It's the updated edition of what's become known as the bible of Southern gardening: The New Southern Living Garden Book: The Ultimate Guide to Gardening (Oxmoor House, 2015). It's big and filled with beautiful photos, and as editor Steve Bender notes in the introduction, "This revised book is bigger and showier than its predecessors, but its aim hasn't wavered -- to serve a wide range of both beginning and experienced gardeners."
It serves gardeners as well far outside the south. After all, here on Cape Cod, Southern magnolias are thriving -- camellias are growing in the Monk's Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and the winter-blooming jasmine that I brought up from Washington DC three years ago is still alive and spreading like mad. If the planet continues to warm, maybe the next edition of the Southern Living Garden Book will simply morph into the Southern & Northern Living Garden Book.
But back to the book. It explains the Southern preference for formal design, along with a "funky cottage garden look," regimentation, color and whimsy. The book's plant finder is divided into categories such as annuals, perennials, trees, plants with showy flowers, plants that tolerate drought, attract wildlife etc., with symbols that depict growing conditions and climate zones. This is folowed by an A to Z encyclopedia of the best plants for the south, with brief descriptions of each one, along with notable cultivars. There are also sections on general gardening -- soil, watering, pruning -- and special guides to growing annuals, perennials, bulbs, lawns, herbs, native plants, palms, trees and vegetables, vines.
Finally, you'll want to check out the final sections on pests and disease, controlling weeds, and the seasonal checklists.
It's very comprehensive, and even if you're farther north, you'll turn to it again and again as perhaps you're go-to all-around gardening resource.