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Anne Marie Van Nest

Professional Gardening Expert

How to Plant Perennials: Best Perennial Flowers Books

What makes a good reference book on perennials?

Personally, it is a book that has information on more plants than I can possibly use in my garden. I am a person that needs lots of choice when I make a plant selection decision. The book also has to have all the required basic growing information (plant description, hardiness, soil preferences, and sunlight rating) in addition to handy tips that the author has observed. These extra tips can be valuable information like pruning instructions to encourage the plants to rebloom or characteristics that differentiate one plant from another. A good reference book is the culmination of many years of growing, research, or observational experience possessed by the writer.

Good reference books are not totally about “glowing praise.” A valuable reference book will mention the downfall of some plants too. Good authors will include justified candid comments about plants, good or bad that will be important information for readers.

Many good reference books have equally good images to accompany the quality text alongside. For books on perennials this is vitally important. A good visual picture of a plant flower and a landscape picture to show the scale is essential for readers to judge whether that plant is a worthy consideration for their garden.

Learn how to plant perennials for the most beautiful garden. Find the best perennial flowers books with the help of our experts who search the Internet for gardening how to books that provide all the details you need for a successful garden.

Best Books on Perennials by Anne Marie Van Nest

The Best You Can Get

  • Herbaceous Perennial Plants: A Treatise on Their Identification, Culture and Garden Attributes

    Anne says: Solid, usable information on a huge selection of plants (3,600 species) that grow well (or Armitage will tell you otherwise) in North America between hardiness zones 3 to 8. Armitage shows his long-standing expertise in this field by including insightful details about the many cultivars of perennials which with he is intimately familiar.

    Handy keys throughout this encyclopaedic reference (fondly called “The Big Perennial Book”) help differentiate one perennial from another similar one. The keys reflect this books’ value as a reference text as it has many more written words than color pictures.

    Armitage includes a concise description of each plant type but can’t help add a little extra valuable information, as shown by white Boltonia, "Although the species produces showy flowers, it is too large, floppy, and weedy for my liking and should not be grown in the 'formal' garden. However, one of the finest garden plants is a selection of this 'weed'…. 'Snowbank' is a cultivar of which I am most fond." It is these candid comments that make this book such a treasure.


    • By Allan M. Armitage
    • 1224 pages
    • 300 color photographs and line drawings
  • Armitage's Garden Perennials A Color Encyclopedia

    Anne says: An excellent companion to Armitages’ Herbaceous Perennial Plants book, this one includes many exceptional photographs of each plant (often both in a garden setting and a close up of the flower). Many of the images are of unusual perennials, reflecting the world-wide travels of the author. The photographs also show a variety of creative uses for many of the plants. Clematis, for example, is shown growing up a mailbox post and scrambling over a stone wall - two untraditional methods of growing this beautiful plant. Besides the wonderful bounty of color photographs, 136 different genera of perennials are discussed in paragraph format.

    Very handy lists of plants recommended for specific growing conditions (groundcovers, drought, shade, etc) and by flower color and cut flower desirability.


    • By Allan M. Armitage
    • 314 pages
    • 1500 color photographs
  • The Well-Tended Perennial Garden Planting and Pruning Techniques

    Anne says: A book lovingly written from the heart and hands, it is the passing of experience from one gardener who loves perennials to others. Whether you already have fallen in love with perennials or just want to learn how to care for them the best way possible, this is a book entirely dedicated to perennial garden maintenance - and mostly about deadheading, dividing, planting, and pruning. This is the how-to grow perennials book for novice or experienced gardeners. Information is detailed and specific. For example, DiSabato-Aust writes of Artemisia ‘Lambrook Silver’, “When half their mature height (normally in early June), plants can be pinched, or cut back by one-half, and shaped with hedge shears to reduce height and to prevent flopping latter in the summer. I usually cut off the flowerheads as soon as I see them forming to better enjoy the silver foliage. A second trim may be necessary to keep plants looking good.”

    The three appendixes at the back of the book are extremely valuable and contain details specific to ornamental grasses, a suggested year-long perennial maintenance schedule, and finally, an astounding 36 lists of perennials with specific pruning and maintenance requirements.


    • By Tracey DiSabato-Aust
    • 384 pages
    • 276 color photographs and 19 line drawings
  • Perennials for Every Purpose: Choose The Right Plants For Your Conditions, Your Garden, and Your Taste

    Anne says: Hodgson is refreshingly open in sharing his opinions of perennials (good or bad), which is a real boon for gardeners (especially new ones). He believes in revealing the true nature of a plant, “warts and all”, so that readers can make their own informed decision about growing it (or not). This, plus his decades of gardening experience (and his plantaholic nature) really makes this book a valuable reference for anyone growing perennials.

    Perennials for Every Purpose includes a great list of ten things to look for in a perennial and the ten commandments of perennial design as well as seven garden plans designed by professionals for home gardeners to adapt (no matter what size garden).

    More than 700 plants are listed by their special features rather than by alphabetical order in the bulk of the book. Fourteen categories of plants such as everblooming, no-care and low-care, drought-resistant, shade blooming, fabulous foliage, groundcovers, and bird and butterfly attracting perennials are presented. Each plant is given a generous two page allotment and contains information on the plant profile, growing tips, good neighbours (companion plant notes), problems and solutions as well as the top performer is highlighted. Also included are sidebars sharing “Larry’s garden notes”, fun facts from around the world, and kissing cousins (notable relatives) - all important information that should not be missed.


    • By Larry Hodgson
    • 512 pages
    • Color photographs
  • The Perennial Gardener’s Design Primer

    Anne says: An invaluable book full of great advice, handy garden designers tips, inspiring garden photography, and many workable plant combinations. In addition to all the excellent design information, Cohen and Ondra present their favourite 475 perennials (plus alternatives too). The book is written to demystify the task of perennial garden design and is full of candid, practical advice about designing and creating your own garden by yourself.

    A portion of the book is dedicated to selecting perennials and even many non-perennials that work well together. Handy tips to implement a garden plan and advice on planning other non-plant details such as paths, fences, and trellises are also included.

    The authors have tips and specific advice scattered throughout the book as “Stephanie Says” and “Nan’s Notebook” sidebars. For example Stephanie says to “mix it up” when designing foundation plantings so that they are more than cubes and green meatballs. She suggests combining colorful shrubs with favorite perennials to create a foundation planting that will complement your home instead of just covering it up. Ondra recommends in one Nan’s Notebooks to build a holding bed as a temporary home for plants until they can be planted elsewhere.

    Twenty original, creative color effects garden plans have been included that have useful plant lists, illustrations, and plant counts.


    • Stephanie Cohen and Nancy J. Ondra
    • 228 pages
    • 20 original garden plans

You will be happy with any of these

  • Perennial Gardening Guide

    Anne says: What started out to be a handy marketing tool for Heritage Perennials with a desire to produce a good pictorial guide to perennials, has quickly become a valuable perennial reference thanks to Valleau. His determination to include accurate perennial plant details combined with the numerous (but small) photographs has made this a mainstay for anyone wanting to learn about new plants, those who have to choose the right plant for the location, and gardeners who want to identify a mystery plants. And if you are wanting a new hosta for the garden - prepare to spend several hours pouring over the many excellent selections in this book.

    Now covering more than 1500 perennial varieties, the Perennial Gardening Guide is extremely useful for finding the perfect plant for any situation. Concise and easy to use, this book provides at-a-glance details for the tried and true or newer perennials, grasses, or ferns found in many garden centers.


    • By John Valleau
    • 176 pages
    • 600 color photographs
  • Perennial Combinations: Stunning Combinations That Make Your Garden Look Fantastic Right From the Start

    Anne says: Burrell offers plenty to ponder with his 130 perennial combinations featuring two to six plants, each of which can be easily recreated in either the smallest or largest garden. Burrell offers numerous suggestions of perennial combinations for the challenging conditions found in wet or dry sites as well as clay or sandy gardens. A stunning book full of practical ideas, Burrell illustrates his ideas with live perennial grouping, a drawn plan, and photo key. His parsley, lamb’s ears and ‘Vera Johnson’ sedum grouping is particularly inspiring for a sunny and slightly dry location. He even offers others suggestions of using yellow thyme, golden oregano, or deep purple opal basil in this design.

    A new section in the latest revision of this book specifically offers combinations for dramatic effect - bold foliage, bold and colourful flower combinations, and bold accents for those gardeners that need a little more drama in their garden.


    • By C. Colston Burrell
    • 384 pages
    • Color photographs and drawings
  • Perennials: The Definitive Reference with over 2,500 Photographs

    Anne says: A book designed especially to compare and admire the beauty of perennials. It is particularly well suited for comparing one cultivar with another. Most perennials are shown photographed in close-up floral view against a white background for an excellent comparison opportunity. Many of these same plants are also shown from a greater distance in a garden or native habitat setting. This is a book that excels at the visual image of perennials. One concise paragraph of information is included for each plant.


    • By Roger Phillips and Martin Rix
    • 480 pages
    • 2,500 color photographs
  • Caring for Perennials; What to Do and When to Do It

    Anne says: Macunovich takes readers through the year and thoroughly explains what to do and when to do all the tasks that might be needed to have a flourishing perennial garden. Even more valuable then having all this information about caring for perennials are the tips she shares to be super efficient and spend an average of one hour per month on 100 square feet. Macunovich suggests about weeding, “Fall weeding is probably the biggest time-saving strategy in horticulture. My records indicate the first maintenance visit in spring can be shortened by as much as 75 percent if fall work is done thoroughly.” And on tools, “A five-gallon bucket may be a gardener’s greatest labor-saving device. It can serve as a bucket for soaking transplants, a bag to hold small tools or debris, and a portable stool. The only drawback is that you become over-reliant on it and annoyed when your bucket disappears.”

    Other handy tips from her many years of practical experience include how to install edgings correctly so that they do their job and stay in place. Macunovich includes an informative line drawing to illustrate how to avoid pesky air pockets and get the correct perennial planting depth.

    In the record keeping section, Macunovich offers her estimation of how much time is needed to maintain 100 sq. ft. of a landscape on the average throughout the three growing seasons, from mowing the lawn (eight minutes per month) to annual flowers (twenty minutes per month) and perennial beds (60 minutes per month).


    • By Janet Macunovich
    • 200 pages
    • Color photographs and line drawings
  • Perennial All-Stars: The 150 Best Perennials for Great-Looking, Trouble-Free Gardens

    Anne says: Cox states, “Each and every perennial in this book is an excellent garden plant that is truly worthy of the title perennial all-star.” Every one of the 150 all-stars has one or two color photographs, a detailed spotlight of the key plant characteristics (height, flower color, etc.), how to grow and propagation information, friendly co-stars (companion plants), and the ideal site for each plant.

    A handy section of cross-referenced all-stars can be found at the front of the book. This section of 23 lists groups the all-stars into similar soil, sun, height, and maintenance requirements (such as those that seldom need division), etc.

    Cox doesn’t stop at his original list of 150 first-rate perennials; he expands this by suggesting other family members that are almost all-stars.


    • By Jeff Cox
    • 344 pages
    • Color photographs and line drawings

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Discover how to plant perennials with the best perennial flowers books on the Web. These gardening how to books offer the basic growing information, from plant description to soil preferences. Always the best price, our expert recommendations feature the perfect perennial plant books that are invaluable resources when you start planting this spring.