Monday, February 13, 2012

My Favorite Book on Perennials

Over the years, I've collected many gardening books in an effort to teach myself the fundamentals of horticulture and to provide inspiration.  But one book on perennials stands out among the others: The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust.

I bought my first copy in 2004.  Just as this lifesaver was getting pretty dog-eared, Tracy released a new and expanded edition in 2006 with more advice and pictures.  So I had to buy that one too! It's as well-worn as the first edition now.

Because of her many years as a garden designer, Tracy can share hands-on experience.  Her counsel on planting and tending to perennials is thorough, yet easy to understand.  It's a great gift for new gardeners starting their first perennial bed.

Her book starts out with soil preparation.  If you haven't discovered this yet, perennials are far more finicky than most woody plants when it comes to soil conditions.  She also provides valuable sections on pruning, dividing and deadheading.

One of the most lasting lessons I learned from Tracy was that with pruning you can control perennial height.  If you have a plant that tends to get tall and fall over, this technique is great.  My Cut-leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) now stands strong at five feet instead of falling over at its naturally taller height.

She also suggests pruning to extend or delay blooms.  Each year, I prune my native Asters, Wild Bergamot and Culver's Root in May to delay blooming by a week or so.  With the milder winter this year,  our growing season could come early.  Delaying the bloom period for a few perennials this year may ensure that my summer blooms aren't all gone before August.

This book also has an encyclopedia of perennials in the back.  This illustrated guide clearly describes many popular perennials that Tracy has grown, sharing the maintenance needed to make sure they perform well.   I find myself checking with this guide often when considering a new plant.

If you have this book, I don't have to say much more.  If you don't, I know it will make a great edition to your gardening library.  Happy reading!

Rudbeckia laciniata standing upright at a reduced height


Gardens at Waters East said...

Jeff, Thanks for the recommendation on the book. Jack

Jeff, Gardener in Chief said...

Jack, you're welcome. There's one other book on perennials that I use a lot: Perennial All Stars by Jeff Cox. It's out of print but there seems to be used copies avaiable on Amazon. I really like to browse through this one when not sure what plant I need to add a certain shape and color. It has lots of photos. Also provides info on alternative cultivars. Good companion plant recommendations as well.