Sunday, October 28, 2012

Book Review 'A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts'

I was approach by a Bookseller to review the book 'A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts' (2012) by Kelly Norris, this was before the books publication and it was an offer I turned down, the reason, Mr Norris recently became the Editor of the American Iris Society Bulletin so I had become reluctantly used to his media style, this understandably tempered my expectations for substance and possibly not the attitude required for writing a review for a bookseller who expects all the bells and whistles to sell books. However several months ago the same Bookseller offered me this book for a massively discounted price with no strings attached which I accepted. I have held off posting a review of this book but with the 'New Zealand Gardener' magazine coming out in their November 2012 publication with its so called book review is time to have a word.

With a listed ticket price of $79.99 I'm not even sure if this is a reasonable price for a 'A great coffee table addition' as one Amazon reviewer suggested, and as I have no idea what coffee table book aficionados require to fill a vacant space on a coffee table I can not say if the book fits this criteria, but I can say fairly and squarely I do not think this is a book of good value or importance to New Zealand Iris growers no matter what their status.
The style of writing is pretentious in a elitist witticism style which the publisher in their blurb consider humorous but after a couple of pages becomes tiresome, includes more than a few puzzling and unsubstantiated statements and with 300 or so colour photos that vary in quality the book could hardly be called comprehensive and to be frank there is just as much if not more information in a Schreiner's Iris catalogue ($5.00) . The book has all the appearances of being rushed into print. In the 'Red' colour section the author goes on to reference Louisians and I.fulva which is a surprise as the Book title states the scope of the book is limited to the bearded irises so this has the reader scrambling for another more authoritative book on Irises to try and understand what the writer is on about.
For New Zealand gardeners starting to find their feet in Iris growing this would be the one purchase not to buy, a good proportion of Bearded Irises listed are not available here, its gardening advise is written for North American gardeners and the books selective criteria covers only bearded iris varieties, also listing only commercial sources in North America. All of this would only lead to the reader especially if they are new to the iris world thinking that there is only a limited selection available in New Zealand.
If you have $80.00 to spend on a iris hobby my advise is send away for an Iris catalogue from a New Zealand commercial iris grower which will cost you anywhere between the price of a few postage stamps to $6.00. These catalogues normally contain good but brief growing information that suit the New Zealand growing conditions and for the $74.00 balance use the money to purchase your Iris plant selections from the catalogues.
If you want a real Iris book for the same approximate monetary value buy Clarie Austins 'Irises, A Gardeners Encyclopedia' reads well, without doubt much more comprehensive and covers the majority of the all popular Iris species and hybrids.
After reading the above and you still think you really need this book and you have half an hour to spare check out 'A Guide to Bearded Irises' first at a library if they have it, a quick flick through this book could save you a lot of money.

This Norris chap has been referred to in some reviews of this book as the poster boy of the Iris world...... Hello! I am not sure who has propagated this silly idea perhaps it could have been the same person who told Katy Perry she could sing but what makes this even more suspect is Mr Norris then twirps about about how great the review was on the twit network thing ...............unbelievable! I would think the poster boys would be the likes of Barry Blyth, Keith Keppel, Joe Ghio, Terry Aitken, George Sutton, Paul Black, Rick Tasco, Tom Johnson, Anton Mego, and Richard Cayeux. (sorry if I missed someone)
To the publisher Timber Press,'What were you thinking'?? if you are going to build a publication on the cult of the personality, you run the risk of irritating everybody outside the smallish targeted so called Hip gardeners demographic and why is your recommended retail price in New Zealand so high when this book only months after its release is already been flogged off with the price heavily discounted internationally??

The glowing review of this book in the 'New Zealand Gardener' magazine is just a cut and paste job from the publishers blurb and has all the appearance of reviewing the book without actually reading it. So brilliantly researched the reviewer couldn't even get the gender of the author correct. 'New Books' then goes on to review the book 'Garden Tours. A Visitor’s Guide to 50 Top New Zealand Gardens' by Michele Hickman' which it is said the author never visited the gardens but implied she did. Visit The 'New Zealand Gardener' magazine has three of these books as a "Garden Giveaway" and after reading Abbie Jury's review, giving the book away is most likely the only way the publisher is going to shift this book out of his warehouse.
'New Zealand Gardeners' and for that matter 'All Gardeners' definitely deserve better!

'New Zealand Gardener' magazine

'A Guide to Bearded Irises:  Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts' (2012) by Kelly Norris.

Reproduction in whole or in part of this article without the expressed written permission of Terry Johnson is strictly prohibited.
Photo credit and copyright Terry Johnson and Heritage Irises ©.


  1. Thanks for link to Abbie's post on - but we are sadly missing from your blog list!

    XXXX Anne Wareham

  2. Hi Anne,
    Link no longer missing,Kind Regards Terry Johnson

  3. How refreshing it is to read a review on a blog, and have the Blogger give their honest opinion. Thanks for you honesty.

    Emily, Australia.

  4. Thank you Emily for your encouraging comment. I have received many 'Bravo' emails about this post and perhaps some in the gardening media need to start looking after the 'Gardeners of the world' instead of the publishing industry and we may get some better quality books. The feed back I'm getting is from people who have purchased this book and have been very disappointed after reading it, the publisher who thinks their sole purpose in life is to just sell books naively counts these disappointed readers as successful sales!!

  5. There are certainly times when I think that people would be better off spending time in their gardens and observing their plants rather than expecting books to tell them how to do everything! Thanks for your review.

    1. With reference to this book that's probably really good advise. Thanks

  6. Great blog and review! I agree with Emily it is nice to read a review on a blog and I have to agree with you on the price although I can say it is definitely not reasonable. Seems a bit expensive to me!

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