Gifts for tree-huggers

On first hearing about Seeing TreesDiscover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo and photographer Robert Llewellyn (Timber Press) I positively salivated. For dendrophiles, the book’s beautifully rendered cover image promises a new level of beauty and intimacy.

First, though, a confession: I’m not just a dendrophile (tree lover), I’m a treek (tree geek). I photograph them, study them and give them an occasional hug. I’m a volunteer LEAF Tree Tender, and try to steal time on Tuesdays at 2 pm EST to join the #treechat on Twitter. I have also been overheard (by wary bystanders) having one-sided conversations with trees. That’s kinda treeky.

So, when I received a review copy of the book, I was over the moon. Over. The. Mooooooon. Seeing Trees lives up to its promise, and then some. And it isn’t just for treeks; it’s for anyone fascinated by the natural world.

We talk about devouring books. This book is so rich and delicious, however, I’ve been savouring it as slowly as dark chocolate. Nancy Ross Hugo’s writing style is charmingly conversational and her ideas are not to be rushed. And Robert Llewellyn’s images beg to be poured over in minute detail.

The first of its three sections talks about how to observe trees. Seeing trees really comprehends more than the visual; it’s seeing with every sense. Hearing, smelling, touching, yes, even hugging. The next section dissects trees by their components – leaves, flowers, fruit, buds, bark – equipping you to see them more clearly. Finally, the authors provide intimate portraits of ten common trees.

Liquidambar, photographed in Seeing Trees

I’ll bet there’s someone you know who would delight in finding Seeing Trees under the, er… tree. And, if they’re like me, the perfect companion to it would be the new Dirr’s Encyclopedia of Trees and Shrubs, also from Timber Press. I didn’t receive a review copy, but Oh! how I hope Santa is reading this blog.

Michael Dirr is the Tree God in my book. That’s me hugging my tattered 1990 copy of his Manual of Woody Landscape Plants in an article about garden book faves last winter on the Seasonal Wisdom blog. I regularly refer to Dirr’s Tree & Shrub Finder app on my iPhone. Dirr’s knowledge of woody plants is, now literally, encyclopedic, and his writing style is opinionated and often entertainingly curmudgeonly. From what I’ve read from other reviewers, his new Encyclopedia is all these good things, plus updated species and cultivars and a ton (or tonne) more pictures. Santa, are you listening?


  1. It looks absolutely lovely. I wish I could be sent a review copy. I can instantly see that I'd give it a wonderful write up. Oh the cover alone! And if all the pictures are like the one you show – oh, the pictures too!

  2. Fiona, Having the Dirr Shrub & Tree Finder is like having the entire Manual of Woody Landscape Plants on your iPhone. I don't use it for ID, except to confirm my guesses. The pictures are very useful. But let's say I'm looking for a shrub/tree that conforms to certain criteria — cultural, size, flower, &c. — it's easy to search and favorite or even email the info. Once you find the trees, all of Dirr's editorial evaluations are in there, along with line drawings and photos. It's the best app on my iPhone, and a model for all garden apps to follow. Of course, I'm a tree girl.

  3. I too am a tree hugger although not too your stature Helen. The book sounds fabulous and I'm going to add it too my wish list. I'll also have to look for that app. It sounds really useful.

You might also like