Friday, March 10, 2017

The Well-Tended Perennial Garden ~ A Book Review

Do you manipulate the perennials in your garden? Learning to do so with ease and precision is one of the things I have always liked about The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust.
 On the left is my original copy from 1998 which was constantly on my desk as a resource when writing my weekly newspaper gardening column or for other publications. On the right is the latest, completely revised and expanded edition of 2017 which I was offered to review.
Gardening at Hiddenhaven, her property in Ohio, DiSabato-Aust is the type of writer who not only gives the facts but also her own testimony to cultivars she has used, and why.
The 2017 edition book has new plants listed, new projects and best of all - colour photos!
As with the previous editions of the Well-Tended Perennial Garden, design is addressed and what constitutes low maintenance plants and gardening. On the other hand, one is also advised of high maintenance and invasive plants.
Gardeners will appreciate the organic updates for fertilizer and pest control along with personal tips to deter critters in the garden.
The usual site, soil conditions, importance of organic matter and how it affects different soil types is covered again. There's also a good section on dividing perennials.
Figure out your gardening hardiness zone. Since the book is written by an American, US zones are applied and Canadians generally subtract one to arrive at theirs. Each country has based their hardiness zones on different criteria.
And now we come to my favourite part; the manipulation. (which is my descriptive word, by the way) This is achieved with pruning, pinching, disbudding and dead leafing. An impressive list wouldn't you say? Each technique is explained in detail and the fun task of deadheading is demystified.
Manipulation, can produce thicker, more compact plants, a stepped appearance, even later bloom.
In my Canadian Z5b garden, I've learned that mums can be pinched back on Mother's Day and again on Father's day to produce a compact, later flowering plant that won't flop in the middle.
Flower show participants know the benefits of disbudding, particularly for peonies and this is explained for the everyone.
 A hint: notice the little buds on the side of this peony in my garden?
If you have lady's mantle, then you'll want to know how to dead leaf it when the pretty chartreuse flowers are spent and the leaves become scraggly.
Lady's mantle in my garden
The encyclopedia with wonderful colour photos of many perennials has flower description with bloom time, US zone, how to prune, other maintenance and related plants. 
Finally, at the back of the book are perennials listed by maintenance needs, planting and maintenance schedule. I'm always amazed at the number of perennials listed in 'short-lived' as we tend to think they live forever but unless allowed to self seed, many disappear and we wonder what happened to them.
I wish to thank Thomas Allen & Son for providing me with a copy of The Well-Tended Perennial Garden to review and to Tracy DiSabato-Aust for updating her book which I highly recommend.


  1. Good Morning! Thanks so much for sharing this delightful and informative book. Here in Georgia, we are able to plant currently.
    I hope you have a lovely weekend.

  2. Sounds like a book I should definitely add to my library. Thanks for a thorough review Judith.

  3. Perennials are a wonderful gift to any gardener. They keep on giving.

  4. That looks like a good book, I'll see if the library has a copy and borrow it before investing in it. I love perennials, in fact I think I've phased out just about all annuals.

  5. That does look like a good resource to have for perennials. Now I'm going to Google about peony buds!

  6. Hmmm...if this has been a favorite for all these years, there IS a reason. Will check it out on Amazon.

  7. That sounds like a really good book! I'll have to check it out!

    Thanks Judith!

  8. Hi Judith,

    This is a very good, informative book review. You're made me want to buy this book now. I love perennials; I still miss the perennial garden I had at our first house. I do tend to think of perennials as living forever, so you made a good point here.

    I'm not familiar with this author or the series, but I'll definitely have to check it out. I hope all is well with you, Judith, and hope you have a great weekend! :)


    Denise at Forest Manor

  9. Hello,Judith.
    I searched on Google and found the book. Your information must be very helpful for many gardeners. Spring has come here. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  10. I have peonies so I'll have to read more about this practice of "disbudding". I've been attending a series of workshops offered by Conservation Halton on environmentally-friendly gardening for homeowners. This week, we had a really interesting presentation on native plants and the type of wildlife they attract.

  11. I need that book! I learned something: to prune those buds away on the peony. Thank you.

  12. I have the book and love it...and excellent reference. Is there much difference between the two?

  13. There are some excellent gardening books available and this one sounds a very good book.

    All the best Jan

  14. Thanks for the wonderful review of the book, Judith! You're so right in saying that not all perennials will make it. I have had quite a few perennials that have been short-lived. It sounds like this book would help me.

  15. Thank you for the great review, Judith! The book sounds very interesting and informative.
    Have a happy week! xx

  16. This sounds like a book I need! I'm determined to rescue our landscape this spring, and I've decided perennials are the way to go!

  17. This looks like a book we need as a resource for the gardens and gardens-to-be here at our new home. I would have appreciated the advice regarding Lady's Mantle many years ago at our previous home where it flourished and reproduced to almost taking over our gardens. I love Lady's Mantle and hope too establish it the RIGHT way here. Thank-you for this garden book recommendation.

  18. I love perennials and thankful for another resource..thanks for sharing! The photo of the pink peony makes me long for my spring flowers. Hope you are staying warm!

  19. Thanks for the book review, it sound intriguing! Thanks for the recommendation! I need to look into this. And thanks for sharing!

  20. Thank you for sharing, this is lovely, Sping is in the air.

  21. That sounds like a grade gardening book Judith. I may have to check it out. Thank you for the info. Enjoy your week!


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