Book Reviews

Pests, Diseases and Beneficials: Friends and Foes of Australian Gardens

pestsdiseasesandbeneficialsPests, Diseases and Beneficials: Friends and Foes of Australian Gardens

by F. David Hockings AM

Colour photographs, Illustrations
280 pages, 270 x 210 mm

Release date: March 2014
ISBN: 9781486300211 - AU $39.95

Reviewed by Jan Sked

Well, here it is, the book we have all been waiting for, and what a book it is! Having been the proud owner of David’s original book, "Friends and Foes of Australian Gardens" published in 1980, I have been anxiously awaiting the publication of this upgraded version, and I can tell you that it more than lives up to my expectations.

This is such a readable book, set out in such a way that it is very easy to extract whatever information you are looking for. The knowledge that it contains is amazing.  David, as many people know, has been professionally involved in plant and general horticultural problem solving for more than 50 years and all this accumulated knowledge has been put to good use in this new book. 

After the usual Acknowledgments and Introduction, the first five chapters are all text:

  • Friend or Foe
  • Classification - the Importance of Small Animals
  • Plant Damage - by Mouthparts, Egg laying, Bites and Stings
  • Plant Diseases and Useful, Harmless and Beneficial Organisms
  • Dealing with Pests and Diseases.

The first chapter explains that all creatures in the garden are not pests, many are useful and beneficial, as well as being quite beautiful, or sometimes quite bizarre. 

I found the chapter on classification extremely interesting, as David explains the way in which living entities are classified. From there we move on to Plant Damage, explaining the ways in which pests inflict damage to our plants, but also includes some observations on stings or bites that these creatures can inflict on gardeners themselves.

Plant diseases are classified into two categories, parasitic and non-parasitic diseases and these are detailed in the text. However, it is pointed out that some of these organisms are useful, harmless or even beneficial.

The final chapter 5 gives us details on how to deal with pests and diseases.

Then we come to the major part of the book, the 224 pages of photographic illustrations which are broken up into the following sections:

  • Pests Associated with Flowers, Fruit, Seeds, Leaves and Shoots
  • Less Harmful, Harmless and Beneficial Small Animals
  • Pests Associated with Twigs and Small Branches
  • Pests and Beneficial Animals Associated with Trunks and Main Branches
  • Pests Affecting Collars and Roots
  • Small Animals Associated with Soil, Compost and Shelter
  • Free Ranging Small Animals
  • Diseases affecting Garden Plants
  • Harmless and Beneficial Other Organisms and Specialised Roots and Bark
  • Parasitic Plants
  • Physiological Disorders
  • Horticultural Problems

These photographs are excellent and will make identifying the creatures (friends or foes), diseases and problems affecting our plants so much easier. I was amazed at the detail depicted in these illustrations, and quite fascinated by all these incredible creatures that have been habiting my garden all these years. The photographs of the various diseases that affect our plants were quite illuminating. Fortunately, I have not seen many of these in my garden.

In the section on Harmless and Beneficial Organisms I was interested to see that there is a fungus that parasitises and controls scale insects. Here were also illustrated the various stinkhorn fungi, which have always intrigued me.

The final two sections on Physiological Disorders and Horticultural Problems deal mainly with man-made situations and are recommended reading.

There are two appendices:

  • Appendix I: Control Chart – which lists the various treatments for the pests, diseases and other problems of plants.
  • Appendix II: Glossary of terms used in the text.
  • And finally the Index

This book is a must-buy for anyone who loves to garden, and wants to protect their plants from all the pests and diseases that can attack them, but also to be able to recognise the friendly creatures that help to protect them. It will  also be a welcome addition for people in the nursery  industry, landscape designers, horticulturalists, schools of horticulture and students.

In David’s own words, “One of the really absorbing interests associated with gardening is the discovery of the large number of weird and wonderful insects and other small animals that have evolved with plants. They are not all pests and some are quite beautiful or else have a bizarre appearance.” ...

“In this book I have attempted to provide illustrations of a comprehensive cross-section of the various small creatures that can be found in the average garden, to serve as a general guide to all garden and plant situations everywhere.”

The Author:

I imagine that most members of SGAP knows David Hockings and his phenomenal knowledge of Australian plants. He has written books on related subjects, a newspaper column for several years and delivered numerous papers across Australia and overseas. He has lectured up to tertiary levels, conducted Adult Education courses and presented radio and TV programs. In 2007 he was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for his work in horticulture. 

David has been a member of SGAP since its beginning. He is an Honorary Life Member of SGAP Qld. Region and a recipient of an Australian Plants Award.

I am sure everyone will join me in congratulating David on this fine book.

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