbour. Storey Publishing.
Growing Weed in the Garden: A No-Fuss, Seed-to-Stash Guide to Outdoor Cannabis Cultivation by Johanna Silver. Abrams.
Grow Your Soil!: Harness the Power of the Soil Food Web to Create Your Best Garden Ever by Diane Miessler. Storey Publishing.
Herbarium: The Quest to Preserve and Classify the World’s Plants by Barbara M. Theirs. Timber Press.
Nature’s Best Hope by Douglas Tallamy. Timber Press.
Uprooted: A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again by Page Dickey. Timber Press.
The Wardian Case: How a Simple Box Moved Plants and Changed the World by Luke Keogh. University of Chicago Press.
Windcliff: A Story of People, Plants, and Gardens by Daniel J. Hinkley. Timber Press.
AHS’s 2021 Book Award Committee was chaired by William Aldrich, past president and fellow of GardenComm, Garden Communicators International from Springfield, Missouri. Other members include Kimberly Toscano Holmes, a freelance communicator and professional horticulturist based in Stillwater, Oklahoma; Susan Eubank, an arboretum librarian at Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden; Amy Campion, a Portland, Oregon-based freelance writer and co-author of Gardening in the Pacific Northwest; Viveka Neveln, garden editor for BHG.com in Des Moines, Iowa; Doug Oster, garden writer, television producer, and host from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Caleb Melchior, a Fort Myers, Florida based landscape architect, writer, and podcaster.