A Comprehensive Perennial Book–But Not For Beginners!

Essential Perennials COVER

Perhaps I had read too much or heard too much about this book to be an objective reviewer. That sort of thing happens. But two things made me less inclined to like this book than I might otherwise be inclined to do.

The first was the Introduction. Not two sentences in, the authors are talking about how the selections of perennials “can and should have long-lasting repercussions.”

This just struck me as totally overblown, ridiculous and even pompous. It’s totally contradictory to what gardening is all about! We’re talking, for the most part, about $10-$15 plants, for Pete’s sake! Play with them! Experiment! Move them around to your heart’s content (as I expect most of us do). Long lasting repercussions? We’re not marrying the plants; we’re planting a perennial garden! If something doesn’t work out, we can dig it up, move it around or give it away!

Some of my best garden designs have been happy accidents–and I know this is true for many gardeners. There are no “long-lasting repercussions” in my garden that I can think of!

The second thing that made me less than happy were the photographs–which are lovely. Obviously there can’t be photographs of 2,700 perennials or no one would be able to lift the book!  But it did seem to me that a single photograph of each perennial discussed–and then a list of 4-8 cultivars beneath the perennial–isn’t doing anyone any good.

This is why this book is useless-in my humble opinion–to beginners. They aren’t going to know a cultivar from a genus. Heck, I still get the question (regularly, I might add) “Annuals are the ones that come back every year, right?”

So  beginners should stay away from this book like it’s the plague.

I can tell you that I did use the book myself this summer when I was selecting varieties of perennials to put in my wildlife garden. I tried to find some of the varieties that the authors chose as some of the best when I was picking some native plants. One in particular, an agastache, worked out beautifully even in my dreadfully dry summer. It’s not fair to evaluate the others under such harsh conditions.

But to ask novice gardeners to try to use this book is asking too much–particularly when its authors tell them they are making nearly irrevocable choices by planting a perennial garden. At least the authors have the good sense to refer them to garden centers and cooperative extension service agents when they have inevitable questions!




2 thoughts on “A Comprehensive Perennial Book–But Not For Beginners!

  1. The Chatsworth Lady October 11, 2015 / 7:03 pm

    I’m surprised by the choice of “repercussions” in that sentence.. it sounds so negative! (although there are at least a dozen plants that come to mind as wholly deserving of strong caution, lol)

    Is the book being touted as a good beginner’s book, or more of a reference manual for gardeners with at least a half dozen seasons under their belt?

  2. gardendaze October 12, 2015 / 8:00 am

    Well, the title says “the complete reference guide” but there’s nothing in the daunting introduction either way. Then again, there rarely is.

    I know that when I was a beginning gardener, I often sought out “reference ” books to help me with things. I gardened for decades before I ever settled down in on place and ccould have perennials, for example.

    That was well before the days of Amazon so I might not have accidentally have bought this book. But these days, I surely would have–why wouldn’t you?

    I just didn’t find the book at all user friendly. And the introduction really left me with a bad taste. Maybe it prejudiced me before I got any further.


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