There are many perennial books that give good information, but not necessarily for your growing zone. When it comes to planning for northern gardening, it is frustrating to skim through detailed lists of perennials that won’t grow in our colder zones. Here are three books about hardy perennials that are useful for anyone gardening in a cold climate. The plants and tips are all applicable for a short gardening season and sub zero temperatures.
The first book is called Lois Hole’s Perennial Favorites, by Lois Hole. The book has good general information about growing perennials, including useful lists of plants for different situations such as shade gardens, rock gardens, wet areas or dry spots. Practical tips for perennial care such as dead heading plants and dividing them are clearly explained with pictures. However the bulk of the book is given to detailed information about specific perennials for northern gardens. Each plant gets 2 to 4 pages of description with many coloured photos. The facts are well organized and easy to access for quick reference. There are tips on plant culture and recommended varieties. One extremely useful section is a 2 page chart showing the relative blooming times of 100 perennials through the seasons, with individual bars showing the length of blooming time. This chart is very helpful for gardeners aiming to have different perennials in bloom at different times. In the short growing season of a cold climate, you want to make your garden last as long as possible, with early spring flwoers and late season colour. You can also use it to coordinate the blooming times in a particular bed. If you are looking for information about reliable, hardy perennials, this is an excellent reference.
The next recommendation for northern gardens is called Perennials for Alberta, by Donna Dawson and Laura Peters. Although it’s given a regional name, it is an excellent reference for anyone dealing with a northern garden. The structure of the book is very similar to the previous book. The first section contains general perennial care information. There is a good discussion of the different ways perennials can be propagated, with lists of perennials that are best for each method. The bulk of the book is devoted to 2 page descriptions of each perennial, accompanied by a number of photos of each plant. there are general growing tips and recommendations for varieties help you choose the best plants and keep them thriving. The way the book is organized makes it easy to scan through, making lists of appropriate plants before a trip to the garden centre, or looking up the best way to care for an impulse purchase after you get home. This gardening book might be named for a particular province in Canada, but the information would be useful for any gardener with cold winters.
Best Garden Plants, by Donna Dawson and Laura Peters includes not only perennials, but also trees and shrubs, roses, bulbs, vines and grasses. It covers a fewer number of species of each type, so it only discusses the more common plants. They concentrate on the most hardy and reliable examples in each category. This would be particularly useful for anyone who is new to gardening, or new to gardening in a cold climate. Each plant has a one page description and coloured photos. This is a smaller, general reference, an introductory guide for gardening in a cold climate.
All three of these gardening books will help you choose plants that have a better chance of survival in a northern garden.
You can see the plants that grow well in my zone 3 shady garden on the My Garden Plants page.