Northern Shade Gardening

Heuchera and Tiarella Books

Wednesday, January 2, 2013 Category: Gardening Books
garden bookshelf with Heuchera books

garden bookshelf with Heuchera books

These two great book are packed with useful information about Heuchera (coral bells), Tiarella (foamflower) and their cross, Heucherella (foamy bells).  I’ve had the books for a couple of years on the shelf with some of my favourite gardening books, as they are very handy. Since two of the major North American Heuchera breeders and introducers have written them, there is a wealth of helpful tips, and you get some of the inside story on what goes into breeding them. The perennials have exceptional foliage for the shade, and many combine this with attractive flowers, too, so its helpful to have such detailed references for them.

Heucheras and Heucherellas:  Coral Bells and Foamy Bells

Heucheras and Heucherellas coral bells and foamy bells book

Heucheras and Heucherellas coral bells and foamy bells book

Heucheras and Heucherellas: Coral Bells and Foamy Bells is written by Dan Heims of Terra Nova Nurseries and Graham Ware. The book was was published by Timber Press in 2005, ISBN 0-88192-702-3.

Heucheras and Heucherellas coral bells and foamy bells book back

Heucheras and Heucherellas coral bells and foamy bells book back

The picture of the back cover shows the incredible variety in foliage colours and shapes that Heuchera and Heucherella have. The book has extensive photographs by Dan Heims himself, showing details of the flowers and leaves. There is an overview of the species and their traits, with a much more detailed and alphabetized list of Heuchera cultivars and Heucherella, including a discussion of their features. The alphabetical listing makes a very convenient reference if you want to look up a name that is new to you or that you saw in a garden centre. There is a history of the various breeders of these perennials and the contributions they have made. For gardeners, there is a section on how to look after these plants, and advice about propagation by seed and cuttings. Since Heuchera cultivars come in a vast array of leaf colour combinations, the section on how to combine them with other bronze, silver or yellow plants is very useful. When I plant new garden combinations, it’s helpful to pick up colour echos from the surrounding perennials. There are other practical sections, too, such as tips for cut flower arranging of Heuchera and combinations to plant in pots.

Heucherella photos from Heucheras and Heucherellas by Dan Heims

Heucherella photos from Heucheras and Heucherellas by Dan Heims

Here’s a photo from Dan Heims’ book of my favourite Heucherella, but as you will see in the very last picture, the ‘Dayglow Pink’ in my garden don’t get quite as many flowers in their very shady location. There are 56 pages of coloured photos at the beginning of his book, so you can compare the more bold as well as subtle differences in flowers and leaves.

Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherella A Gardener’s Guide

Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by Charles and Martha Oliver book cover

Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by Charles and Martha Oliver book cover

The second book, Heuchera, Tiarella and Heucherella: A gardener’s guide, is written by Charles and Martha Oliver of The Primrose Path. It was published by Batsford in 2006, ISBN-10: 0713490098. As the title indicates, this book also includes a discussion of the related Tiarella.

Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by Charles and Martha Oliver back cover

Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by Charles and Martha Oliver back cover

Since the Olivers are breeders of Heuchera and Tiarella, there is  extensive information about the different species, including the size, colour and shape of the flowers and leaves, as well as plant form. They discuss how these qualities are chosen and contribute to garden hybrids. The original habitat of native species gives clues about how hardy various hybrids will be, and how much shade or sun they will tolerate. It’s interesting to read about the history of the breeding lines they’ve used and resulting crosses. There is a discussion of the various cultivars, arranged by leaf colour and sports. This is handy if you are searching for a particular colour of Heuchera for your garden. They also give recommendations for particular garden sites such as woodland or rock garden, including sample planting maps. There are lots of coloured photos throughout the book of the plants growing in gardens, as well as sketches of leaf and flower forms.

tissue culture from Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by the Olivers

tissue culture from Heuchera Tiarella and Heucherella by the Olivers

I was particularly interested to read in the Olivers’ book about how tissue culture works, since so many plants are propagated this way now. For this process they use small pieces of axillary buds in sterile nutrient medium and they even give the basic recipe and steps, not that I’m ready to set up a micropropagation lab.

There are a few drawbacks to both volumes. Since they were published in 2005 and 2006, neither of these books discuss the very newest cultivars that have been bred in the last 7 years. It would be great if there was an updated version of each. Also, because some newer Heuchera are more tolerant of heat and sun, it’s important to know the cultivars’ requirements before choosing one for your gardening zone or a specific light exposure in your garden. Neither of them necessarily gives those details, other than for the species. Despite these minor points, they are still very informative books that make them an enjoyable read.

If you are growing these perennials, or are interested in finding out more about them, I’d recommend either book as a handy garden reference, an interesting plant history, and an inside look at their breeding. Both are very useful if you are interested in a comparison of the species, details of cultivars, tips for their care, and instructions for propagation.

Heucherella 'Dayglow Pink' in my garden

Heucherella ‘Dayglow Pink’ in my garden

In the photo above you can see the dark pink Heucherella ‘Dayglow Pink’ growing in my garden next to some Tiarella. Here is a comparison I wrote of the foliage of some of my Heuchera. There are pictures and information about Heuchera ‘Cinnabar Silver’,   ‘Plum Pudding’, and  ‘Green Spice’ in these articles. You can read about  ‘Havana’ and  Peppermint Spice’, as well as ‘Raspberry Ice‘. There’s a comparison of my Tiarella, and there are pictures of my Heucherella in this post.

Do you grow any Heuchera, Tiarella or Heucherella, and if so, which are your favourites?

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.

Great Campanula Plant Book

Monday, January 19, 2009 Category: Gardening Books
Dwarf Campanulas by Graham Nicholls

Dwarf Campanulas by Graham Nicholls

Dwarf Campanulas, by Graham Nicholls, is an excellent reference book if you are a Bellflower fan, or would like to know more about them. The book is focussed on the smaller Campanula, which are discussed in comprehensive detail. At 272 pages, there is a wealth of information about the petite bellflowers which are suitable for the front of the border, rock garden or trough.

There are coloured photos of many of the species to help you choose your favourite Campanula, or aid in identification. The familiar bell shaped blossoms are gorgeous. Every variation on the bell shape, from overlapping doubles to open starry petals is evident. Some of the pictures show the bellflowers in gardens or pots, while others show them in their native habitat. Both are helpful for seeing the type of conditions suitable for growing each species.

At the beginning of the book, there is an overview of the world regions where many of the bellflowers originate, which  includes maps. The photos of mountain ranges, with bellflowers emerging from the crevices in rocks, or growing in scree, illustrate why many are suitable for the rock garden or trough. Many other Campanula species adapt well to the average border.

The detailed look at the propagation of Campanula is very helpful. In this section, the specifics of increasing your bellflowers by seed, cuttings, or division are discussed, along with recommendations for appropriate planting mixtures.

Dwarf Campanulas by Graham Nicholls back

Dwarf Campanulas by Graham Nicholls back

Each species of Campanula then gets its own section, many with photos. There are excellent descriptions of the plants. Cultivars and hybrids are discussed too.  Some other genus, that are closely related to Campanula are covered also. Many specific tips are given for the culture of each type of bellflower, as well as the best propagating methods for each one.

The author gives the location from where each species originates, and often who introduced it. I enjoy knowing a plant’s origins, and picturing it in its native habitat. It is fascinating to read the history of the hybrids, or learn in which garden they were first noticed. I appreciate the historical connection to previous gardeners and plant explorers.

It is always a pleasure to read a book written by an expert on a topic who communicates their enthusiasm. I highly recommend this book as an enjoyable read, and useful reference. It is also satisfying to flip through a book full of lovely pictures of blue, purple and occasionally white or pink bellflowers. Although many of these plants are not yet widely available, you are sure to find more perennials to add to your plant wish list.

Here are some of my previous posts on Campanula that I grow in the garden. This is one on Campanula haylodgensis, a double flowering bellflower. This post has a variety of Campanula. Here are some photos of Campanula glomerata, clustered bellflowers. These are Campanula portenschlagiana, the Dalmatian bellflower. The photogenic bellflowers manage to peek their flowers into many of my other posts and photos as well.

Do you grow any Campanula? Which are your favourites, or which have you been wanting to add to your garden?