I feel like this every time a new edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book arrives. (I wish I could just embed that video–that would be so awesome–but copyright protections are just so sophisticated these days.  Go watch the first 30 seconds or so and come back.)

Okay?  Yeah.  The new Sunset book is here!  Things are going to start happening to me now!

I know that it’s rare for me to get so excited about a reference book, but if you live on the West Coast, this is THE book to have.  It’s the first book any gardener will buy, and it’s the only book we’ll keep buying, as each new edition comes out. It is indispensable. That’s a pretty good deal those Sunset people have–just release a new edition every once in a while, and watch people ditch their old one and line up to get the next one.

The book describes 9000 plants, which always leads me to think that if it isn’t in Sunset, I’m either very impressed or highly suspicious.  The charming yet vexing illustrations have been replaced with clear, useful photographs. Bits of how-to are sprinkled throughout.  There’s a renewed emphasis on edibles.  Pretty much everything you’d want is here.  I think the highest praise I can give to an updated reference book is that I look through it and just shrug and go, “Yep.  They did it.” 

Now, for those of you who don’t live out here, you must understand that the most useful thing Sunset has done for us is to tell the USDA zone map to go screw itself.  Well, Sunset didn’t actually say that.  I said that.  What Sunset actually did was to create their own zone map that breaks the western states (New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Saskatchewan, and everything west of that) into 29 microclimate-specific zones that help us figure out what will ACTUALLY grow in our gardens.  I’m in zone 17, although I do feel some kinship with zone 15.

So my favorite feature of the new edition is the vegetable planting charts that begin on page 700. My vegetable gardening attempts have been so hit-or-miss in the last few years that I really don’t know, for instance, when to plant a turnip. (January, says Sunset, or Aug/Sept.) Believe me, once I finish chicken-proofing my raised beds, I’m going to put that chart to good use.

I thought I was going to get through this post without the requisite “final paragraph quibble” but I here it is after all:

Now, some of you may be wondering:  where’s the ebook?  Where’s the iPad version, with embedded video, links to sources, slideshows showing the plant in every stage of growth, etc?  Well, there’s not one. There’s also no straightforward ebook edition of any kind (I can see why–all design-rich books look terrible in standard ebook formatting.) There is a pretty useful plant finder online, but some plants are missing photos or only have the drawings.  I hear there’s a smartphone app, but I can’t find it after 10 minutes of searching online and on iTunes, so it might as well not exist if it’s not easy to find.

So–but–well–that’s okay, I guess. If they start planning now, the next edition can be some sort of database-driven thing that can go print or digital. Maybe the technology will have matured a little by then, anyway.

Okay, now it’s your turn! Comment to win a free copy–just tell us your own Sunset story, or tell us why you so desperately need a new edition, or–you know. Just post a comment. Extra credit this time for limericks or other verse forms. You have until Monday-ish.  Go!