GPPA Member Book Reviews


Index of Book Reviews

GPPA Book Review

A Guide to Bearded Irises:
Cultivating the Rainbow
by Kelley D. Norris

Timber Press, 2013

Standards and Beards and Falls, Oh My!

I have multiple varieties of iris in my garden; some a little ragged, and I am eager for improvement. Kelley D. Norris writes with infectious enthusiasm and after a few pages the reader might wonder, "how come I haven't paid more attention to growing irises?" This twenty-something has been involved with this plant since he was a teenager, appears to have encyclopedic knowledge, and is an avid grower and lecturer.

The subtitle of the book is Cultivating the Rainbow. The use of color is exceptional, and not only in the hundreds of crisp photos of the individual flowers but in the overall graphic design and transition between chapters. Geometric shapes and vivid hues make you want to turn the page to see what's next.

Norris covers cultivation, care, diseases, and quite unexpectedly hints on how to design your borders and beds with irises as an integral part. Suggestions include pairing with woody shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and grasses. His exuberance makes you wonder why you would have things like daylilies in your garden at all. The best hints are that irises classified as mid bloomers will work best in our southern climate. Try and buy varieties developed locally. This will give you a better chance to have good blooms prior to our melting summer heat and humidity.

Make note that this is a book about bearded irises only. It says that on the cover. It took me a while to determine there was no mention of Dutch, Siberian, flag, Japanese, or Louisiana varieties that many of us cultivate. There is good insight and reinforcement on what to do prevent disease, the importance of dividing regularly, specifics on soil requirements, and keeping foliage presentable.

This book is primarily aimed at a very serious iris devotee audience. Norris takes you through an exhaustive developmental history from the sixteenth century forward. No detail appears to be spared on each species (45) and cultivar and the individual who hybridized it; for example 'Iris Lutescens' Lambert 1789 or 'Rayos Adentro' Carol Morgan 2007. He offers page after page of discussion of varieties and long chapters on hybridizing. Irises are categorized as early, mid and late blooming. We learn there are

  • Miniature Dwarf Bearded, MDB

  • Standard Dwarf Bearded, SDB

  • Intermediate Bearded, IB

  • Miniature Tall, MTB

  • Border Bearded, BB

  • Tall Bearded, TB. (Grandma's dark purple ones are TBs)

Each of these classifications has a chapter about development and cultivation with lots of photos and a cheerful history.

While there is plenty of good information about bearded irises for the beginner here, one can make the case that the internet contains a plethora of free information and will point you to contacts at the local iris societies. It is easy to search specific questions and get quick answers. However, if you have a penchant for detail, an interest in species history, and intend to be more than a casual irisean this is the book for you. The excellent narrative and photographs make for easy comparison between varieties. You will also be loaded with lots of ammunition to quiet down the odd rosarian or daffodil expounder at your next garden club cocktail party.

Reviewed by Craig Rattleff

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GPPA Book Review

A Pattern Garden:
The Essential Elements of Garden Making
by Valerie Easton

Timber Press, 2007

Valerie Easton gardens in the Seattle area where she is a horticultural librarian and a contributing author to periodicals and books. Like our own Jane Bath in The Landscape Design Answer Book, reviewed in the Winter, 2007 Perennial Notes, Easton is influenced by architect Christopher Alexander's book A Pattern Language. Through the application of fourteen essential garden patterns, Easton calls upon our personal instincts to shape a garden that is pleasing to each of us regardless of style, site or climate. Bath took pattern concepts and gave concrete photographic examples of specific problematic aspects, Easton is more philosophical and introspect concerning the design process. By looking at underlying patterns of behavior and form, Easton breaks down garden patterns into certain specific elements which one instinctively looks for in good garden making. She helps the reader create a space one longs to spend time in and helps connect our thoughts with our feelings.

The first chapter introduces the essential patterns. Subsequent chapters explore each of the pattern elements. According to Easton, "these patterns are in part all about intangibles which can be carefully choreographed to create the experience you seek in your own garden." The following are some precepts which Easton espouses to create that memorable and rewarding garden retreat:

  • Simply echoing the style of the house can be a missed opportunity for creativity, while a garden should go with the house, it certainly doesn't need to match.

  • Gardens are three dimensional and we need to experience ourselves in the space, enjoy it as it unfolds before us ... for it is a sense of mystery and intrigue, the unfolding of delights and vistas, that draws us into explore the garden. The best garden journey involves the imagination every bit as much as the feet.

  • Garden rooms are simply divisions of outdoor space based on topography, aesthetics, architecture or function, and in the best garden rooms, all four elements come into play. We don't want to look up to see all that lies ahead any more than we want to know the ending of a novel or a movie before we spend the time reading or watching.

  • The way a garden is experienced doesn't depend on the width of a border or the height of an arbor. It is the atmosphere the emotional experience, an individual's comfort and response that makes a garden memorable.

  • Garden art is often the element most expressive of personality in the garden.

Easton's easy to read style weaves concrete concepts through her philosophical musings, allowing the garden maker to realize that "the very fabric of the garden is woven through material choices," be it granite or slate, red flower or gold foliage, glossy or hairy leaf. The interplay of light and shadow in the garden involves all these characteristics.

In the tenth and final chapter the reader finds that, "plants are only a small part of garden pattern-making ... plants make the garden sensual and satisfying." Easton relays her iconic plant choices under the following contributory categories:

  • Fragrance-Broken down by seasons

  • Long-Blooming-Over many months

  • Birds, Bees, and Butterflies-Remember that wing beat, bird-song, and bee buzz are the hallmark of a healthy garden

  • Minimal Care-Perennials, Shrubs, Trees, Bulbs

  • Focal Points-The punctuation points of the garden

  • Structure-More than evergreens

  • Movement-Lend dynamism to a garden

  • Flowering-A few essential ones

  • Foliage-Lasting interest

  • Winter Interest-Gardens need never have an off-season

According to Valerie Easton, "gardens remain the most resonate of journey metaphors, for in a garden it is always more enjoyable to travel than to arrive." A Pattern Garden will help the reader understand what factors make a garden comfortable as well as memorable and how to make this outdoor space truly ones own.

Submitted by Sandra J. Sandefur

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GPPA Book Review

Armitage's Vines and Climbers
Dr. Allan Armitage

Timber Press, 2010

Sitting down with Armitage's Vines and Climbers is like taking a break with a knowledgeable gardening friend. In the conversational manner we have come to expect, Armitage talks about the plants he has chosen to include in this, his latest volume.

Of the choice, he says, "When writing a book about ornamental vines, I constantly debate the merits of including this one or that one. I try not to recommend those without much ornamental value and try to identify the ones that are known to be invasive."

The featured vines end up being as ubiquitous as the genus of Ipomoea, which includes the decorative sweet potato vines and the morning glories; or as rare as the closely related, but difficult to acquire Stictocardia, commonly known as Hawaiian Sunset Vine.

Fair warnings are given for those vines that threaten to take over the garden (or the world). Of Sweet Autumn Clematis (C. terniflora), he writes, "By all means, love them, but I suggest the love should be in someone else's garden."

A large section on Clematis does not pretend to cover the over 2,000 taxa listed, but discusses Armitage's favorite representatives in the various groups. He gives full credit to GPPA past-president Lyndy Broder for her expertise in this area, listing her Top Ten picks along with a cultivar listing of the International Clematis Society for those just beginning to grow these popular vines. This listing, along with others, shares sources of more information available on the Internet.

Three vines known as Climbing Hydrangea are sorted out, including the native Decumaria, the Hydrangea itself, and their cousin the Schizophragma. Though sufficiently similar to share a common name, the vines each have distinguishing characteristics. Gardeners will be disappointed if they buy a Schizophragma after having admired the exfoliating bark of the Hydrangea a. ssp. petiolaris. Bloom times may vary slightly, and he notes other small differences.

The larger challenge of this reference is to find some of the rare and unusual vines, many of which have been grown and trialed at the University of Georgia campus in Athens, GA. Armitage admits to "including many vines that are personal favorites but are little known, difficult to find, and for some areas, even more difficult to grow." His attitude, however, appears to be that part of the fun is in the search. "Let's find some plants or seeds and give them a try."

Reviewed by Karin Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

Bloom's Best Perennials and Grasses:
Expert Plant Choices and
Dramatic Combinations for
Year-Round Gardens

by Adrian Bloom

Timber Press, 2010

No Englishman writes on the topic of perennial gardening with greater authority than Adrian Bloom. At the legendary nursery Blooms of Bressingham, established by his father Alan in 1926, countless perennial genera, species, and cultivars have been bred and then shared with gardeners around the world. Although the Bloom family is no longer connected with the nursery, the gardens at Foggy Bottom in Norfolk continue to thrive. Stunning photographs taken there and in European and American private gardens illustrate the author's themes.

Bloom describes the evolution of the current interest in perennial gardening, beginning with the era when gardens grew mainly woody species, especially conifers, for year-round interest. Blooms of Bressingham pioneered the use of perennials and grasses to provide color and seasonality. I was fascinated by the author's description of the synergy among growers and gardeners on both sides of the Atlantic, a productive relationship that continues today. As evidence, a significant portion of Blooms' plants are American natives, and the stunning cover photo features the author in summer in his six-acre Dell Garden of American native perennials and grasses.

The photography is as important as the text, and each photo is accompanied by a long, instructive paragraph detailing a specific design principle. One impressive planting featured a "river" of Geranium 'Rozanne' that flowed through the center of a bed planted with many perennial genera. It prompted me to wonder what perennial might fill a similar role in my big border. In addition to mentioning the usual design topics, Bloom noted the need to scale down large display gardens created by celebrity designers to fit average-sized plots and the importance of shrubs with distinctive shapes and foliage color.

Bloom suggests we begin with a short list of 12 tried-and-true workhorse perennials as the basis of the garden. As you might expect, some of his choices (like Bergenia and Hakonachloa) would not work for us. Approximately 80 recommended perennials and grasses are thoroughly described with the usual notes on cultural requirements and maintenance as well as fascinating background information on the plants' origins.

I read this book at the end of a challenging growing season as I struggled to bring order to a garden run amok. It reminded me of the reasons why I was drawn to herbaceous perennials in the first place, and it left me making a list of changes I can't wait to implement.

Reviewed by Paula Refi

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GPPA Book Review

Bulbs for Garden Habitats
by Judy Glattstein

Timber Press, 2005
ISBN 0-88192-693-0

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Geophytes. As Glattstein explains this term is "a catchall for bulbous, cormous, tuberous, and rhizomatous plants", commonly referred to as bulbs. And she does not miss any.

In amazing detail, and quoting gardeners from across the country who have personal experience with each bulb, she reviews the conditions under which each one grows best and the varieties you are likely to encounter, as well as the varieties you may never find! It seems that she has grown most of her subjects, in her present garden in Western New Jersey, or in previous gardens.

Slightly over 13 pages are devoted to the State of Georgia, discussing old Southern favorites like Crinum, Lycoris (Magic Lily), Zephyranthes (Atamasco and Rain lilies) and the heirloom daffodils that remain the best performers for the south. "If a southerner offers you any plants," she reminds us, "you must not say 'Thank You'. As the saying goes, if you thank for plants, they won't grow."

Before planting any of the geophytes discussed, I would feel more confident if I had read the experiences of other gardeners and Judy Glattstein's advice about the environments best suited to their success. Unlike many "experts", Glattstein does not pretend to have the only or the best answer for each plant. She is open to the diversity of habitats to which a bulb may accustom itself. The climate may impact how deeply a bulb should be planted, or how long it may survive, and certainly whether or not it must be dug over the winter.

An interesting read as well as a good reference.

Review by Karin E. Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

Consider The Leaf
by Judy Glattstein

Timber Press, 2003

A friend came to see the garden. He stepped outside, looked over the scene and said, "I bet it's beautiful when it's in bloom." Author and garden consultant Judy Glattstein would have seen it differently. As many longtime gardeners have discovered, it is the foliage that makes the garden. The flowers are gravy.

Glattstein, in this book subtitled, "Foliage in the Garden", considers the many possible combinations of foliage defined by shape, color and habit, that distinguish a garden from a collection of plants. Although the reader must be aware of regional substitutions, the combinations suggested by the author can be reproduced in any garden.

You might expect a book listing plant combinations to be repetitious and boring, but Glattstein crafts the images so well that you feel you are traveling through a well laid out garden, admiring the gardeners skill at selecting just the right plants to enhance each other's attributes and focus your attention.

She moves carefully from combining leaf shapes, to taking color into account, and then adds the variables of sun, shade and seasons. In addition to the plants themselves, she considers the impact of geometry in the garden and various ways to use the plants to create structure.

This is the guidance I was looking for. When the garden looks like a froth of fussy leaves, the fix is here, in Glattstein's inspirational prose and descriptions of effective plant combinations.

It will make you believe that the garden can be beautiful, even when it is NOT in bloom.

Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

Container Gardening:
250 Design Ideas & Step-by-Step Techniques
by Editors and Contributers of Fine Gardening

Taunton Press, 2009

Container Gardening is divided into three sections for easy use:

  • Part One - Great Designs

  • Part Two - Great Plants

  • Part Three - Materials & Techniques

Each section has individual articles written by multiple authors.

Being design-challenged, I found this book gave me some very helpful hints on how to use containers in the garden. Part one consists of articles covering various design topics. Each was a bit short and most are specialized. Thus you can read just the articles that may apply to what you are planning to do in your garden. One article I found useful was Design a Simple Water Garden. I have wanted to try a small water garden, and now I know how to go about doing it in a container.

Also in Part one are the articles Using Perennials in Pots and Creative Ways to Design a Window Box. I work well with examples, and these articles include beautiful photos that are then depicted in a diagram that labels each of the plants in the photo. Even if I were to not using the exact plant, I can look for plants that have the same shape and color. I am definitely going to be using the tips I learned in the article Staging a Display to make my groupings of potted plants more interesting.

Part two focuses more on some plants that do well in containers. It supports the information from Part one, but instead of focusing on design, it gives more plant information. The article A Gallery of Three Fundamental Plants gives examples of plants that fit the Thriller, Filler, Spiller recipe that is so popular for creating containers.

More practical hands-on information is provided in Part three. I have made several hypertufa containers previously but can never remember the recipe. It is provided in the article Make Your Own Container along with photos of the actual process.

I found this a great reference book to add to my library. I have a lot of books on plants and how to grow them. What I really needed was something to help me with design. So if you are design-challenged like I am and like to use containers in your garden, you may find this a useful book to add to your collection.

Reviewed by Chris Adams

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GPPA Book Review

Design in the Plant Collector's Garden:
From Chaos to Beauty
by Roger Turner

Timber Press, 2005

Over the years, gardeners with acquisitive tendencies often amass a collection of favorite plants that lacks cohesion. Even a garden that began with a thoughtful design can lose its way and would benefit from the sound advice provided by Roger Turner. Trained as an architect, he now designs gardens. Moreover, he is a gifted writer whose wry wit makes the reading pleasurable as well as informative. Because most of the photographs are his, they convey his message perfectly.

Turner understands plant collecting in the English sense. In his world, gardeners appreciate beauty, but they also like to specialize and see their plants organized for comparative study. The National Council for the Preservation of Plants and Gardens (NCPPG) exists to preserve "living libraries of individual species." All over that island nation, gardens great and small dedicate space to individual genera. Large estates and public gardens fulfill their mission easily, but many collections reside in the small plots of ordinary gardeners. These are the plant-lovers Turner aims to help, and his advice for them applies to any gardeners who have a spot in their hearts for one genus above all others.

Turner appreciates gardens that balance both the acquisitive and aesthetic sensibilities of their creators. He observes, "Making a garden such as this is much more like raising a family than furnishing a house - emotion and involvement are the order of the day." Later, he writes, "The enthusiast's garden is not a visitor's experience, but an owner's experience. They are personal and individual extensions of the people who have made them and visiting them is like stepping into their private lives." Doesn't this describe the gardens of most GPPA members?

This book is a well-constructed, beautifully written narrative that begins with the reasons why people become collectors. Many start with the stated intention of obtaining every species and cultivar of a particular genus. Turner, who once collected Euphorbia, describes strategies for either their "grouped" or "dispersed" arrangement. This is the collector's dilemma. His preference is the latter, with plants sited to their best advantage, avoiding the problem of monotony. At the same time, he acknowledges the contribution of those whose plants are arranged in order, with proper labels and accession records. This is invaluable documentation for gardens open to the public.

Turner covers every plant category, but the sections on perennials were the most useful to me. His design guidelines also work for non-collectors. For gardeners who prefer to integrate their collections into the larger landscape, he recommends locating the "strong-charactered" plants first, then the less dominant plants. He likes to use three or four plants of the same kind close together so they can mingle, with a wider gap between the group and the adjacent plant. This contrasts with the practice of Tony Avent of Plant Delights, who prefers to plant "in drifts of one."

Another design formula is the author's "carpet garden technique." Here, a new bed is planted "wall-to-wall" with a low-growing perennial that is neat, well-behaved, and good-looking in winter (perhaps Geranium macrorrhizum or Ajuga spp.). Then one or more tall species are introduced that are tough enough to establish themselves within the carpet. Turner cites examples like daylily, tall phlox, penstemon, or aster. These "lead players" should possess the qualities of height and imposing foliage. The "middle classes" are plants that temporarily dominate, like grasses, Kniphofia, or yarrow. Though some plants he suggests would not do well for us, it would be easy to find alternatives. The author also discusses plant associations and various border styles, both important considerations if the collector's garden is to look its best.

This book reminded me of a visit years ago to the one and one-half-acre garden of Margaret Owen near Shropshire in England. She is responsible for the National Collection of Camassia, as well as an impressive number of Trillium and Galanthus. She distributes them throughout her garden, under small trees and flowering shrubs that create the environment her prizes require. Wisely, she has chosen to collect genera that do not number in the hundreds. It seems to me a useful strategy for Georgia gardeners with a fondness for, say, hostas, hellebores, or heucheras.

Reviewed by Paula Refi

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GPPA Book Review

Designing With Perennials
by Pamela J. Harper

MacMillan, 1991

Designing with Perennials by Pamela J. Harper, published in 1991 and included in the American Horticultural Society's list of "75 Great American Garden Books" (1997) is not a book for beginners. Like The Well-Tempered Garden by Christopher Lloyd or A Southern Garden by Elizabeth Lawrence, Designing with Perennials requires familiarity with a great number of plants. The more plants we know well, the more we stand to gain from the book, which can get a little tedious if plant after plant means nothing to us. However, we can all grow into it, keep it handy, look up plants in the index, and re-read it when we are ready.

One reason to read Harper, whose garden is in Seaford, Virginia, is that we can claim her as a Southerner, but not just a Southerner; she also gardened in England for many years. Very few garden writers can say something like the following with her authority, "Colors seem more intense on cloudy days than in bright sun, and this has shaped the preference for soft colors evinced in English gardens where sunless days predominate. Where the sun is intense, pale colors may look washed out while bright ones glow without seeming garish."

Her audience is national, even international, and she offers regional advice for gardeners in every part of the country, but more often for the Southeast than elsewhere. "The trump card in the hand of the Southeast is the long and lovely autumns." She follows this up with 20 suggestions for the autumn border. Then she turns to her friend designer Edith Eddleman for an all-season border plan for the Southeast, including 72 perennials.

When Harper confesses that she is a "plantsman more than designer," the implication is that every good designer is a plantsman first and foremost. And Harper will not take a back seat to anyone in her knowledge of plants.

Throughout the book, she provides lists of plants that share certain useful attributes: shrubs for the mixed border, plants for the edge of the border, perennials for very moist soil, cloud-like plants, plants with spires of bloom, early flowering bulbs, and plants grouped by color. Do you need a pastel yellow? She gives you 36. But the subject of the book is design, which, for Harper, means combining plants so that they bring out the best in each other.

Fortunately for those of us who garden on a small lot, her interest is not so much in huge, Jekyllesque borders but in local effects, two or three plants that make a picturesque association. After suggesting Amorpha canescens and Verbena hastata with yellow Achillea and daylilies, she drops 10 more examples of blue and yellow combinations. How about Chrysogonum virginianum with Campanula poscharskyana, "a pretty edging for a lightly shaded path"?

Harper emphasizes the role of foliage in the garden, particularly in the South. "Hardy perennials favor the north, but Southerners can grow a broader range of foliage plants of lasting structural quality. Many of these need shade. So do we!" She is not, however, interested in foliage plants solely for the structure they can provide; she uses the different colors of foliage to plan her vignettes. The book includes an excellent long chapter on foliage plants with an emphasis on foliage color.

All of the photography in the book is Pamela Harper's. They are pictures from her garden in Virginia, but also from England, Massachusetts, Oregon, California, and elsewhere. Gardeners are often writers, and just as often, they are photographers. Pamela Harper hits the trifecta, excelling as a gardener, a writer, and a photographer.

Reviewed by Roger Duvall

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GPPA Book Review

Designing With Succulents
by Debra Lee Baldwin

Timber Press, 2007

With the summer drought still fresh in our minds, the premise of this newly released book may prove to be quite applicable in our Southeastern gardens. I was very comfortable reading about this group of plants, having grown up in the true xeric environment of San Diego, California where rainfall averages a scant 9" per year recorded between the months of November thru March. A testament to the enduring ability of succulents can be found in my mother's garden, who at age 95 is no longer able to garden, but still likes to look out onto her tiny sixty-year-old garden where colorful succulents are able to exist under neglectfully adverse conditions.

Organized into two sections, Baldwin introduces the reader to the design and cultivation aspects of succulents, and then provides the plant palette from which to pick and choose.

Design tips applicable to any garden are given in Part One:

  • Planning and Design: Repetition is critical in unifying a design. Asymmetry, like curves is more natural. Anything aligned, straight or right-angled suggests human intervention. In nature, plants grow naturally where water distributes itself over the landscape.

  • Colorful Foliage and Flowers: Use of colored foliage and textural differences woven into tapestry create interest. Colors range from hot colors of red, yellow and orange to cool colors of purple, blue, gray, and magenta-black. Bloom colors of red, orange, yellow and purple are prevalent.

  • Themed and Specialty Gardens: Fire Safety, Green Roofs, Boulder and Rock, Succlent Tapestry, Art Gallery, Desert and Cactus, Beach, Sea-Theme, Geometric, and Labyrinth.

  • Pots, Wreaths and Container: Interesting combinations and use of succulents that can be applied to the Southeast.

Cultivation tips cover:

  • In-ground Planting Tips: Transporting safety issues.

  • Weed Control: Weed early and often, it is hard to remove weeds from between prickles.

  • Grooming: Watch for encroaching spines, safety first.

  • Hail and Snail: Leaves do not recover from either.

  • Propagation: Both cuttings and divisions as well a pups are the norm.

The key Baldwin writes is to know the environmental parameters of each selection. When is the selection dormant, when does it need water. Is it shade or sun tolerant; is it tolerant of wind? Some succulents like humus soil, others like sandy, gravelly soil. Some are salt tolerant for seaside use, others are too heavy for cliff plantings. Even though written for zone 9 and higher, Baldwin covers cold climate succulents and companion plants that take temperatures into the 20's and below. Of interest to Atlantans is the listing of cold-climate succulents such as native, Yucca filamentose and non-native Delosperma cooperii and D. nubigenum that has grown successfully in my own garden for over ten years.

Plant descriptions, habit, environmental requirements and growing pointers are set forth in a conversational, easy to read style in Part Two, Plant Pallet. Divided into four sections:

  • Tall Treelike, and Immense Succulents

  • Midsize and Shrub Succulents

  • Small, Low-growing and Groundcover Succulents

  • Companion Plants

The photo examples resplendent on almost every page, illustrate just how colorful and interesting arid plant combinations can be. Most, if not all the plants mentioned in the text are illustrated either singular or in landscaped combinations, demonstrating that xeriscaping does not have to be boring. It is in the plant section that one can pine over the tender Aeonium 'Sunburst' with 12" rosettes of cream-and-green striped leaves edged in pink or Echiveria spp. like 'Afterglow' or 'Blue Crinkles' with blue-green, pink, purple and red ruffled cabbage-rose sets. Plants we can combine in pots to be over-wintered in doors or grown outside until frost threat brings clippers out for cuttings to be rooted over the winter season. I garden with a few frost tender succulents, notably Agave attenuata, taken from my mother's front foundation planting 15 or 20 years ago. This plant can get to 5' high and wide when grown in the ground, however, I have it as a pot plant over wintering in the solarium. When it threatens to outgrow its home, I just take a kitchen knife to the rosette, whittle it off its trunk like a head of cabbage, let it dry on the potting bench for a week or two to callous over, then jam it back in the pot of soil where it grows roots for another 3 or 4 years. Take heart southern gardeners, there is a plethora of hardy Opuntia, Yucca, Aloe and Agave which can be grown outdoors. Look to the beautifully understated and 'crisply defined geometric shape' of Agave parryi with silvery-gray leaves tipped and edged in black, or Aloe polyphylla with green, triangular leaves which forms a flattened whorl resembling a Chambered Nautilus.

Of great help in decorating our drought racked southern gardens are the companion plants included in Part Two. These bulbs, shrubs, palms, and perennials, many of which we already grow, can be pressed into service for those hard to irrigate, difficult to landscape sites.

A resource list has web sites for succlent nurseries, organizations, and public installations. There are listings of museums, arboreta, botanic gardens, preserves and open gardens. Most are located in California and Arizona, but Colorado, Texas, and Nevada rate a mention.

If you are a transplanted westerner like myself, or a rabid plant collector who covets that which will make an architectural statement in the garden, look to succulents for low maintenance plants that will handle the lack of water available to the gardens of the future. Color, texture, interest, just the qualities every garden's artistic director is looking for. Let Debra Lee Baldwin enlighten you to the fun of designing with succulents.

Submitted by Sandra J. Sandefur

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GPPA Book Review

Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn
by Nancy J. Ondra and Stephanie Cohen

Storey Publishing, 2007

Novice gardeners are always inspired by spring's lushness, encouraged by the nursery industry to shop, design, and plant as winter wanes and the earth wakes up from slumber. But those of us who have gardened awhile have moved past the seduction of spring into the second greatest season, fall. As Nancy Ondra and Stephanie Cohen point out in Fallscaping Extending Your Garden Season into Autumn, "Fall temperatures tend to be comfortably mild, so it's a pleasant time to be outdoors, and rainfall is usually more dependable. Fall has . . . an abundance of beautiful blooms . . . a rainbow of foliage colors, flashy fruits and berries and showy seed heads too . . .". Collaborative authors in the successful The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer, Ondra and Cohen highlight not only dozens of plant combinations that bring life and color to the late season garden, but outline fall cultural techniques in detail:

  • Holding beds

  • Winterizing garden accessories

  • Container treatments

  • Pruning for height and bloom

  • Shopping tips to take advantage of late season bargains

The term fall color brings forth obvious thoughts of senesces of leaves on the trees, but this book points out vast sources of color from additional origins like late blooming perennials with or without colored foliage, berries, fruits and seed heads, with a caution toward potential invasiveness from these reproductive structures. Don't forget the ever popular tropicals which languish in the cool spring garden, then shift into high gear with the warmth of late summer into fall. Even fall bulbs, which most gardeners over look, rate a mention.

Ten designed gardens illustrate the precepts of the book, covering environments from dry to wet, sun to shade and containers too. In addition to design and planting techniques, fall chores are outlined, which should be accomplish prior to putting the garden to bed. Important points cover improving the soil, creating a compost pile, grooming, planting, transplanting and multiplying by cuttings and seeds.

A wealth of information is dispensed in discrete packets under rapid-fire fashion for today's generation of technophiles with short attention spans. Most points are made on a single page including a vibrant photo illustration, Fallscaping Extending your garden season into autumn is a feast for the eyes as well as the mind. It is a beautiful coffee table book packed with a lot of information offered up in fast-paced, easily digested packets. Inspiration for extended garden interest can be found between the covers of this great reference.

Reviewed by Sandra J. Sandefur

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GPPA Book Review

Flower Confidential
by Amy Stewart

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007

Gardeners blessed with an abundance of bloom in every season and who have absorbed Linda Beutler's expert guidance on creating beauteous indoor arrangements (see Sandra Sandefur's book review of Garden to Vase) find themselves, at times, in need of purchased flowers. Our longing for just a blossom or two, when there are none in the garden, can only be assuaged with a bunch of hothouse posies.

How was I to know what a dilemma such a purchase represents? When I glance at the offerings at Publix or the DeKalb Farmers Market, I don't see the international, cultural, and even ethical issues at play in their production. It's not something I want to wrestle with immediately after I pick up my fresh veggies. (In case you didn't know, placing cut flowers next to those ethylene-producing fruits and vegetables is the worst possible environment for hothouse flowers.)

I loved Amy Stewart's exposé of the cut flower trade in part because she's an unrepentant flower lover. She doesn't apologize for picking up something pretty wherever her travels take her. Yet, she is mindful of the interplay of "sentiment and commerce" that occurs before we bring cut stems home. She divides the topic into their breeding, growing, and selling. Stewart's account of the development of the ubiquitous 'Star Gazer' lily by the eccentric Leslie Woodriff is especially fascinating. She points out that, even with technological advances in plant breeding and transportation, it is still the local florist who possesses the ability " ... to take a flower and make it speak."

In lively prose, Stewart reports from growing fields in California, South America, and Holland, all of which supply flowers for local markets here. Wherever they're grown, these flowers, like any crop, impact the economy at their source. Are the workers fairly compensated? Can these workers make a living wage in local villages? Do the chemicals sprayed on the flowers to produce a perfect blossom impact the health of the workers? There are no simple answers to these questions.

Now when I pick up a bouquet of cut flowers at Whole Foods, I look for the Veriflora label, which assures me the flowers were grown according to strict environmental guidelines. And I notice the "Grown in Columbia" sticker on the Publix bouquet that includes half-a-dozen flower varieties in charming combinations.

This book could easily have been written from a different perspective, one that mercilessly condemned the international cut flower industry. But Stewart presents the many viewpoints in this complex issue. Now as I purchase a winter bouquet to brighten our table, I consider the people and market forces that brought such beauty to Atlanta and make my choices accordingly.

Reviewed by Paula Refi

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GPPA Book Review

Founding Gardeners
by Andrea Wulf

Alfred A. Knopf Books, 2011

None of my history teachers told me that "manure was of the greatest concern" to Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison and Monroe, five of the founding fathers of this country. No one mentioned that Thomas Jefferson endangered his life to steal rice from Italy.

Author Andrea Wulf, based primarily on historic correspondence between the patriots, as well as their journals, makes it clear that horticulture was of primary importance to them. James Madison, in the midst of a controversial treaty debate, found time "to calculate precisely how many wagonloads of manure were needed to produce a healthy harvest of potatoes ... "

While researching her previous book "The Brother Gardeners", about British horticulturists, Wulf discovered many aspects of the former colonies from which many of the plants in British gardens were acquired. John Bartram was supplying "seed boxes" to England and native American plants were taking over British landscapes.

In this country, the political struggles of arranging a new country often included debates that referenced horticulture. Wulf speculates that resolution of the argument at the Constitutional Congress over representation may have been resolved through a visit by delegates to John Bartram's garden - the premium nursery of its day. In the hours before crossing the Delaware, to engage in a battle in which all might have been killed, General George Washington was writing to Mount Vernon, sending instructions for planting of groves and gardens.

The foundation of the political parties we know today may have been the result of the political battle between agrarian versus manufacturing direction of the new economy. Thomas Jefferson and his close friend James Madison "defended their vision of the United States of America as an agrarian republic."

In some of the book's passages it is stunning to see how little has changed - both politically and in gardening. It is an engaging read for both the historian and the gardener.

Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

Garden Bulbs for the South
by Scott Ogden

Timber Press, 2007
Second Edition

First came Elizabeth Lawrence's The Little Bulbs that helped Southern gardeners in their pursuit of bulbs for hot, humid soils. Then in 1993 Scott Ogden, a horticulturist and designer located in Austin, TX, wrote Garden Bulbs for the South. This reference really elaborated with first hand knowledge on bulbs that could be used by gardeners in the Deep South, where many bulbs do not do well.

I crossed paths with Ogden at the Cullowhee Native Plants in the Landscape Conference, where he has been a presenter as well as a participant. His phenomenal knowledge of hardy bulbs for the steamy South seems unbounded. He stresses heirloom bulb varieties, those that have stood the test of time and neglect. According to Ogden, bulbs such as Crocus tommasinianus, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, and Cyclamen coum " ... are best left to their own devices on a patch of ground where the gardener will not meddle in their affairs."

Ogden has a wealth of information among his attributes, offering enlightenment on medicinal usage, plant origins, habitat, and garden worthiness. He also discusses how to orchestrate bulbs with companion plants to showcase bulbs in their season, then minimize less desirable off-season characteristics. His easy-flowing writing style imparts everything about the topic bulb in a conversational style. He uses visually descriptive prose when writing about his subject.

  • Sternbergia lutea: "living drops of sun"

  • Allium stellatum: "graceful flowers that possess an air of sophistication, each with the sinuous curve of a swan's neck"

  • Erythronium albidum: "little blooms bespeak secret charm, as if they knew hidden groves where the forest fairies dance on moonlit nights"

Bulbs are arranged in chapters by bloom time, beginning with the fall rain lilies and spider lilies. Winter interest bulbs (like paperwhite narcissi, other early blooming narcissi, Crocus sp., Iris unguicularis, and very early spring bulbs like Ipheion and Anemone) are grouped in one chapter. "Spring Treasures" highlights the blooms most gardeners associate with bulb plants. The summer Crinums, Hymenocallis, Eucomis, and Oxalis are compared and contrasted. My favorite chapter remains the "Cannas, Gingers, and Aroids." Beautiful photographs of Curcuma, Caladium, Colocasia, and Costus call out to be added to the landscape or pot cultured, providing bold dimension to any garden whether Northeastern or Southern.

The final chapter contains words of wisdom on design from a firsthand gardener. The aesthetic use of tropical foliage backlit from an east or west direction helps the reader understand how to use fancy leaf varieties to their best potential. Sun also influences the direction of growth for some flowers, whose blooms invariably turn toward the south or southeast. Ideally these light sensitive bulbs should be placed to the north of positions from which they will be observed. Siting bulbs in semi-wild areas of the garden results in a naturalized effect. Their success may be attributed to the absence of artificial irrigation.

Cool season bulbs are usually dormant in summer, when they like dry conditions.

To obtain some of the wonderful bulb varieties found within the covers of Garden Bulbs of the South, consult the very extensive seven-page source list with both US and international companies represented. With so many choices, it's hard to know where to start. Success is just one bulb away.

Reviewed by Sandra J. Sandefur

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GPPA Book Review

Garden to Vase:
Growing and Using Your Own Cut Flowers
by Linda Beutler

Timber Press, 2007

Noted clematis expert Linda Beutler has produced a reference book for those of us who like to bring the outdoors in by cutting and arranging plant material grown in our own gardens. An accomplished gardener and professional florist, Beutler provides a wealth of information in easy reference style. The chapter 'Plants for the Cutting Garden: Flowers, Foliage, and Fruit' serves as the nucleus of this reference. Each plant selection is outlined, as follows:

  • Plant name

  • Type of plant: perennial, annual, biennial, woody, or grass

  • Hardiness

  • Useful part of the plant: foliage, flower, fruit, fresh, or dried

  • Fragrance

  • Culture for cutting: which growing conditions produce the best show

  • Conditions for harvest: vase life, when during the day to cut, and how to condition the plant prior to arranging for the longest vase life

  • Tolerance to floral foam construction: some flowers are not

  • Buying tips: how to tell if the selection has been properly stored and cared for

  • Notes on species that hold well out of water for head wreaths, corsages, boutonnieres

The first six chapters provide a stage for Beutler to showcase her deep and broad experiences gained from gardening and professional floral design. Her philosophy that "any garden is a cutting garden" and "good gardeners make better florists and florists who garden create more beautiful bouquets that those who do not", gives hope to all who endeavor to decorate the breakfast table with the latest blooming specimen whether cut or purchased.

The process called conditioning is key to material livability and longevity. Each species has a set of criteria that must be met between the time when a stem is cut until it is arranged. Beutler's long employ in the florist trade gives her personal experience with the many idiosyncrasies of cut flowers.

  • Narcissus: rinse stems in several changes of water until the thick sap has dissipated, allowing use of this flower in mixed bouquets.

  • Tulips: will grow as much as two inches after being cut and arranged and face the strongest light. Know your arrangement will change over time when using tulips.

  • Hydrangeas: harvest mature heads for best durability. Strip all stem foliage to keep the leaves from diverting water from the flower head, causing wilt.

  • Do not remove all leaves on cut lily stems. Buds will not color well or open as stem ages, but will usually fall off.

  • Tropicals do not need floral preservative and dislike cooler storage. They come from a warm, tropical environment.

  • Trick alstroemeria into continuous bloom by pulling stalks from the crown as opposed to cutting. If cut, the plant does not know the flower is missing and will not rebloom. Pulling leaves a wound to heal over signaling the plant to replace the flower.

For the novice floral arranger there is cursory information about basic bouquets of nosegays and hand-tied arrangements, use of floral foams and containers. According to Beutler, "Anything that holds water or that can be made to hold water is a floral container." I tend to agree with her assessment, for some of the most stunning arrangements I have seen were in vessels cut from fresh vegetables or scavenged from the recycle bin with brightly colored lithography contrasting with the plant material.

Beutler's philosophy of "flowers in containers should look magical, and the hand of the designer should appear light and easy, if it appears at all" is expressed throughout Garden to Vase. The wealth of information is easily accessed when needed, in a style easily understood by the lay gardener or floral designer. Whether you cut from your own garden or purchase that special-occasion bouquet, this book will help you realize the full potential of each blossom for the maximum amount of time. I think that is what we all strive for.

Reviewed by Sandra J. Sandefur

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GPPA Book Review

Gardening for a Lifetime:
How to Garden Wiser as You Grow Older
by Sydney Eddison

Timber Press, 2010

Gardeners who have cherished Sydney Eddison's previous books and learned from her many contributions to Fine Gardening and other publications will find her latest volume a departure from earlier themes. Now, Eddison guides her readers on a personal journey that every gardener will eventually understand: Gardens and gardeners age and change. The physical limitations of maturity, injury, and personal loss led her to re-assess her decades-old, high maintenance garden protocol.

With limited physical strength and diminished financial resources, Eddison takes a practical look at labor-intensive garden practices and finds ways to simplify. Her goal is not to abandon the garden, but to alter it in ways that retain its beauty and make it manageable. She recommends that we use lower maintenance plants, prioritize garden tasks, practice realistic lawn care, accept imperfections, learn labor-saving techniques, and make the most of containers.

Each chapter addresses one of the many tasks that could so easily overwhelm us, and Eddison proposes solutions. At the conclusion of the chapter she summarizes key principles under the topic "Gleanings."

For dedicated growers of herbaceous perennials, Eddison's section on rethinking perennial borders is a lesson in tough love. She wisely states, " ... the square footage devoted to flowering perennials demands more time and energy than the rest of the acre and a half under cultivation." Her most important advice appears under the heading "a standard of good behavior." Perennials must be "truly perennial ... have superior, or at least good, foliage ... maintain a tidy habit ... and not offer an invitation to predators, pests, or diseases."

Eddison shares advice from plant expert and writer Mary Ann McGourty who, with husband Fred, championed perennial gardening decades ago. After her husband's death, Mary Ann embarked with optimism on a new, smaller garden.

Eddison shares the stories of other gardeners who learned to depend on outside help. She credits assistants she came to rely on and whose personal relationships continue to enrich her gardening life.

I felt the loss of her husband, Martin, in every chapter, even when his name was not invoked. Their supportive and loving partnership is beautifully honored here. Yet, Eddison's cheerful determination to continue gardening shines through. Kim Proctor's delicate line drawings make the text even more personal, like a garden journal. This book is not a gloomy read. Those of us who have savored Eddison's earlier writings or heard her speak will appreciate her wisdom and utter candor. It's what we would expect from a valued friend.

Reviewed by Paula Refi

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GPPA Book Review

Gardening With Conifers
by Adrian Bloom

Firefly Books, 2002

Well known plantsman and gardener Adrian Bloom started planting conifers in the early 1960's in his English garden. He planted over 500 varieties! Along with his son, photographer Richard Bloom, he has produced a rich reference on the subject that would inspire most to include more conifers in their own gardens.

He begins by discussing the ways we can maximize the effectiveness of plant combinations by appreciating the endless variety of conifers and their seasonal changes. These plants, he reminds us, bring differences in foliage color and texture, plant size and shape, cones and, yes, even flowers! Given the diversity they offer, an entire garden can be designed using nothing else.

Bloom uses conifers extensively in his own garden, but makes the most of inter-planting with other trees, shrubs and perennials. The beautifully illustrated text provides numerous examples of garden settings, detailing the conifers and their neighbors. He highlights the advantages of various selections during different seasons.

Over 100 pages are devoted to a detailed review of those conifers with which he is familiar, noting heat tolerance by providing a range of zones (U.S.). He realistically states the expected height and width within 10 years, but also notes the ultimate size that could be attained. As he says, few of us need worry about the size in a hundred years and with newer selections, the mature size can only be a guess.

I could easily spend many happy hours planning a fantasy garden of conifers with this book in hand. I will also turn to it often as a ready reference on one of my favorite companions in the garden.

Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

Gardening With Hardy Geraniums
by Birgitte Husted Bendtsen

Timber Press, 2005

If you are one of those gardeners who pursue one family of plants to exhaustion, then you will identify with this author, a Danish collector, gardener, writer and photographer of geraniums. This compilation of information on 400 varieties of geranium is written as if she has grown and communed with each one.

I don't know if there are any commonalities between Denmark and Georgia in the areas of soil or weather, but author Bendtsen states that her geraniums "flower from mid-May until well into autumn" so we at least share the same growing season.

The wonderfully detailed photographs illustrate in eye-opening variety the wide range of blooms and foliage available in this group of plants. Over half of the book is devoted to detailed descriptions of species and hybrids available, in many cases including the origin of the name and the variety's family heritage.

Bendtsen grows a garden full of geraniums which you might expect would be too fussy, given the profusion of relatively small foliage and flowers. Photos reveal the companions of which she does not write - hosta, polemonium, ligularia, tradescantia, rohdea - all of which have substantial leaves to provide the eye with relief. She devotes several pages to rose companions and which geraniums are suited to pairing with them.

I was tempted by the foliage variations alone, not having realized the range of possibilities. Since the author gardens in Europe, it may not be easy to locate some of the varieties presented. On the internet, you will find that many results of a search for 'geranium nurseries' will yield sources of pelargoniums, not the geraniums we are seeking. Plant Delights offers limited selections online. But then, the search is part of the game and buying from nurseries that share our climate will probably ensure you have a better level of success with the geraniums you do find.

Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

Green Roof Plants:
A Resource and Planting Guide
by Edmund C. Snodgrass
Lucie L. Snodgrass

Timber Press, 2006

It's difficult to open any current publication devoted to gardening, home design, or architecture without encountering an article on green roofs. The Southeast lags behind the rest of the nation in implementing them, but green roofs are a rapidly growing technology in the Pacific Northwest. They have existed in Europe, particularly in Germany, for several decades.

Ed Snodgrass started the first US nursery dedicated to growing plants for this purpose, and he consults and lectures widely on their installation. The book addresses so-called extensive green roofs, those that comprise less than six inches of most inorganic substrate. Once established, extensive green roofs mitigate water runoff, moderate roof temperatures, sequester pollutants, provide habitat for birds and insects, and offer aesthetic benefit, among other advantages.

Because of crucial structural requirements involved, it makes sense to incorpoate the green roof concept in the early stages of a building's design. The authors describe proper engineering, planning, design, and installation for residential and public buildings. Full-color photos document beautiful and functional examples. While presenting a variety of suitable plant material, the book explains why hardy succulents (including Sedum, Sempervivum, Talinum, Jovibarba, and Delosperma) are the most obvious choices for extensive green roofs. Of these, the sedums are unequaled in their ability to survive drought and wind conditions, store water for extended periods , and conserve water via a mechanism known as Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM). Blossoms and seasonal changes in leaf color provide ongoing visual interest.

The Plant Guide describes more than 200 specieis and cultivars identified as either groundcovers or accent plants. Information includes a description of foliage and flower, hardiness, size, method of propogation, and cultural requirements. The plant photos are especially outstanding. A directory of plants organized by color and type facilitates selection.

Though green roofs usually require professional installation, anyone considering such a project would benefit from reading this book. Any gardener struggling with growing conditions similar to those on green roofs might identify a place for the recommended plants in a conventional garden. And it is easy to envision other applications, such as green walls, based on the knowledge acquired from this technology.

Review by Paula Refi

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GPPA Book Review

Healthy Soils for Sustainable Gardens
Niall Dunne, Editor

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide, 2009

"'Know thy soil' is as vital an injunction to the gardener as 'Know thyself' to the philosopher." -Beverley Nichols

Healthy Soils for Sustainable Gardens, one of three free additions in 2009 to the library of Brooklyn Botanic Garden members, covers all aspects of identification and creation of good soil through sustainable practices. "A sustainable garden is one that grows, thrives, looks beautiful and supports a diverse community of flora and fauna - all without depleting the earth and natural resources."

Good soil is the cornerstone of a successful perennial garden, and you need to feed the soil and make it healthy so that the nutrients will be available for planted specimens to use and thrive. If you are not familiar with the concept of the soil food web, this booklet will educate you on the importance of using organic materials. You can create these organic soil components in a garden without incurring manufacturing or transportation costs. They do not deplete earth's resources, and unlike chemical fertilizers, they help build soil structure while feeding the garden.

Healthy Soils for Sustainable Gardens teaches the basics of sustainable soil care.

  • The first three chapters deal with the physical, biological, and chemical properties of soil and how they interact to determine soil health and fertility.

  • The "Getting to Know Your Soil" chapter offers simple hands-on techniques for discovering the unique characteristics of garden soil.

  • The following four chapters discuss the use of organic conditioners, fertilizers, and mulches in building and maintaining long-term soil fertility.

  • The final section discusses challenging soil conditions and soil care tips for specific sites.

The organic concepts stressed in these pages equate to sustainability. Instead of finite products like peat moss, the incorporation of recycled materials from your garden in the form of leaves and yard clippings offers a continual source of soil nourishment. Kitchen scraps can be transformed into compost. Use mulches of leaves from on-site trees rather than cypress mulch, which put harvesting pressure on cypress trees of the Gulf Coast. Natural fertilizer by-products such as fish, feathers, and bone meal are all recycled from what would otherwise be discarded as waste, whereas the use of manufactured synthetic fertilizers "require enormous amounts of fossil fuel energy."

Good soil produces good plants whether for pleasure or sustenance. Sustainability, the current buzz word of the green movement, seems to be the path down which concerned gardeners should go to achieve long-term success in the garden. Let these experts, learned scholars, PhD professors, garden curators, certified arborists, extension horticulture specialists, and award-winning authors - all with extensive horticultural backgrounds and hands-on experience - show you how to contribute to the greening of our earth through the soil.

Consult the Brooklyn Botanic Garden website,, for a list of All-Region Guides and a complete description of membership categories and benefits.

Reviewed by Sandra J. Sandefur

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GPPA Book Review

It's Not Just About the Hat
The Unlikely Journey of a Plantsman
Dr. Allan Armitage


Allan Armitage has written a compelling and very personal account of his life and his career, which at first glance might seem self-serving, but the narrative pulls you along and is very enjoyable. As he himself says, he had no intention of writing about himself, but people kept asking, "How did you get here from there?"

He subtitled his book "The Unlikely Journey of a Plantsman," and as you move through his personal history, you can see that there were lots of turns in the road, some of them unlikely and perhaps providential.

Those who have been in the audience or the classroom, listening to Armitage talk about plants, have also heard stories of other horticulturists, his family, his friends, and his students. All of them make appearances in this book. It is the stories, not the plants, that Armitage has focused on. A few plants creep in, including the back-story of Verbena Homestead Purple.

Armitage retired from the University of Georgia - College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in 2013, where he began teaching in 1980. The communities surrounding Athens, GA are dotted with his students who have pursued careers in horticulture. His most visible achievement at UGA, the Trial Gardens, continues under the supervision of Dr. John Ruter who accepted the Armitage Professorship of Horticulture at the school.

He followed a circuitous path from his home in Mount Royal, Canada, through several related work experiences, and around some opportunities that could have thrown him off course. It is an interesting journey and it would be worthwhile taking that journey with Armitage through his latest book.

Reviewed by Karin Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants
by C. Colston Burrell

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Regional Guide, 2007

In this time of increased environmental awareness, the role of non-native horticultural selections has been questioned. Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, has reported on research into the inter-relationship of flora and fauna, a fascinating account of the overwhelming number of butterfly larvae that prey on native vegetation versus the much smaller number that graze on exotic vegetation. This is a common sense Aha! comparison that someone should have quantified long before now.

State and regional Pest Plant Councils bring awareness to the general public about the devastation alien invaders have brought to Southern forests and the degradation of species diversity and wildlife habitat. They also offer solutions to long-developing problems. Some exotic species have been introduced accidentally, but most were brought here as ornamentals or for livestock forage. This should cause gardeners to pause when purchasing the latest hot new introduction from China or Japan. I am as guilty as the next member of any plant society who covets the brightest or newest or wants to be the first to have one.

What are we doing to our native habitat for future generations? We may not see the devastation in our lifetime. It may approach slowly at first, then become faster and more widespread over time. Even "passalong" plants like Nandina domestica, Spirea japonica, Hibiscus syriacus, Hesperis matronalis, Iris pseudacorus, Leucanthemum vulgare, Lysimachia nummularia, Vinca major and V. minor, Miscanthus sinensis and Cortaderia selloana are culprits. How many of these do you have in your garden?

In Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants, C. Colston Burrell identifies the offending species and their current invaded range and then gives three native alternatives that provide similar showy attributes. The format information covers:

  • Native habitat and range

  • Hardiness range

  • Ornamental attributes and uses

  • Growing tips

  • Related native alternatives

  • Attributes at a Glance box for each plant, which highlights four features and allows the reader to quickly narrow the search for just the right replacement

Each invasive selection has three or four native alternatives, including trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous plants, and grasses. A thumbnail photo of the invader caps the page, while a much larger photo shows the replacement's best feature for the garden. Not every entry is appropriate for the Southeast because, as we all know, what is invasive in Michigan may not be invasive in Georgia. Because the booklet is an all-region guide, the plant ranges cover west to Hawaii and California, east to New York, north to Alberta, Canada, and south to Texas and Florida. But many plants are invasive throughout North America, showing how widely adaptable they can be.

Our generation of plant hunters travels far and wide, obtaining the showiest, hardiest, most marketable species for our modern gardens, but no one knows what potential for environmental damage lurks among the newest plant releases. Only time will tell. Can we, as good earth stewards, afford to gamble on our children's future for a moment of exotic beauty? Explore the breadth of plant possibilities put forth by noted native plant enthusiast Cole Burrell and green your garden with natives for now and for the future.

Reviewed by Sandra J. Sandefur

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GPPA Book Review

Perennials: The Gardener's Reference
by Susan Carter, Carrie Becker, and Bob Lilly

Timber Press, 2007

The stated primary objective of this book is to "convey methods of maintenance for herbaceous perennials and all information considered relevant for successful cultivation of specific plants and their characteristics, including sub-shrubs indispensable to the mixed herbaceous border." This book concerns perennials that can be acquired and grown well in many parts of North America, but the experience of the three authors has been primarily in the maritime region of the Pacific Northwest. Though not marketed as a regional book, the information it contains is presented in a regional manner.

The book sections cover a lot of information:

  • Plant Families and Characteristics

  • Plants for Specific Types of Gardens and Certain Times of the Year

  • General Garden Maintenance

  • Perennials A-to-Z

  • Glossary

  • Common Names

  • Nursery List & Sources

  • Recommended Reading

Gardening problems exist no matter what the region. In the Pacific Northwest the biggest pest problem is the dreaded slug and its introduced shelled cousin, the snail. The extended rains that cause the slugs and snails to proliferate also cause rot during the cold winters, as can happen here. With increased cloud cover, heat index levels are not as high as in the South. The authors note which genera need heat to bloom successfully and where to site them for best performance in the Northwest. Some genera, like Dianthus, are treated as short-lived perennials due to the lack of heat available. The A-to-Z section provides information useful throughout the country, with cultivars listed and compared for many of the selections.

I found informative and amusing tidbits throughout out the book. In the maintenance guidelines, we all lust after the holy five conditions of moderately fertile, well drained, humus-rich, moist, and moisture-retentive soil. To this end the authors encourage us to make our own compost for mulching and planting but caution against composting the leaves of peony, lily, iris, hellebore, and tulip because of disease problems. Delphinium is deemed the hypochondriac of the perennial border due to the trussing, staking, fussing, and preening it takes to display a beautiful, tall specimen. Perhaps we should label her the same in the Southern border. Don't we wish Acanthus, Alchemilla, and Adenophora were thugs in our Southern gardens?

Under "Winter Care" the authors advise that we "put limestone chips (marble chips) on the crowns of your hellebores and peonies. These chips slough molecules constantly and will change the pH around and on the crown they cover, but not the overall pH of the soil. This slightly less acid mulch will interfere with the over wintering of the botrytis organisms so the plants don't pick up this disease when emerging in the spring." I wonder if this practice might also help in our region?

Those of us who arrange garden flowers know that Helleborus has a tendency to wilt. The authors proffer this nugget of information: "Condition hellebores after cutting, take a pin or the like and poke holes up and down the stem. Fill a sink or tub with water and float the hellebores in it over night. Arrange the next day, and you'll have two weeks of flowers." I will have to wait until next January to see if the results are satisfactory.

Lynn Harrison supplied beautiful photographs, with single mug shots for the A-to-Z section and seasonal landscapes of color and texture in complementary combinations scattered through out.

The three authors give recognition to the bulk of good garden plants that come from areas that receive summer rain - the United States east of the Mississippi and wetter areas of Europe, China, and New Zealand. The nursery source list - both mail order and retail - is slanted heavily to the western region of Washington, Oregon, and California, but Niche Gardens and Plant Delights Nursery, both in North Carolina, made the grade. The reading list titles concentrate extensively on the Pacific Northwestern region.

At $50.00, this book may not make the library of most Southern gardeners, but it is interesting to see how species perform from region to region and to experience the best and worst in the gardens of this country, but it has become more affordable since first reviewed.

Reviewed by Sandra J. Sandefur

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GPPA Book Review

Perennials . . . What You Need to Know!
by Althea R. Griffin
Illustrated by Kate Ruland

Plant It Publishing, 2011

Althea Griffin has gardened in a lot of places throughout her life, but for the last 25 years she has put down roots in Atlanta. Her book, Perennials ... What You Need to Know!, is delightfully illustrated with original watercolors by the author's sister, Kate Ruland.

Griffin's slim volume is in no way intended to be a comprehensive guide to plants suitable for Southern gardens. Rather it is a compilation of her favorite perennials, a list of 46 tried-and-true plants culled from years of experience working in her own garden and designing landscapes professionally.

The book opens with a warm and fuzzy introduction about the joys of gardening but quickly gets down to business in pages 2-11 with helpful definitions of common gardening terms, a brief synopsis of basic garden design concepts, and a user's guide that provides incredibly thoughtful guidance on how to navigate the book.

The meat of the book is, of course, the information presented about each of the 46 perennials featured. The plants are listed by common name (extremely helpful for beginning gardeners!), but the botanical name is included, too. Light requirements, flower and foliage descriptions, mature dimensions, and an illustration are all included at the top of the page for easy, at-a-glance reference. Then Griffin delves into the details of the plant, providing a brief overview of the plant's general characteristics and uses followed by detailed instructions for planting, maintenance, pest management, pruning, dividing, companion plants, and even whether the plant holds up well in cut arrangements.

At the back of the book are more helpful resources:

  • Indexes of the common and botanical names of the plant discussed

  • An illustrated guide to beneficial and harmful insects one is likely to encounter in the Southern garden

  • A botanical pronunciation guide

  • USDA zone map

  • A seasonal calendar of garden chores

  • A list of recommended resources for further reading

All in all, Griffin has created a charming work that is simple to navigate, easy to comprehend, and both inspiring and educational. While not exceedingly broad in scope in terms of the plants covered, I wondered why she left out garden workhorses such as salvia, carex, geranium, and euphorbia. However, it is a very solid introduction to gardening, offering clear definitions of gardening terms and easy-to-follow tips for basics such as digging a proper hole, how to water, and how/when to prune that the beginning gardener will certainly benefit from.

I would highly recommend this book for teachers, parents, independent garden centers, and community garden managers looking for a friendly, concise manual to share with young or novice gardeners looking to get their hands dirty for the first time but unsure about how to get started.

Reviewed by Kacey Cloues

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GPPA Book Review

Phlox: A Natural History and Gardener's Guide
by James H. Locklear

"No other group of plants in North America can equal Phlox for its preeminence in the wild and in the garden," according to author James H. Locklear.

Most of us are familiar with Phlox subulata, commonly known as thrift or moss phlox.

The brightly colored, evergreen groundcovers are a harbinger of spring but perhaps were more commonplace before Post Properties introduced us to pansies.

No summer perennial bed is complete without Phlox paniculata. We seem to be introduced every year to a new cultivar that purportedly solves the holy-grail-like search for mildew resistance. Myself, I am still seeking.

Phlox: A Natural History and Gardener's Guide, expertly and thoroughly informs us of the many species of Phlox, 58 in addition to the two noted above. The book, the only comprehensive one on this North American native plant, is an enjoyable read with separate chapters on each of the species and clear, evocative writing. Each chapter is complete with species history and growing requirements, useful in selecting plants for our gardens.

I took some pleasure in reading that Don Jacobs of Decatur (a past GPPA speaker) has been a leader in Phlox selection and breeding.

The book will appeal to perennial plant connoisseurs as well as native plant enthusiasts.

Reviewed by John Ragland

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GPPA Book Review

Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener:
How to Create Unique Vegetables & Flowers
by Joseph Tychonievich

Timber Press, 2013

The idea of plant breeding intrigues me but I always think of it as something difficult that only horticulturists or large corporations could do. After reading Tychonievich's book, I am thinking of some fun (yes, I said fun) breeding projects that I might try.

This book takes a subject that could be considered difficult and boring and makes it interesting and easy to understand. It is easy to see Tychonievich's excitement over plant breeding and get caught up in that excitement.

I was intrigued to learn about the Dwarf Tomato Project ( Amateur tomato breeding enthusiasts found each other on the internet and began this project. They have developed interesting dwarf tomatoes, some of which are now for sale, all because they wanted to find good tasting dwarf tomatoes.

The book is easy to read, easy to understand and quite humorous. One chapter is titled The Birds, the Bees, and the Tweezers. Here you will learn flower anatomy. You also learn how and why you may need to emasculate your plants when making a cross.

In the chapter Genetics Made Easy, Tychonievich uses the analogy of cookie recipes to help explain genetics, mutation, inheritance and inbreeding in a way that is easy to understand. This explanation helps the reader apply the information to creating new plants. With this simple approach, even a home gardener can be successful in applying plant genetics while breeding new plant varieties.

The final chapter is titled For Example. In this chapter the author gives the reader specifics on how to breed some popular flowers and vegetables. Columbine, coleus, daffodils, dianthus, hollyhocks, roses, snapdragons, and zinnias are the flowers used as breeding examples. For vegetables he uses beans, brassicas, corn, lettuce, squash, and tomatoes. These breeding techniques vary from easy to more difficult, giving the reader the ability to move on to plants of their own choice using this newfound knowledge.

From the moment I read about the author's viola crosses when he was a teenager to his desire for a zucchini with great taste that is resistant to squash borers, I was trying to come up with my own breeding projects.

Reviewed by Chris Adams

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GPPA Book Review

Planting in a Post-Wild World
Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes
Thomas Rainer and Claudia West

Timber Press

What is a plant community and how can we make one? This book, co-authored by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, answers the first question and begins to answer the second. To picture a plant community, the authors would have us look to nature where plants grow closely together, often scattered among each other, sometimes in the same location at different times. For inspiration, we do not have to make a pilgrimage to a virgin forest or an unspoiled meadow; simply look at an untended lot, a drainage ditch, the side of the road. You will probably see no bare ground, a variety of plants in close proximity, and, if you frame it creatively, great beauty. This is the model that the authors suggest we should use when we design our gardens.

Of course, the authors are not telling us to replace our gardens with patches of weeds. The book proposes three archetypes for garden design: grasslands, forests, woodlands and shrub-lands. We are told to choose the archetype that most nearly resembles our location and to select plants and design accordingly. Mixing plants that naturally grow in different environments results in confusing, poorly designed gardens. At about this point, I begin to have questions. Having spent some time in the Appalachian forests, I have a mental picture of what that environment looks like. A meadow also evokes pictures upon which a garden could be built. But my urban three-quarters of an acre fits neither of those models; therefore it must be woodlands and shrub-lands, but I do not have a very good idea of what that is. Here and elsewhere in this book, we must either do some serious work to take the next step or wait for someone else to provide the details.

In his blog, Grounded Design, Thomas Rainer explains how he and Claudia West co-authored this book. Rainer is more interested in the natural archetypes, West in layered planting techniques. There are four layers and they are the same for all archetypes:

  • structural and framework plants,
  • seasonal theme plants,
  • ground covering plants,
  • filler species.

The structural and seasonal plants are relatively tall and planted sparsely; the filler species are temporary. The ground-covers tie everything together. Without them, there would be no community. This is how the ground covers are described in the book: "This layer includes plants with aggressive, clonal spreading behavior, such as Packera obovata. They closely hug the ground and provide excellent erosion control, weed suppression, and green mulch function." (p. 179) Here again, I begin to have questions. The authors stress the importance of using a variety of ground covers, but what are they? Some research would be required to identify a set of low-growing, stoloniferous plants that suppress weeds but do not crowd out or overwhelm the more showy members of the plant community or each other. The authors list eight examples; I would like to see more.

Rainer and West believe that "a focus on designed plant communities can lead to a renaissance of design." (p. 253) The beautifully photographed gardens in Planting in a Post-Wild World do indeed suggest a renaissance; they are very different from the gardens most of us work in. It is both frightening and exciting to imagine such a change. But in garden design, as in everything else, change is the only constant. In 1883, William Robinson published The English Flower Garden, proclaiming a radical change from the carpet bedding that defined Victorian gardens. Here is what he says about mixed borders: "Plant in naturally disposed groups... Do not graduate the plants in height from the front to the back, as is generally done, but sometimes let a bold plant come to the edge; and, on the other hand, let a little carpet of a dwarf plant pass in here and there to the back... Have no patience with bare ground, and cover the border with dwarf plants... Let the little ground plants form broad patches and colonies by themselves occasionally, and let them pass into and under other plants." (p. 47) Like Rainer and West, Robinson was inspired by plants in the wild and came to many of the same conclusions. Maybe it is a common memory that compels such visionaries to re-imagine the garden, the oldest memory of all--the memory of a garden.

Reviewed by Roger Duvall

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GPPA Book Review

Proven Plants, Southern Gardens
by Erica Glasener

Cool Springs Press, 2010

In difficult economic times, or any time you treasure your money, this is a book to own. It is a coffee table book, growing guide, reference, and nifty fact book all in one. I don't think it was designed as a coffee table book, but the cover, prints, and photographs are so gorgeous that I would like a copy gracing a table in every room of my home.

Because her book is meant as a growing guide and reference for the South, Erica suggests 10 tried and true plants for each of 20 categories: plants I love, plants I had forgotten, plants I did not know ('Gro-low' sumac), and plants I'm not crazy about (nandina) are fully described, complete with growing conditions, zone requirements, uses, and attractive companion suggestions.

The categories begin with annuals followed by perennials, vines, roses, ferns, shrubs, trees, conifers, and bulbs for every season and situation. Introducing each category, Erica devotes a page to what I consider a bit of everything else. Topics range from variegated plants, water-wise gardening, espalier, palms, and ornamental grasses to the landscaped cemetery, botanical gardens and arboreta of the South. These pages are a source of interesting and fun facts such as, "The first landscaped cemetery, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, opened in Paris, France, in 1804 as a reaction to increasing urban populations and crowded church graveyards."

Guidelines for watering, fertilizing, and composting as well as a comprehensive glossary help make this an excellent reference for new gardeners and a reliable one for those of us who need a bit of a jumpstart for the memory.

Proven Plants, Southern Gardens is an ideal gift, a great addition to any library, and a fabulous accent to any décor.

Reviewed by Kathryn MacDougald

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GPPA Book Review

The Book of Little Hostas:
200 Small, Very Small, and Mini Varieties
by Kathy Guest Shadrack and Michael Shadrack

Timber Press

Timber Press continues to add great and informative garden books to their inventory.

One of the new additions, The Book of Little Hostas, is no exception. Authors Kathy Guest Shadrack and Michael Shadrack, along with consulting editor Diana Grenfell, have shared their knowledge of small, very small, and mini Hosta varieties.

They have the background to support this knowledge. Michael is an active member of both the American Hosta Society and British Hosta and Hemerocallis Society and has been growing Hostas since 1986. Kathy is secretary of the American Hosta Society and editor of the society's international Members' Newsletter. Diana Grenfell is holder of the National Plant Collection of Very Small and Miniature Hostas in Gloucestershire, England.

This book covers how to grow and care for little hostas and how to create a space for them. It also offers a list of companion plants. The authors suggest that you should choose companion plants that complement, not overshadow, your hostas. Growing these smaller varieties of hosta requires more care than the large ones, but it is well worth the effort. Personally, I believe growing these little gems in containers makes more sense. In fact, I grow 80 percent of all my hostas in containers, but this is an individual choice and the book offers numerous ideas. One option that I found intriguing was building a rockery for your collection. Instructions for this project are detailed by the authors.

This book contains many beautiful photographs of hostas and how they can best be used in your garden. Also, it includes a list of sources for acquiring new hostas for your collection.

Reviewed by Jack Driskell

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GPPA Book Review

The Climate Conscious Gardener
Janet Marinelli, Editor

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
Guide for A Greener Planet, 2010

Retreating glaciers, rising sea levels, increased storm action in the south Atlantic - all these phenomena point to a warming planet, but is this a temporary or a permanent shift? The scientific community continues to debate with the politicians, making no real headway on how to counteract the underlying possible causes.

My own garden has undergone a radical change in just 25 years. When we moved out to West Cobb County in 1985, I planted creeping gardenia, Japanese camellia, Fatsia japonica, and Sarcococca confusa. Cold temperatures registering below zero degrees, to as much as 10 degrees below zero, killed most of these plants outright, with the Sarcococca killed to the ground every year. I now grow the same plants with success and, in fact, the Sarcococca now measures three feet tall and has bloomed each winter for the last several years.

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden Guides for A Greener Planet has released The Climate Conscious Gardener, aimed at bringing the aspects of global warming home to the gardening public. A thought-provoking handbook, it is a vehicle for dialogue and a source for separating fact from fiction while pointing out far-reaching consequences of such aspects as lengthening growing seasons and stressed water resources.

Some practices gardeners can implement to reduce a garden's climate footprint include:

  • Retire power tools.

  • Rethink lawn and use alternative turf grasses.

  • Feed the soil and employ no-till practices to keep soil organisms in place.

  • Compost only as much green waste as necessary to renew your soil. The garden landscape is a carbon sink only if some of its vegetation never, ever decomposes.

Who knew the act of composting is a source of greenhouse gas emissions?

  • Aim for a "no irrigation" garden: water wisely, mulch, capture precipitation, avoid frequent watering, hand water, or use low pressure/low volume systems.

  • Recycle garden materials: reduce, reuse, or recycle bricks, concrete, etc.

  • Use good landscape principles: provide wind breaks, summer shade, and winter heat gain.

  • Plant more trees and shrubs and maximize carbon storage in slower growing/longer-lived species.

  • Grow edibles: use permaculture techniques, save seeds of successful species.

Experienced gardeners undertake carbon sequestration practices intuitively, but some aspects of environmental gardening may not have crossed your mind. What is in that bag of potting soil and where did the components originate? Is the peat moss a renewable resource? How far was it trucked before arriving at your door? How much pollution is given off as you blow, bag, or shred all those beautiful leaves littering your lawn this fall? Did you know that the best place to put them is under the tree from which they fell, because that tree utilized all the nutrients it needed during the growing season to create and nourish those leaves. The decaying foliage is fertilizer with the exact nutritional components needed by the tree for growth in the spring.

A lot of information in The Climate Conscious Gardener is common sense, but what this handbook provides is a window to view an in-depth panorama of how our everyday actions take on far-reaching consequences. Perhaps, if we pause to look, we may want to change immediate gratification habits to gain long term health for ourselves and our planet.

Reviewed by Sandra J. Sandefur

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GPPA Book Review

The Curious Gardener
by Jurgen Dahl

Timber Press, 2004

You must be a curious gardener to appreciate the musings of the late Jurgen Dahl, a German garden philosopher that may have been their version of Henry Mitchell. Translated and compiled from his original work, these essays stand alone and each can be read as a whole.

It helps though, to read through sections in order to get into the writer's curious mood.

Dahl notices and wonders about more than just the succession of bloom in his garden that he perceives to be a secret world. He contemplates the pain of a goose calling for its lost mate, and wonders if we give plants too much credit for having evolved elaborate defenses and strategies to survive.

This adventurous soul does more than contemplate - he eats, or at least tastes, almost everything in his garden. He cultivates what some call weeds as salad greens and spices, uses various buds for capers, and even takes ajuga to the kitchen. He kindly notes those plants that are poisonous. "This book is about such discoveries and experiences," Dahl writes, "and it is also about the everyday life of the gardener and his wife ... "

Although Dahl was a bookseller, not a gardener, by trade, he accumulated a great deal of arcane knowledge simply through observation. Reading his sometimes strange notes encourages us to take a second look at our own secret gardens and maybe even nibble a thing or two.

Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

The Essential Garden Design Workbook
by Rosemary Alexander

Timber Press, 2004
ISBN 0-88192-664-7

You think you might want to be a garden designer. It's okay. We all think that now and then. How hard could it be? This book is your reality check.

If you are serious about designing your own or someone else's garden, you need to read this guide to evaluating, measuring and planning a garden along with all the features within it - walls, water features, paths, gates - the whole thing. The plants are the icing on the cake, but the preparation for that stage includes design and site assessment, plans and acquiring some necessary skills.

Ms. Alexander is the founder and principal of The English Gardening School at the Chelsea Physic Garden in London. Her detailed and practical text is written for the hands-on gardeners "who want to rework their gardens to achieve that sought-after 'designer finish'."

Lots of illustrations help you understand the instructions for essential design steps of measuring the garden, evaluating the slope, considering drainage, and the flow of sunlight through various seasons. While Ms. Alexander does not overlook the commonly addressed topics of matching garden to house design, blocking and framing views, building walkways of adequate width, and defining spaces, she also discusses patterns, adding depth, drawing experimental plans and the methods for interpreting plans to potential clients or friends for whom you may be designing.

The text is obviously prepared by an English author, who takes her "torch" (flashlight) with her on initial garden visits. She focuses on smaller, enclosed gardens of the type the English are familiar with, which are also common in our in-town neighborhoods, but her instructions could be applied to the evaluation and planning of any size property.

Ms. Alexander explains a disciplined approach to design that clearly defines it as a process, not an event. It gives pause to those of us who have considered it as a profession and enhances our appreciation of those of our friends who follow design as a profession. An education in 292 pages with 100 color photos.

Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

The Genus Epimedium
Other Herbaceous Berberidaceae
Including the Genus Podophyllum
by William T. Stearn

Timber Press, 2002

The title gives you a clue that this is not light reading. This monograph is a revised and much enlarged edition of one written by the author in 1938. Many of the currently listed epimediums were discovered in only the last decade, greatly expanding the scope of the subject.

In 1990, I ordered seven varieties of epimedium, all that were commonly available at the time. I was an early fan of the genus commonly known as Barrenwort. When this book became available, I anxiously watched for its arrival. My first mind-numbing attempt to read the text was intimidating. From preface to history to morphology, I felt out of my depth. I started to skip ahead to cultivation and photos.

The photos stopped me. They are glorious pictures of epimedium among their neighbors, most from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England, along with equally lovely paintings. Okay, I like the pictures. But the important thing is that they led me to interesting parts of the text. Backtracking, I returned to the Geographical Distribution section, which proved to be quite interesting. Spiced into the text are photos of the places in which epimedium choose to grow naturally. The steep mountainsides featured give a new appreciation of those plant seekers who found them.

"Wherever epimedium is found, woodland and scrub in temperate hilly or montane regions provide the essential conditions for its existence ... without them," Stearn continues, "the genus would not survive."

The specifics of successful cultivation, based on their habitats in the wild, are easy to understand. " ... they thrive best under moderately cool and half-shady conditions, preferably in moist but well-drained humus-rich soil. Their rhizomes creep shallowly below the surface and in the wild are mulched by fallen leaves." Stearn continues, " ... soils should be enriched with abundant humus, preferably leaf-mould, to which a little slow-acting fertilizer may be added."

An extensive Key to the genus is provided, along with very detailed discussions of the species. In the seven-page discussion of Epimedium grandiflorum, the author explains the Japanese name 'Ikariso' "from ikari (grapnel or anchor) and so (plant), the four long curved spurs of the flower suggesting the four-fluked grapnel (Nottsuzume ikari, four-claw anchor) which is used by Japanese fishermen."

It is a hefty price to pay for someone who is not a botanical scholar, but would still be worth seeking out in libraries for gardeners who are enchanted by the spidery early spring blooms held high on wiry stems and the beautifully veined and colored foliage that follows. Many of the epimedium that have been discovered are not yet available for our gardens, but more are showing up with every catalog. With this scholarly work in hand, you will have a better idea which ones you have to have.

Reviewed by Karin Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

The Harmonious Garden: Color, Form, and Texture
by Catherine Ziegler

Timber Press, 1996

It is not customary to read a book from back to front, but it may be justified in this case. While the first half of this book focuses on pictures of plant combinations in their momentarily perfect state, the second half provides a wealth of reference materials.

"Part Two: Plant Details and Associations" provides suggestions for what plants might complement the star player you have chosen. Having brought home a fine flat of, say, Snapdragon Antirrhium majus 'Princess White with Purple Eye', she suggests that the two allysums Lobularia maritime 'Carpet and Snow' and 'Easter Bonnet Deep Pink' might be perfect associates. To prove it, she refers you back to the photo that captures this combo at the height of it's glory in the garden.

"Bloom Options for Temperate Climates by Exposure, Season, and Color" would be a helpful guide to selecting plants for a color-themed garden, or a flower bed planted for peak bloom in a particular season.

The first half of the book devotes one page to each plant combo that the author has found attractive, or, I suspect, that she had a fine photograph of. She analyzes why the combination is effective and how many of each plant you might purchase to recreate the scene in your own garden.

Many of the photos were taken in England or New York, and feature lovely plants that will not grow here, so substitutions would need to be made.

Reviewed by Karin Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

The Hostapedia
by Mark Zilis

Q&Z Nursery, Rochelle, IL, 2009

This book contains everything you ever wanted to know about hostas but may not have the time (or the endurance) to read.

Hostas are herbaceous perennial plants native to Japan, Korea, and China. Between 40 and 50 species have given rise to the thousands of cultivars (varieties) we recognize today. All species hostas are green, but the range of colors for cultivars goes from darkest green to light gold and chartreuse. Some are variegated, streaked, or margined, with contrasting colors extending from pure white to dark green or gold.

Hostas were first brought into cultivation from Asia in the 1820s by a German physician, P. F. Von Siebold, who was an avid amateur plant collector. Hosta sieboldiana was named for him. Ever since, we have embraced it and made it our own. While hostas have a natural tendency to mutate, or sport, from green into myriad colors and variations, countless hybridizers have added further variety to the mix.

When Zilis was young, his grandfather introduced him to gardening. He became so interested that he later studied ornamental horticulture and received an MS in horticulture, with a specialty in tissue culture, from the University of Illinois. He joined the American Hosta Society, where he made friends with several luminaries in the hosta world. Today Zilis is co-owner of Q & Z Nursery in Rochelle, IL, a wholesale nursery specializing in tissue culture hostas and other perennials. He has introduced a number of hosta sports and hybrids, including Hosta 'Endless Summer', H. 'Cookies and Cream', and H. 'Victory'.

Beginning in the 1980s, Zilis visited the gardens of collectors around the world where he photographed and measured hostas. He traveled to Asia to collect hostas in their native habitat. The Hostapedia is a compilation of every hosta that he has photographed over the past 30 years!

The real meat of the book, however, resides in the 7,400 descriptions of hosta cultivars and species. Zilis provides their origin (parentage, hybridizer, year registered, etc.), plant history, description, and current availability. Many entries include detailed measurements and color photographs (1897 of them!).

The Hostapedia is certainly not easy to carry around and is somewhat difficult to manage even sitting down, but the wealth of information contained between its covers makes it an indispensible addition to any garden library. For the moderately serious hosta collector interested learning more, the Zilis book is an excellent investment. One has to wonder what could possibly top it. Given that over 30 years went into research and photography for this book, it will be a long time before any other author comes even close.

Reviewed by Judy Burns

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GPPA Book Review

Roy Diblik
The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden

Timber Press

Roy Diblik is a Wisconsin plantsman and designer whose decades of experience creating and maintaining private and public perennial gardens has resulted in his unique, somewhat holistic, approach to the topic. He advocates gardening "in harmony with how plants grow and interact with each other in nature." This is much more than the right-plant right-place mantra gardeners have always heard. Diblik's method requires that the gardener know the plants intimately, understand the site, and commit to the plants' proper care and maintenance.

Diblik explains in detail every aspect of a perennial that will guide its selection: flower, seed head, foliage, stem, root, crown, growth rate, and habit. Thus informed, the gardener won't expect the plant to conform to her wants, which usually results in "failure, frustration, and a loss of self-confidence." The goal is to develop a natural and intuitive relationship with the garden, resulting in less susceptibility to "the marketing fads of the gardening industry".

The Know Maintenance garden eschews high fertility, heavy mulching with wood chips, and too-wide spacing. Looking at successful remnant prairies indigenous to the northern half of the country, Diblik believes fertility should derive from the decaying plants themselves. At the end of the season, he recommends mowing perennial beds several times to create natural mulch. If this is impractical, the dead portions can be hand pruned to the ground, raked into a pile, mowed, and then reapplied to the bed. This practice seemed unworkable, to me. The less dedicated, Diblik says, can simply purchase local leaf mulch.

The author's instructions for bed preparation are equally novel. Rototilling is to be avoided at all costs in order to prevent weed germination. For a previously vegetated site, he first sprays the herbicide glyphosate. Individual planting holes are dug with a small shovel, adding a little organic matter to each hole. On new home construction sites, a couple of inches of local leaf mulch, but no sand or gravel, should be tilled in lightly. This method works, I'm sure, in the soils Diblik cultivates. His photographs show the stunning results, but his procedures contradict the established practices Southern perennial gardeners find successful in red clay.

Care and maintenance guidelines are more in line with Southern methodology. Oddly, Diblik's discussion about watering makes no mention of hand watering. He does stress keeping track of natural rainfall, noting the risks of overwatering. He provides a detailed irrigation timetable based on watering at14 to 20-day intervals the first two years. A thoughtful description of "plant dynamics" helps readers anticipate and adjust to changes as the garden matures.

Seventy-five detailed perennial plant profiles include species that prefer the cool summer nights where Diblik gardens. But Georgia gardeners could substitute similar perennials more adaptable here. Solidago 'Fireworks', for example, performs better for us than 'Golden Fleece'. His 30 themed garden plans, drawn from actual plantings and several Impressionist paintings, inspired me. The book's photographs, mostly by the author, testify to the success of his cultural methods and design skill.

Gardeners understand that their craft is regional, and this book would be more valuable where the author gardens. His philosophy of establishing perennial plant communities, however, should be useful everywhere. I intend to re-read this book, digest its overarching concepts, and re- interpret them here.

Reviewed by Paula Refi

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GPPA Book Review

The Landscape Design Answer Book:
More than 300 Specific Design Solutions for Your Landscape
by Jane Bath

Cool Springs Press, 2006

This initial foray into the publishing realm by regionally noted plantswoman and garden designer Jane Bath offers good solid information written in easy-to-understand language. It is helpful for new gardeners, those venturing into building a new home and/or garden, as well as those longtime gardening homeowners looking to fix past mistakes.

The information shared by Bath was accrued through years of hands-on work in the landscape and natural environments. She points out aspects that might be overlooked by the uninitiated. An astute problem solved, she give3s homeowners the tools to evaluate their gardening faux pas and suggestions on how to mitigate their errors. The photographcs illustrate the exact features she highlights.

The book's format lends itself to reading from cover to cover, but it is less aplicable to referencing over time. It may be somewhat difficult to find the topic the reader wished to review. However, the "How to Use the Landscape Design Answer Book" section lays out the philosophy behind the text and elaborates on the chapter layouts, allowing a reader to norrow the scope of a search.

Covering information as broad as what factors to consider in siting a home to pruning practices and trash can placement, these 400 pages hold a wealth of information that addresses 316 aspects of the landscape. It is a good source for identifying and fixing your mistakes and a labot of love from our own Jane Bath.

Review by Sandra Sandefur

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GPPA Book Review

The Layered Garden
by David Culp

Timber Press, 2012

"Hello. My name is David, and I am addicted to plants." This is the confession of author David Culp who has made the development of his Brandywine Cottage in Pennsylvania the premise for a book that celebrates not so much the layering of the garden as the appreciation of each season. Photos illustrate how sections of the garden transition from spring through winter.

A reader can only imagine that the two-acre garden, tended with his partner Michael Alderfer, must be so full of plants as to disallow the introduction of even one more bulb. The reconstructed site is divided into borders and gardens where every layer from ground cover to airy tree branches is filled with coordinated color and interest. From his youthful interest in daffodils to current fascinations with epimedium and trilliums, he also expands his view to the small shrubs and trees that raise your eye from ground-covering ephemerals.

While the first half of this book can be met with the same patience you might extend to friends taking you on tours of their gardens, the second half focuses on specific plants in their varieties and service to the overall garden. Culp makes no distinction between the plants that thrive in his native Tennessee and those that will only survive in his more northern garden. While reading, you would do well to check on the viability of attractive-sounding plants in the climate where you hope to grow them. This is not a scientific text, but more of an expression of love for his garden and the growing inhabitants.

Culp places special emphasis on his galanthus (snowdrops) and hellebore collections, areas of interest for which he is well known. His breeding efforts in hellebores have resulted in the Brandywine Hybrids. He is frequently consulted for his expertise in snowdrops. He grows "more than a hundred different cultivars" and says his collection continues to expand. The diversity of flowers from these small bulbs is depicted in pages of detailed, close-up photos of his favorite selections, showing the diverse forms and markings that make them distinct. Galanthus 'David L. Culp' is a variety that was introduced by the Royal Horticulture Society in 2009 after it was discovered by Culp and two friends in an English woodland.

Some portions of the text seem designed to support the display of the many lovely photographs taken by Rob Cardillo, a familiar signature in horticulture literature.

Reviewed by Karin Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

The Nonstop Garden: A Step-by-Step Guide to Smart Plant Choices and Four-Season Designs
by Stephanie Cohen and Jennifer Benner

Timber Press, 2010

Stephanie Cohen and Jennifer Benner understand the heart's desire of every gardener: nothing less than year-round beauty. The authors do more than suggest plants of interest for every season; they recommend plants in combinations that magnify the individual attributes of the species. And they make creating that dream garden so very possible.

Garden design books can easily intimidate readers with overly poetic descriptions and little practical advice. This volume guides gardeners through the logical steps necessary to plan a continuous display:

  • Build your garden room by room

  • Get to know your site

  • Start with a plan

  • Choose the right plants

Their "recipe for success," with its instructive and amusing soup analogy, illustrates how to combine woody and herbaceous plants in ideal proportions. Sections on the "main attractions" (trees, shrubs, and perennials) and the "supporting cast" (bulbs, annuals, tropicals, edibles, and vines) follow. Featured plants represent all categories in lists that are, thankfully, not exhaustive and are adapted to a wide range of hardiness zones.

The book does not appeal to any region in an obvious way, a huge benefit for gardeners in this nation of diverse habitats. The artful photographs, mostly by Jennifer Benner, are splendid. They are focused and colorful, but not artificially enhanced in the lurid way that is the hallmark of some garden publications.

A section on finishing touches offers ideas for personalizing the garden with objects and structures. I had to laugh at the gnome in Stephanie Cohen's garden - not a surprise to her GPPA friends. In fact, the authors' playful humor is an undercurrent in every chapter. They advise gardeners to "tease and coax visitors with a trail of ornamental breadcrumbs." And how could anyone resist including the "juicy, red cranberry-sized fruit" of serviceberry? It's a rare thing when a design book evokes smiles while providing enlightenment.

Although I am not a writer or publisher of garden books (challenging professions today), I am a voracious consumer of garden books. The days are past when Elizabeth Lawrence and Christopher Lloyd captivated readers with lyrical text and an occasional line drawing. This book's design (and I don't know who to credit) combines not-too-much text, tantalizing photography, and clever blocks of color to format chapter and topic headings. The 10 garden plans and artistic watercolor renderings are not just helpful, they are inspiring. The Non-Stop Garden is a brilliantly packaged book for today's gardener who reads.

Reviewed by Paula Refi

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GPPA Book Review

The Truth About Organic Gardening
by Jeff Gillman

Timber Press, 2008

We all like to choose sides. When it comes to organic gardening, some draw a line in the sand where everything on the synthetic side is bad, and everything on the organic side is good. Jeff Gillman refutes many preconceived notions using logic, common sense, and facts. In the preface, Gillman explains his approach to the issue. He neither promotes nor attacks organic gardening. I found this to be true. He offers a very balanced view of what works and why.

According to Gillman, the perceived extra value of organic products brings an extra cost. It becomes a marketing tool. This reviewer has even seen "organic seed" advertised. When I asked one seller where organic seed came from, he said, "Organic plants." This reminded me of the query, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?" In my opinion, all seeds are organic.

I believe there are too many poisonous chemicals available to the public. Just because a lawn service has a license to spray and they do so on a regular basis doesn't mean all those chemicals are necessary. And when it comes to those little signs that warn "Do not walk on treated lawn," since when can wild creatures read? But I am on my soap box here and interject my opinion, not the author's.

Gillman lists and rates a number of cultural practices, such using organic amendments and chemical sprays, bagging fruit, and trapping bugs. Sprays like citrus oil, garlic, pepper, Sevin, DDT, and many more are listed, often by chemical name and not product. name. Each product or practice includes a bit of its history. Each entry ends with is a note on benefits, drawbacks, and "the bottom line," The last section should help you make an informed decision on what to do in your garden.

Personally, I always differentiated between pesticides and herbicides because one kills insects and the other kills plants. But Gillman says, since weeds are "pests," then herbicides fall under pesticides. Um, okay.

This is an easy book to read, very insightful, and filled with "Aha!" moments. I'll resist the temptation to quote them all and list just a few.

  • Pesticide labels are mandated by law, and if you don't follow them you are breaking the law.

  • EIQ stands for environmental impact quotient. This rating of toxicological effects does not appear on labels, but the author tells where to find this information.

  • The categories of toxicity that do appear on labels are "Caution," " Warning," and "Danger." Gillman explains each designation.

  • It would be more accurate to substitute the word "natural" for "organic."

Gillman gives lawn care companies grief for their overuse of chemicals, and I say "Good for him." I liked it when he wrote, "It's not the end of the world if there are three dandelions in your lawn." Gillman is a voice of reason on a topic that often runs to extremes. Who wins, organic or synthetic? Buy the book and find out.

Reviewed by Eddie Rhoades

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GPPA Book Review

The Well-Tended Perennial Garden:
Planting and Pruning Techniques
by Tracy DiSabato-Aust

When I was a younger gardener, I remember reading that you could plant perennials just one time and you would get flowers that come back every year. Just stick them in a hole and forget them. Well, that sort of works, but it isn't always pretty for long.

The word perennial covers a very wide range of plant material, and each has unique planting and pruning needs to make them bloom their best and extend their lives. I really love my perennials. I have hundreds of them. Carefully selected bulbs, flowers, and flowering shrubs colorfully announce the seasons.

I have a bookcase full of gardening books of every size and description. The one I keep going back to year after year is The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting & Pruning Techniques, in an expanded edition published in 2006. Tracy DiSabato-Aust is a celebrated landscape designer, lecturer, body builder, and author based in Ohio. She excels at presenting her cultivation techniques such as:

  • Clipping and pinching back a stand of plants such as yarrow, bee balm, or Joe Pye weed using photographs and descriptions of before, during, and after pinching . You can see the difference two months later when half the group has been pruned and the other half has not.

  • Correctly trimming Dianthus 'Bath's Pink', Salvia 'Midnight Blue', Phlox paniculata 'David', or Tradescantia spiderwort to promote a second flush of growth in the fall.

  • Providing an excellent narrative and pictures of techniques for pinching, dead heading, thinning, and cutting back plants. The message is, "Do this, and that is what you get."

  • Listing tasks you do in the spring and fall.

After reviewing the Encyclopedia of Perennials section, I estimate that 80 percent of my perennials are pictured and discussed in detail. Often references are made to exceptions for our Southern climate. This book isn't Birds and Blooms or Garden Gate graphics of a flower bed. It is much more than just a plant description book. I go visit Ms. Disbato-Aust often to review what I should be doing now to a favorite plant or a new one. Pick up a used copy from for the price of a few bulbs.

Reviewed by Craig "Pa" Rattleff

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GPPA Book Review

Timber Press Pocket Guide to Bulbs
by John E. Bryan

Timber Press, 2005

As your garden matures and the shrubs expand and the perennials spread, there is still always room for some more bulbs. And it seems that you can never have too many. Their seasons of bloom extend from spring through winter. There are varieties for sun and shade, for wet and dry. So which to choose?

This reference book from Timber press should make the shopping easier and will perhaps introduce you to some bulbs you were unaware of. There are excellent sections on the many varieties of iris, daffodils and lilies. The iris family alone provides great diversity, from the tiny, ephemeral I. reticulata that prefers very well-drained, gritty soil, to the robust and aggressive I. pseudacorus that prefers standing water. This guide sorts them out and provides guidance to growing conditions preferred.

When I am reading a reference of this sort, I would just as soon know right away if the lush bloomer pictured in the photograph will only grow in Zone 10. This information can be difficult to locate in some listings, as it is often buried in the text.

Want to know the difference between snowdrops (Leucojum) and snowdrops (Galanthus)? This would be the place to look.

700 species, cultivars, and hybrids are included in this reference, illustrated with 300 photographs.

Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

Untamed Garden and Other Personal Essays
by David Rains Wallace

Ohio State University Press, 1986

There are times when we get so involved in shaping nature, that we miss seeing nature. That is not a problem for David Wallace, who lives with an awareness of the smallest ecosystems that surround us and who has obviously given their perpetuation a lot of thought.

This naturalist and philosopher has lived in places as diverse as San Francisco and New Jersey, and visited the Okefenokee and Japan with equal interest. He seems to be unperturbed by wandering into those spaces the rest of us seldom frequent, and running across sleeping bears, or sleeping on stilts in the swamp surrounded by the reflected light of alligator eyes.

He studies the earth and appreciates its diversity, particularly in those out of the way places that we have not yet touched. It is for this revelation that reading this book is such a pleasurable experience. The beautifully descriptive scenes allow the reader to "finally escape from the world of suppressed waterways" as the author writes.

In a chapter titled "Wetlands in America" the author traces the history of a fictitious family from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to modern America through their impact on the wetlands of our country. "Fifteen thousand years of post-glacial swamps and marshes prepared a North American continent eminently suited to agro-industrial exploitation," he writes, "which has always seems a little uncanny and ironic to me."

This little gem is too good to pass up.

Reviewed by Karin E. Guzy

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GPPA Book Review

When Perennials Bloom
by Tomasz Anisko

Timber Press, 2008

Tomasz Anisko, curator of over 11,000 types of plants at the internationally renowned Longwood Gardens, truly has a vast laboratory from which to research any number of botanical avenues. He concentrates on perennials for this book, creating an encyclopedia of perennials and their bloom times, beginning with Acanthus and moving through Yucca. Each entry is outlined, as follows:

  • Common name

  • Name derivation

  • Native range: where it grows (environmental factors) and how it grows (plant form, size, leaf type, flower form)

  • Use in a garden setting

  • Suitability for cutting

  • Hardiness zone, including special treatment to over-winter

  • Selections available

  • Bloom time at Longwood Gardens: description and treatment and bar graph bloom chart

In addition, a comprehensive chart provides a floral almanac gardeners can consult to create ever-blooming borders. Plants are sorted first according to the earliest date in bloom, then according to the latest date when in flower, with color-coded bars illustrating all years (dark gray), most years (medium gray), and some years (light gray).

Bloom times for the Atlanta region (Zone 7b) need adjusting from the information gleaned at Longwood Gardens, located in southeastern Pennsylvania (Zone 6). Helpful directions are given to apply the data across regions. For example, you can compare a few indicator plants you have successfully grown in each season with bloom times for the data shown. If bloom is two weeks later than the chart, apply this two week offset to other plants in the same season.

Even though the meat of this book is the encyclopedia of perennials, I found the background information covered in the other chapters very informative.

What is a Perennial? They are plants able to repeatedly renew themselves vegetatively, regardless of the longevity of their underground parts. They preserve some of their meristems in the vegetative state each year, while others produce flowers. If you understand the different morphological types and, thus, where buds are located, then the perennial division process is apparent.

Why do perennials bloom at specific times? What are synchrony and seasonality? The effective out-crossing among individual plants of the same species in one population requires that they all flower in synchrony based on temperature or day length. Seasonality of bloom thus allows flowering to take place during periods of pollinator availability.

How do perennials respond to the environment? Developmental stages are triggered by a range of environmental factors that change with the seasons:

  • Day length or, rather, dark length

  • Temperature, both air and soil

  • Water abundance and duration

  • Vernalization of seeds

  • Garden practices, such as heading back, which can delay bloom

Perennials and Phenology: A branch of ecology, phenology describes the relationship between the timing of periodic biological phenomena, climate, and other environmental factors. Through observations in the United States, phenological changes over time indicate that the difference between the Southern-most and Northern-most regions can be more than 10 weeks. In view of this extended environmental influence, the importance of provenance in plant stock is important for achieving success with a plant like red maple that ranges from the Canadian border all the way to Florida. Buying from locally grown stock is important in more than just food.

The photography is bright and colorful, with mostly close-up shots of one or more examples for each perennial. For future reading, the bibliography is extensive, covering individual genera, flora of various countries, plant growth and development, and plant collector guides.

Anisko earned his doctorate in horticulture at the University of Georgia, and you could assume that Anisko had been inspired by Allan Armitage and Michael Dirr. His knowledge relating to the biology and bloom interactions of perennials is vast. The generalities of which genera bloom together can be lifted directly from the data presented. It is up to Atlanta gardeners to interpolate and apply findings to their own gardens in order to have that lush bloom display ready for the wedding scheduled next June.

Reviewed by Sandra J. Sandefur

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