Northern Shade Gardening

When Perennials Bloom, a Useful Gardening Book

Monday, May 3, 2010 Category: Gardening Books
When Perennials Bloom by Tomasz Anisko Front Cover

When Perennials Bloom by Tomasz Anisko Front Cover

When Perennials Bloom: An Almanac For Planning and Planting by Tomasz Anisko is a very useful reference book for the sequence of perennial flowering times.  As well as the length and dates of the bloom intervals in a number of zones, it contains  a great deal of information about plant culture. I bought this book last summer, and I appreciate it as a handy reference, a delightful bedside read, and a great picture book for winter dreaming.

Knowing the relative flowering dates for perennials is extremely useful when planning your garden. This book will help you coordinate those times, to spread them over the year, fill in the gaps, or go for a massive display in one season.

The bloom dates are especially detailed for zone 6 of Pennsylvania, the location of Longwood Gardens, where the author is  the curator of plants. However, the flowering times of other regions are also included. I found the Moscow ones more practical for my specific zone. Even if you are not in an explicitly mentioned  gardening zone, it is still helpful to know the relative sequence and length of the flowering period for the perennials.

The middle picture shows a sample of a quarter of a page, showing the detailed information about the flowering times for Brunnera. It is even broken down into differences between the species and a cultivar.

When Perennials Bloom book Brunnera chart

When Perennials Bloom book Brunnera chart

Besides the individual bloom charts for each perennial, at the back of the book is a particularly useful composite chart. This includes horizontal bars of the flowering months for hundreds of perennials, arranged in order from earliest to latest. The length of the shaded bars on the chart is an easy visual to find long lasting flowers that will carry the garden along, as the shorter flowering perennials come and go. These seven pages are great for a comprehensive understanding of the timing of each perennial’s flowering season.

Although the perennials in my zone 3 garden have different months for flowering than the chart, it is still applicable. My garden season is compressed, but the sequence is still the same. By looking at perennials I currently grow, and when they bloom, it is easy to compare. Because bloom duration can vary from year to year, the data is colour-coded to show the most common dates, as well as the range of early and late intervals for each plant.

By looking down any column of the charts, you can quickly discover plants that will be likely to bloom at the same time. This is valuable for creating or redoing a garden bed, when you are trying to coordinate the flowers to bloom together.

You can also plan a bed to flower across the gardening  seasons as you look from the beginning to end of the list. My beds are heavy on the spring flowering plants, since I look forward to their blooms, after a long winter. However, sometimes a garden seems bare in certain months, and you are looking for flowers to perk it up then.

I’ve been keeping a simplified version of a flowering chart for my garden. Here is a previous post, showing how you can keep track of the bloom time of your perennials. It includes a sample of the beginning of one of my charts.

When Perennials Bloom by Tomasz Anisko Back Cover

When Perennials Bloom by Tomasz Anisko Back Cover

As well as the detailed lists of flowering dates, the book also includes lots of beautifully coloured photos, showcasing the plants and their flowers. There are thorough descriptions of the perennial flowers and foliage to accompany the pictures, including information about cultivars and varieties.

It is also a detailed reference of other background information for each perennial, such as the origin and natural habitat of the plants, which I find helpful for figuring out where they might do well in the garden. The tips on plant culture for each entry are comprehensive and practical, including water, light and soil requirements, cutting back, and siting. Most entries include zone hardiness as well. Of course, an entry like, “hardy to zone 5, possibly zone 3,” is just too tempting for me. :)

At 510 pages, When Perennials Bloom, from Timber Press, is packed with valuable information, so you can use it as a reference to research specific plants and their care, to help coordinate the flowering times in your garden, or as an enjoyable read.

21 Responses to “When Perennials Bloom, a Useful Gardening Book” »

  1. Barbara :
    May 3, 2010 at 7:57 am

    That does sound like a terrific reference book. I’ve started to make my own long-blooming shrub & perennial reference too. If my design clients want colour in their garden and don’t want annuals – it’s essential for me to know what’s going to perform for the longest period of time. Although, I may have to adjust my start times this year – everything is out of whack – so much so that the lilacs are blooming weeks ahead of the RBG Lilac Festival. Proof positive that plants just don’t read.

  2. Marnie :
    May 3, 2010 at 10:13 am

    It sounds like a good reference to add to the gardener’s library. It would be simple enough to translate the bloom sequence in the book to our gardens farther north.
    Marnie

  3. Rebecca @ In The Garden :
    May 3, 2010 at 11:22 am

    What an excellent looking book, I like the scientific approach to charting bloom time. The pretty pictures are nice too! Considering bloom time is often overlooked, plants that in theory would look great in a grouping don’t always cooperate and bloom together, which can prove to be frustrating.

  4. Northern Shade :
    May 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Barbara, I like to keep track of the flowering times, too. I have mine as separate charts for each year, but after seeing this, I’d like to put the different year’s data together for an overall range like these. We’ve had an earlier bloom schedule this year as well, about 3 weeks ahead so fa in my garden.

    Marnie, for most plants, there is a discussion of the bloom time in cooler regions too. When they mention the Moscow flowering times, it is fairly close to what I’ve noticed here. It’s also a good general reference for gardening.

    Rebecca, most of the data is taken over a number of seasons, so you can see when the blooms are likely to peak, and the possible variations, too. The excellent pictures also make it great for just flipping through.

  5. Jean :
    May 3, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    Another book to add to my wish list. I love good reference books; thanks for telling us about this one.

  6. Laura :
    May 3, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    Looks like a great book. I’m really starting to get a little list of books I need to pick up. Luckily my birthday is coming soon!

  7. The Garden Ms. S :
    May 3, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    Looks like a great reference book. Thank you for sharing. I think planning for a sequence of blooms is something of an art and a science. Nice to know we are on par with Moscow! :-)

  8. Northern Shade :
    May 3, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    Jean, this book is definitely one I use repeatedly, and worth having.

    Laura, this book has been on my bedside table for a while, now. It is fun to dip into sections and read, as well looking up specific perennials.

    The Garden Ms. S, it also has a section explaining why plants bloom when they do, and analyzes the factors that influence flowering time, like water, light and temperature.

  9. Shady Gardener :
    May 4, 2010 at 12:00 am

    Looks like a great book, Northern Shade! How’s your Garden Growing? :-)

  10. Joy :
    May 4, 2010 at 4:22 am

    That book looks VERY interesting ! .. another one for the list for sure : )
    I was wondering if you have seen brunnera “Silver Lining” yet NS ? .. I have it coming in an order along with other brunnera, Mr. Morse, King’s Ransom, Silver Wings, another Jack .. how can you have enough of him ? LOL
    In any case .. Silver Lining is hard to nail on the net .. no pictures !!
    If you have it can you tell me what is looks like and how it performs ? Thanks !
    Joy : )
    I’ll be nuting that book now ! LOL

  11. Northern Shade :
    May 4, 2010 at 8:09 am

    Shady Gardener, this morning it’s very white, and let’s leave it at that. :) The extra emphasis on Perennial blooming time makes this a great addition to your garden book collection.

    Joy, the book is definitely worth having on your gardening bookshelf. I haven’t seen ‘Silver Lining’, yet, but it sounds great, since I adore the silver coloured Brunnera. I will check it out for sure. You’ll like Mr. Morse, with the same leaf pattern as Jack Frost, but white flowers. In one garden bed I have a group of Jack Frost on one side of a tree trunk, and a group of Mr. Morse on the other, and I really like the effect.

  12. Catherine :
    May 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    This book sounds like a really good one! I love a book that’s useful as well as one for winter dreaming. I’ve always got a stack of garden books and magazines by the bed, and on the look out for more. I’ll be looking for this one.

  13. Northern Shade :
    May 4, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Catherine, you can dip into this book, and always find something new and interesting.

  14. Kathleen :
    May 5, 2010 at 9:36 am

    What a great book. I don’t know what my problem is ~ I read books like this then never seem to follow the advice therein. When I bring plants home from the nursery, I just plant wherever forgetting bloom times, height, etc. Bad gardener, huh?!
    The trick for me would be to retain it subconsciously I think.

  15. Northern Shade :
    May 5, 2010 at 4:25 pm

    Kathleen, gardening usually does turn out to be a combination of planning and spontaneity. I end up doing a lot of my record keeping after I’ve planted too, with maps, bloom charts and spreadsheets, but then I like to quantify everything. :)

  16. Joanne :
    May 6, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    A lovely book and excellent appraisal

  17. Northern Shade :
    May 6, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Joanne, the background information on what causes perennials to bloom at certain times is very interesting, and the book’s analysis of how different conditions contribute to the timing is great to know.

  18. Sweet Bay :
    May 7, 2010 at 8:50 pm

    Sounds like a very good reference book. I am always on the lookout for good gardening books that I will go back to again and again.

  19. Northern Shade :
    May 7, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Sweet Bay, I’ve enjoyed my followup readings as much as the first. I always enjoy reading a gardening book by someone with such a knowledgeable background.

  20. Pomona Belvedere :
    May 11, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    This does look like a great reference – I see at least one of us already knows it is, and also, anything from Timber Press is very good to excellent. They are a botanist/gardener’s press, and they don’t fail to give the detail and accuracy we crave. Thanks for pointing this one up; I use the Sunset Western Garden Books (various editions) for my time-of-bloom charts, but having a reference that covers a broader spectrum of climates is a fine thing.

    How is the weather up there in Moscow?

  21. Northern Shade :
    May 11, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Pomona, There are a few days this winter that felt more like Siberia. :)

    You might also appreciate the descriptions, culture and care that the book details, not to mention the coloured photos.

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