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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?