It dawned on me the other day that as a professional landscape designer and gardening coach there are a few books that I refer to all the time. In gardening, just like many other pursuits, you often find conflicting information. It’s important to find a source of tried and true, reliable information so you don’t make needless and costly mistakes.
When I am dealing with woody shrubs and trees I always pull out my copy of The Manual of Woody Landscape Plants by Michael Dirr. Admittedly, this is not a book that the typical home gardener needs to own. It is an 1,100+ page bible for landscape professionals that gives simple, detailed facts about virtually every woody plant.
When I am dealing with perennials, I turn to The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting & Pruning Techniques by Tracy DiSabato-Aust. This is not a book about designing with perennials but is a book I think every gardener who grows perennials can benefit from owning. This is a book about how to plant and care for almost any perennial imaginable.
There is a comprehensive chapter on the significance of soil and how to amend your soil so your perennials will thrive. Ms. DiSabato-Aust gives her ‘recipe’ for successful soil and discusses the importance of proper planting depth, proper watering techniques (sounds like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many people don’t water properly) and the use of fertilizers.
This book also shows different techniques for pruning and the reasons why you may want to prune, such as staggering bloom time or increasing the size of flowers. I like the way the book explains why you might want to employ her techniques and the pros & cons behind the decision. It gives you all the necessary information and let’s you decide what’s best for your garden and your time schedule.
A detailed profile is presented for each plant. Not only are growing zones and site conditions mentioned, comprehensive pruning and maintenance instructions are outlined. There is also an extensive timeline by season of maintenance chores for any perennial garden. I find it helps me take the guess work out of garden maintenance and also reminds me of chores I may have forgotten to do.
Do you have a favorite gardening book that you can’t live without? I’d love to hear about it, I’m always looking for new titles to add to my collection.