Friday, September 2, 2011

Seeing Trees, a new book from Timber Press

I am thrilled to be able to review this new title from Timber Press, it is gorgeous! When I started reading I hoped to finish feeling more educated about trees, less “tree stupid.” Instead a whole new world of tree mystery has opened up. Knowing the name of the tree is just the very beginning. The book’s photographer, Robert Llewellyn, has captured the tiniest details while creating artful images that encourage you to look closer, not just at the subjects of his photos but at every leaf, branch, flower and seed you see. For example would you have guessed that the image above is of the true flowers of a Cornus florida (Dogwood)? What we are used to thinking of as the flower are actually the tree's white petal-like bracts.

As I understand it this is the second book for the duo of Nancy Ross Hugo and Mr. Llewellyn. To get you in the right frame of mind Nancy outlines several strategies for tree viewing such as: “look down instead of up” this might seem counterintuitive when talking about a tree but think about how hard it is to examine tree features when your subject is 20 ft up! It’s much easier when you can hold a fallen leaf or twig in your hand.

This got me thinking of my first encounter with a Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). I had walked under the tree for years but had never really seen it, not until the day some of its flower petals had fallen to the ground and I stopped to stare in amazement. Pictures like this one below, of its emerging leaves, tell me there is even more to discover (and an achingly beautiful image of a Liriodendron tulipifera flower in the book leaves no doubt that this tree is a member of the Magnolia family). Seeing Trees contains in-depth profiles of 10 common trees (it’s worth noting these trees were chosen because they grow in central Virginia, so depending on where you live they may not be common to you…still the information and way in which they are studied, and described, is transferable), one of which is the American Sycamore. There are multiple photos that illustrate the progression of the “Sycamore ball” from its early stages through seed dispersal and after (shown here) and then on to emerging in the spring. It’s the details like these that make me want to pick a couple of neighborhood trees and study them, through all the seasons.

In reading I managed to solve a personal tree mystery, one that causes me hours of frustration every summer. What are those evil little things that fall from the Fir trees behind us to litter the patio, and collect around my agave spikes? They are the male cones of course! It seems so obvious now that I know.

The section on the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) was my favorite. I’ve been in love with this tree since, well, forever. Reading Seeing Trees on a sunny Sunday afternoon in the garden (because the garden is best place to read), then realizing I had positioned myself under the shade of my magnolia (M. macrophylla), a tree I planted, made the experience all the richer.

Photos of the Magnolia flower and cone (follicetum) like this magnified image of the sticky stigma had me putting the book down and heading to the garage to get a ladder so I could study the maturing cones on my tree up close! Do you want to win a signed copy of this book? How about a signed 16” x 20” print of one of the photographs from the book? Then you’ll want to visit the Timber Press website and sign up, all you need is an email address enter! Hurry the contest closes September 9th...

(and yes, they did send me a copy of the book to review…but I’m keeping it!)


  1. Now there is a coffee table book worthy of the space.

  2. I'm waiting for these two new titles. The Timber Press Guide to Succulent Plants of the World: A Comprehensive Reference to More than 2000 Species by Fred Dortort and The Gardener's Guide to Cactus: The 100 Best Paddles, Barrels, Columns, and Globes by Scott Calhoun.

    Just like Christmas!!!!!!!

  3. Looks both beautiful and useful. I love Liriodendron tulipfera: we had one in our last garden. It was a stately tree and provided welcome cooling, especially on hot summer days.

    Off to enter the contest!

  4. Timber Press is very generous. I've reviewed several of their books for my [hardcopy] articles. This looks like a winner.

  5. I signed up already. I could not find rules so I hope location doesn't disqualify me.

    My "trees" are still young so I don't need a ladder (yet) to appreciate them. I will share your article with a friend of mine who loves trees.


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