There are 175 herbaceous flowering plants
profiled, with great photos and interesting extras like plant legends
and the origins of names. Plenty for beginners and advanced plant geeks
For example, did you know that the growing of salvia was first
recorded in 200 BC? Yeah, me neither, or that it was brought to North
America by early
settlers as a cure for venereal disease, among other uses. Puritan
ordered a half ounce shipped to him in 1631, although history doesn’t
reveal the actual use he put it to.
AND IN THE APPENDIX
- Nearby Baltimore has 207 frost-free days every year, more than
Yreka and Santa Cruz, CA with only 117 and 196 respectively. Where ARE
- Great links and sources, like Webgarden.osu.edu.
NITS TO PICK
- Why "flower" gardening? The book covers herbaceous flowering
plants, which curiously are sometimes referred to as "flowers". But
all sorts of foliage plants are covered, like hostas and liriope, and
no flowering shrubs like hydrangeas or roses. I assume that this focus
on herbaceous plants – and calling them flowers – was the publisher’s
book concept, not the authors’, and when the jacket mentions a
companion book to this one covering veggies and herbs I flinch because
shouldn’t it be about woodies? As a relentless cheerleader for shrubs,
I kept noticing their absence from this book.
- And two of my pet peeves made appearances in this book, one of
which is compost being recommended as a mulch, particularly the
statement that it "keeps soil free of weeds." But isn’t compost just
the dandiest growing medium ever offered up to the world of weeds?
I’ll admit that I’ve seen other very reputable garden writers also make
this statement – Barbara Damrosch – so help me understand this
disconnect with observed reality, somebody.
- And in my continuing campaign against plant generalizations, I
prefer plant origin to be identified with enough information to be
helpful, like "native to Midwestern plains," rather than the overly
broad "native to North America" used in this book’s plant profiles. I
hear the resulting confusion in frustrated gardeners all the time: Why
isn’t this native plant doing well for me? Because it’s native to hot,
dry areas, not the humid East. Or it’s native to moist coastal areas,
not your sunny front yard. Barbara’s response to my question about
this was that "space is always at a premium in garden books." So
publishers, when space is limited how about losing the legends and
adding a few more words about the plants’ natural conditions? I was
happy to hear that in Barbara’s new book about ground covers, Covering Ground, native
ranges are given.
But considering how opinionated I am, my list of complaints is
surprisingly short and I’d recommend this book for beginners and
experienced gardeners alike. Then in the same breath I’d recommend a
book about woody plants, and the name Michael Dirr springs to mind.
Now if I haven’t totally aggravated these two passionate gardeners
who also write so well, can I come see your garden, Barbara? (She’s
right here in Maryland, Karan in not-so-nearby Vermont.)
Oh, I almost forgot. BUY IT HERE.