Everything I wanted to know about Herbaceous Perennial Plants and how you, too, can have a copy



Whenever I get one of these big encyclopedic plant books, I invariably turn to an entry for a plant I know well. And then I turn to the entries for plants I’m confused about. And then I turn to an entry for a totally obscure plant I’€™m sure they won’€™t have.

Does Allan Armitage’€™s Herbaceous Perennial Plants pass the test? Yes—pretty much. I haven’€™t begun to plumb the depths of this 1k-plus-page encyclopedia, but I look forward to avidly reading the whole damn thing.

First test: I really needed to know the difference between helianthus, heliopsis, and helenium. Really. Although photos are grouped in signatures, rather than appearing on every page, the entries are all next to each other. I left the section feeling greatly enriched. Herbaceous Perennial Plants passes the he-he-he test with flying colors.Next: I had to decide: did I want to plant echinops or eryngium? After reading both entries thoroughly, I’€™m still not sure. There is an eryngium giganteum that gets to 4 feet, but I’€™m not sure I can find it.

Second, is boehmeria in here? No, not that I can see, unless the botanical name is changed. However, flipping through, I found tons of other plants I’m eager to acquire.

Finally, just turning the pages at random, what’€™s the grossest or weirdest plant name? Early days, but I’€™m gonna go with blechnum.

Enough with my silliness. Wouldn’€™t you love to have a copy of Herbaceous Perennial Plants for your very own? Here’s what you do: answer these 3 questions correctly. In deference to our West Coast readers, I will close this contest at 6 p.m. EST and draw from the correct comments. Two correct comments will win. Got it? Good.

The genus Gaillardia encompasses some wonderful native species. Where did Gaillardia get its name?

Eupatorium perfoliatum is often known as boneset; from where did that name come?

From where did the name Annabelle hydrangea come?

Answer them in comments, and I’€™ll pick 2 winners at 6 p.m. EST.

If I don’€™t get correct answers, I’€™ll just pick from comments.

Thanks for playing!

NEW RULES. Since the correct answers have been posted, I am giving one to Carol, and for the other one I will simply choose/draw from comments at 3 EST.

THE WINNER of the second book is Yolana, chosen from a random drawing. Thanks for playing and for the interesting comments. And if you didn’t win, I guarantee that this book is worth picking up.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. Gaillardia gets it name from M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, an 18th-century French magistrate who was a patron of botany

    E.perforliatum gets the name Boneset because of its use in the treatment of a type ofinfluenza which had much prevailed in the United States, and which from the pain attending it was commonly called Break-Bone Fever.

    ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas get their name from the town of Anna, Illinois were they were first discovered.

  2. Yeah, i actually know two answers. eupatorium perfoliatum is called boneset because it leave are fused together at the base. back when people thought that a plants physical attributes were indicative of their medicinal purpose the believed the fusing of the leaves showed it could fuse broken bones. Gaillardia got it name from a french dude who was either a botanist or supported botanists. anyway his name was Gaillard de Chartonne something or the other. As for the hydrangea, no earthly idea though i wish i had one.

  3. Gaillardia was named for M. Gaillard de Charentonneau, some long-dead French botany patron.

    Eupatorium perfoliatum’s leaves encircle the stem, (sciencey term: *perfoliate* leaves), which for some reason made people think that they’d be good things to wrap around bandages for bonesetting. If the stem (stiff straight thing) was wrapped by leaves (flexible bandagey things), then *obviously* the leaves would be good to add to bandages. (This is further support for my people-in-olden-times-were-seriously-messed-up theory, by the way.)

    ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangea was discovered growing wild near Anna, Ohio (west central OH) and was subsequently brought to market in the mid-70s by the Gulf Stream Nursery in Virginia.

  4. Hi – I wont enter as I’m in the UK and I think Carol may have bagged the prize anyway. However, I did like your approach to a new gardening book – I adopt exactly the same approach.

  5. Gaillardia was named for M. Gaillard de Charentonneau of France who had a passion for botany. The common name “blanket flower” comes from the way that the brillant color of the flowers minics the blankets woven by the Native American Indians.

    Eupatorium perfoliatum was used by the Indians to treat fevers, one of which was dengue fever or bone-break fever. The worst symptom of this fever was excruciating bone pain, hence the name of the fever and of the herbal treatment

    The Annabelle Hydrangea was discovered in a garden in Anna, Illinois. It seems odd to name it after the town but not the gardener or discoverer but I guess there was a reason – I just don’t know what it was!

  6. Oh dear, I crafted a careful response, including citations, but all these wonderful people got here and posted before I did. So I’ll just add a comment. It’s interesting that I found most clues via my computer. Although I don’t have a good book on plant histories, I first went to my holy quartet of perennial reference books (Armitage 1989, Clausen & Ekstrom 1989, Graham Stuart Thomas 1990, Still 1994) and didn’t get much help. So then I succumbed to the temptations of Google. I know any information derived from the Internet needs to be submitted to rigorous analysis, but, golly, it’s just so darn convenient.

    This was a lot fun, but now I have a question for you. Where does the name Hydrangea come from? Is there one good place to go for answers to similar questions so I don’t have to flounder around my bookshelves and computer?

    By the way, the “Athens Select” heat-tolerant plants with Allan Armitage’s name on them are worth seeking out. For example, Pennisetum ‘Princess” has been stunning in a container in my garden this year. More info at http://www.athensselect.com

  7. Well now I’m confused. Google gives 6,650 hits for “anna ohio hydrangea annabelle,” and 4,460 for “anna illinois hydrangea annabelle.” This is a lot closer than it ought to be if it really was one or the other.

  8. The early Carol bird gets the worm! It am not lucid enough to handle quizzes in the morning. I do the Armitage book on my wishlist, though. I have seem it reviewed nicely in a few places.

  9. Armitage gives it as Illinois, and it’s his book, so …

    As for the origins of the term hydrangea, well it must have something to do with water. The Linneaus experts would have to jump in here.

  10. The etymology of Hydrangea (named by Linnaeus) is said to be from Greek (hydor), “water” and (aggos), “jar” after the shape of its fruits. I looked first in several of my big fat reference books including Hortus III and Botanical Latin, but I still found the information on the Internet.

  11. The google is your friend here! Couldn’t find anything there though about the naming of Annabelle, but the others were there, although several sources say that the name was “Gaillard de Marentonneau” . Interesting too that eupatorium perfoliatum was called boneset because it would help to break the fever connected with breakbone fever, or dengue fever — with the influx in some areas (including mine) of Asian mosquitoes, dengue is becoming a serious threat again in the U.S., so maybe we need to plant some.

  12. I love how Ohio is trying to steal the credit for Annabelle Hydrangea. It’s an Illinois plant! (Got to defend Illinois here, we haven’t got much to be proud of these days.) I knew the other 2 also. This sounds like a fantastic resource. Is there an entry for Aralia racemosa? I’m assuming there’s an entry for my usual test plant, Caulophyllum thalictroides, as he does have that listed in his Native Plants book. I’m such a fan of both of the Georgia professors.

  13. That boneset stuff sounds horrid: used to treat what seems like a really nasty fever, but it’s a strong purgative? When reading that sort of thing I don’t wonder that people in those times were afraid of doctors.

    As for plant information sources, specifically for hydrangeas, I like the lengthy and interesting descriptions that Vintage Gardens provides on their web site. I’ve yet to find a more general garden dictionary or reference that is better (I’m sure a more hydrangea-specific book would work, of course, but there are only so many spots for hydrangeas in my garden).

  14. Carol knows everything – and as a loyal ex-resident of Illinois, that Ohio story sounds fishy to me!

    Elizabeth, if you want total immersion in hydrangea mania, you should look at Hank the Lake County Clerk’s post about them – 15,000 words on Water jars and Hydrangea thoughts. He even put it into a downloadable pdf file for his readers.


    The Armitage book sounds wonderful – for some of us, gardening has always been ‘in’.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  15. Well, blast, living on the West Coast (sometimes affectionately called the Wet Coast in the rainy Northwest) put me at a disadvantage, time-wise. Congrats to the winners!

    Thanks for the review, Elizabeth!

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