The New Sunset Book is Here!


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!



  1. YIPPEE! I have 2 western daughters – one in LA, one in Montana. Montana daughter just bought a new home and is anxious to redo the gardens. LA daughter gardens a small plot. Both are always looking for information on “what grows here”!

    This book is would be just perfect for them.

  2. {crying} My favorite book EVER, I used it teaching as well as personally in my garden. But we were just relocated to Indiana 🙁 and I have yet to find a comparable regional book.

  3. I totally share your enthusiasm regarding a new release of the Western Garden Book!

    I have a very old, tattered copy in my cubicle at work (not that I would *ever* spend work-time surfing garden pr0n sites and feel an overwhelming urge to grab the WGB to find out if it’s grow-able in my zone 15/16 yard!).

    My “home” version of the WGB is the 2003 edition and I’d almost be embarrassed to show how dog-eared, tattered and bookmarked it is (except that a well-used WGB is actually a badge of honor, yes???).

    Anyway, I think it’s time to rotate them out… The cubical copy can be donated to charity, my “home” copy can go to work, and I’d really-really like a shiny new Western Garden Book to drool over (tell me the pages are waterproof!).

  4. I planned my two flower gardens with the Sunset book circa 1990s. I think I’m ready for a new version — one with more info on edibles would be great.

  5. Yeah let’s tell the USDA zone map to go to H@#*! I’m sorry but the USDA zone map is useless by comparison. They did do a very detailed soil map though- neighborhood by neighborhood in our county-check it out

    As far as the breadth of plant selections in Sunset; I don’t consider it to always be the end-all to end-all, but rather a good starting point for research.

  6. We just bought our first garden, er, I mean house. It’s more jungle than garden at this point. My mom pulled out her 1970’s Sunset book for us to “borrow” until we get our own copy, which presumably means that now that this new edition is out, she’ll be wanting her retro version back. So… winning a copy would come in quite handy, as we need all those pictures and descriptions to even figure out what we have in our yard!!!

  7. I’m there with you on the “final paragraph quibble”. I remember when Modern Roses XI came out, with a disk that only ran in Windows, to the great disappointment of many rosarians. I chose not to buy it, but to buy the Combined Rose List every couple of years instead.

    I don’t think a Mac-compatible disk was ever made, and I don’t think they have an online reference, either (not that I’ve checked). There are the sites and, but I have yet to find similar sites for what Sunset covers, darn it. You’d think now that a larger publisher was running Sunset, that they’d be more with the times, but perhaps they’re holding on with the skin of their teeth to traditional publishing models.

    I don’t remember when I got my first Sunset Garden Book, but I know that I’ve had at least three editions. For cookbooks and reference books, if there’s a hardcover, that’s what I prefer to have–it’s going to get *used* and the book needs to survive that usage.

    I remember frustration that I lived in rented houses, and not being able to put plants in the ground. For too many moves, it always seemed to be in the midst of growing season, or just before harvest.

    When we had our first house (owned at that point by the bank, of course), I used the latest edition to help me plan the dreams I had of Improving the Lot. While poring over catalogs which were pointed out to me by Barbara Barton’s Gardening by Mail, itself a dream book, hinting at plants you never knew you had to have, I would dutifully check Sunset to find the growing conditions, growth details, and see if the plant would grow where I was at the time.

    I also found more info on different varieties and cultivars, to help refine my purchase choices. I loved the sections in front, glossy pages with color photos, telling me what to plant for what effect, what to plant in which conditions in your yard, and in general, entice me into buying more and more plants.

    By the time I got to the video, it had been withdrawn for copyright or some such reason, but yes, I guessed that you were resonating with that old commercial.

    I expect I’ll keep the older editions around, the way I have several editions of Joy of Cooking. I will probably buy the new edition from the Sunset booth at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show next month. I hope I have room for some plants in my extra-large canvas tote!

  8. Never ever throw away your old Sunset Western Garden books. Every time a new one comes out, some plants are deleted and new plants are added. Even the content in the Plant Selection Guide in the front of the book changes from time to time. When I was working in a nursery, I used those lists quite a bit when helping customers. There were times when I had to refer to an older edition to find the information I was looking for. This new version looks smaller than the previous edition, which makes me wonder what they left out this time? I really like your idea of having the book link with a website, Amy. That would be a perfect way to find all the information from past versions without having to keep all the old paper copies around. Perhaps their plant finder already does that?? I’ve held the new book in my hands a couple of times but haven’t bought myself a copy yet. It looks delicious!

  9. There once was a girl named Kate
    Who planted without researching the date
    Her ambition was too bold
    Her starts were too cold
    She needs this book to ensure her garden’s fate.

  10. As a California resident I look forward to this new edition of the Sunset Western Garden Book. And another excellent reference is Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening. Pat is a lifetime hands on gardener who has learned by experience, and we are fortunate that she continually passes her knowledge on to us through her books and talks and occasional tours of her own garden.

  11. Sounds like the new edition may supplant the Bob Perry book as my go-to guide. My 15 year old edition has been collecting dust ever since his book came out.

  12. My parents had always had the Sunset Western Garden Book around. The oldest one in my collection is the 6th edition, copyright 1936.
    I love them all! I must have the newest edition!

  13. Im 26 i read my first sunset book about 3 yrs ago and have had a green itch ever since. It was my grandpa’s book which was totally outdated and i believe was a mid- 90’s edition. I would love to read a current version since living here in California in the Central valley and owning a new house with no landscaping. I have put in a 20 x 30 ft garden and already have my corn sprouting for the season.. I have re-constructed my shed into a gardening paradise where i propagation and sow seeds early in the season and grow to several inches before transplanting in my garden. In the past few months i have hit gardening hard and have made it part of my life. i Love it and plan on doing it more and more, with goals of someday owning 20 acres and making a pick ur own veggie farm.

  14. I too have always enjoyed Sunsets book and refer to it even though I live and garden in NE Pennsylvania. It’s very well organized and helpful reference source. I certainly would like to have the newest edition on my shelf.

  15. I have been jonsing for this book since I started even thinking about gardening a couple years ago. I have the Edibles version and use it for quick reference all the time.

  16. I came back after the video which I think deserves some credit. YouTube can be addictive. Glad I did because even if I don’t win a bright, shiny new sunset, I enjoy your writing, Amy.

  17. Something went terribly, terribly wrong with comments-posting. My comment appeared under “Maggie” at 6:14am (sorry, Maggie, if your post got “lost!”).

    I just wanna make sure that if there is a “giveaway” – that it goes to the right person (MEEEE! Please MEEEEE!!! 🙂 (I desperately *need* a new copy of the Sunset WGB!!!)

  18. I recently moved to Oregon, and the new edition of the Sunset book would help me through these long, rainy, fall on the knife months…;)

  19. There once was a lass from San Josey
    Who scoured The Garden Book prim & prosey
    She looked up with a yawn
    And found her years to have gone
    Oh her garden had moved over to the Saldonze’s

  20. Out in the West
    Sunset is best
    Friends to east
    And friends in the middle
    Only have gardening book dribble
    For them Sunset should make
    Books that are great
    Sunrise for the East and
    High Noon for the middle
    Royalties for me?
    I will not quibble!

  21. True story:

    While browsing my Sunset today
    I noticed with awful dismay
    It dates to ’54
    So need I say more?
    Please send me the new one today!

  22. A girl from a South Florida swamp
    Is moving to Alaska to romp
    This book will soon serve
    To ease her learning curve
    Before the elements on her garden do stomp

    I, and my degree in tropical horticulture, move way north in one month. While I fully intend to survive my transition, my future garden may not be so lucky without a re-education (growing season graphs for Alaska? BONUS).

  23. My husband and I both grew up on the West coast (L.A. and Portland, respectively) and lived from San Jose to Yakima, but have been in Texas for the last 11 years, in a house with 1/8-inch of soil on top of a hill of shale.
    We are hoping/planning to move (please, God . . . ) back this summer, preferably to eastern Washington, and this book would be SO helpful. My parents subscribed to Sunset for about 40 years (Mom still lives in the house they built 51 years ago, and has most of the back issues) and an early (1960-something) edition of the Sunset Garden Book is still wandering around, which I will probably snag – but up-to-date copy with fewer chemical recommendations would be so nice!

  24. I have my mom’s 1995 edition. When I was a kid I went through it and marked all my favorite plants from my parent’s garden with a star. Now that both she and my dad are gone, I treasure what I consider to be a family heirloom. The new edition would be nice to add to my collection as I’m sure the cultivar information has changed somewhat in nearly 20 years.

  25. Just moved to Denver, my daughter and spouse.
    They want a garden around their new house.

    I’m here in Ohio; can’t lend a hand.
    They really need help to work their new land.

    If I won the book, I’d send it to them.
    Free Sunset would make their new home a gem.

  26. To plant, to prune or just to dream,
    Sunset is to me the same
    as the cat’s thoughts of cream.

Comments are closed.