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Christopher Lloyd's Garden Flowers: Perennials, Bulbs, Grasses, Ferns Paperback – Illustrated, August 15, 2005
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“No dedicated gardener would want to give up reading the great British garden writers like Christopher Lloyd, who has condensed a lifetime of sometimes rude and always passionate opinions into a wonderful new book.” —The Boston Globe
“This is an excellent book.” —Library Journal
“In telling us what they know Lloyd and Harper cannot help also telling us what they see and what they think. This not only makes their accounts entertaining, but also reveals the inner workings of the gardener’s mind, qualities that transcend the local, climatic vagaries of their respective gardens.” —The Washington Post
“Want help picking a terrific plant for your garden? You’ll find it in this exciting book, which summarizes gardening maestro Christopher Lloyd’s lifetime of experimentation and observation at his famed English estate.” —The Seattle Times
“Described by Anna Pavord as ‘the book I have been waiting for all my gardening life’, here is yet another invaluable book from Britain’s most esteemed garden writer and plantsman.” —Gardens Illustrated
“This is a book to own, to read piecemeal and to enjoy.” —Chicago Botanic Garden
“It is hard to imagine any gardener anywhere using and re-using this book without pleasure, excitement, instruction, amusement, and the frequent reaction: ‘I must grow this. . . . we really must get that.’ It is surely impossible to read it without looking at the garden with new eyes and new ideas.” —Science News
“Lloyd’s sumptously illustrated text shares a lifetime of trial and error.” —Country Living Gardener
Christopher Lloyd shares a lifetime of experience growing and studying perennials. In an A-Z encyclopedia of plants, we learn about flower and foliage, scent and color, size and shape, soil and cultivation; in effect, everything one needs to know to become an expert gardener.
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His definition of a perennial is a non-woody plant that survives year to year, and most often goes dormant at some point. Thus, he includes bulbs like tulips and daffodils as perennials, whereas most American writers would give them their own category. But since hardy bulbs are used in the garden in the same manner that herbaceous perennials are, his inclusion of them here make sense.
The first few pages of the book are devoted not just to what perennials are, but why one would use them; what their weak spots are; how to use them with other plants (taking advantage of the spaces they create after blooming if they are summer dormant etc); how to properly plant a, er, plant; and maintenance such as division, support and deadheading.
Then the book launches into the encyclopedia section, arranged alphabetically by genus.
This is where we find what makes this book different from so many other plant encyclopedias. Like all the others, he gives us the size and growth habits of the various species within the genus. But then we get to learn how this particular plant performed for him, where exactly he tried it, if he ended up getting rid of it or treasures it, which popular plants he detests, how to get the best performance from the plant. He tells us all this in an informal, chatty style that makes one feel that they are walking through his garden with him, talking plants. And there are a lot of plants here, 375 pages of them, a lot of which I hadn't heard of.
The weaknesses of the book? Because it's from England, there are no USA hardiness zones given. And because England has a milder clime than we do, a lot of the plants will not survive our winters- he lists petunias as perennials, which they are, but not anywhere north of Los Angeles or so. But while the book might be more suitable for the coastal northwest than our inland northwest, it's still full of treasures for us to try and it's just plain enjoyable reading if you like plants.
He includes names of favored varieties. Unlike with many "Euro-gardening" books, I have been pleased to find those varieties available by mail and even locally (from a good nursery specializing in perennials). There are exceptions. I liked the Dr. Seuss look of Helianthus Salicifolius in one of Lloyd's photos. Most sites I found by searching for it on web were in foreign languages. There's hope, however, as it's apparently known as "willow-leaved sunflower and rock sunflower" in Kansas. If it doesn't get to Ohio from Europe, maybe it will get here from Kansas.
I can't give five stars to a book that commits my pet peeve: photos, although lovely and colorful, are printed in sections. They are cleary labeled and referenced to the text and text descriptions have photo number references in the margin, where they are easy to find. It works, but I have four other books by Timberland Press, each intermixing great content with great photos. Go figure.