The Perennial Care Manual



 One day, the gardener realized that what she is really doing out there is actually teaching herself to garden by performing a series of experiments.  This is a pivotal moment.  ~Margaret Roach


I buy garden books when I see them recommended by others, when I find them recommended for me by Amazon and when I just happen upon them.  Then generally get relegated to a pile with other books, or they are placed in one of my many bookcases.

These monthly reviews help shine the light on the books I need to read, but never used to find the time….or should I say didn’t make the time to read.  And this month’s book is one of those I found while perusing the stacks.  I bought the book a few years ago to help me pinpoint how to care for many of the perennials I was planting.



The Perennial Care Manual: A Plant-by-Plant Guide: What to Do & When to Do It


 perennial care book


Author:  Nancy J. Ondra (Rob Cardillo

Paperback:  384 pages

Publisher:   Storey Publishing, LLC (July 15, 2009)

Amazon Price:  $20.55 (Paperback)






In A Few Words

Well known blogger, author and gardener, Fran Sorin, wrote the foreword for this book.  In it she talks about the author, Nancy Ondra.  She describes her as one who….

….is a true lover of plants.  Nothing thrills her more than experimenting with new specimens and plant combinations, and observing how they grow and thrive in her own garden.


As she described the author I knew I had found a kindred spirit in Nancy.  I am forever trying new things and enjoying the learning even from the failures.

This book is another one that is chock full of so many resources. The first half talks about the basics of perennial care such as planting, moving, watering, fertilizing, mulching, propagating and seasonal care.  How to groom, support and troubleshoot are also part of this first half of the book.

The second half covers the care of 125 of the most popular perennials from growing tips to seasonal care and troubleshooting.  There are descriptions with planting zones and then little tidbits about each plant.




What I Liked

DSCN9263I loved the photographs in this book as they are beautiful and instructional.  Of course I would expect nothing less from the award-winning photographer Rob Cardillo.  I can only imagine the days and hours upon hours of work to find the right photographs to illustrate the many subjects.

Resist the urge to flip past Part One and go right to the specifics of the flowers in Part Two.  Part One is a great refresher for more seasoned gardeners, and a must for beginners.  I am finding as I am redesigning my beds there are many things I had forgotten to include and this first section goes into many of them.  Things such as access paths and easy care planning topics like spacing (oh boy did I learn this the hard way).

Also in the first section there is a lot of information on mulches which I enjoyed reading.  I am considering using some landscape fabric, and from reading about the pros and cons, I am convinced I am making the right decision for one specific section of my garden.  Another great section is how and when is the best time to cut back and clean up.  She also includes a seasonal calendar in these sections to give you her best seasonal pointers.

Also not to be missed are the sections on propagation and grooming.  I want to save money by propagating my own plants more.  And although I look forward to growing moreDSCN9100 plants through seeds, divisions and cuttings, I think I may run out of room in my basement.  I have never had enough time to get out there and groom my plants so this section was great to read as I can begin to make a list of what needs to be groomed especially to extend the bloom and make the garden look better.  And of course I need to divide a number of plants so Nancy’s pointers helped me know it is OK to cut right through some clumps and loosen others.

I think my favorite section though is on the troubleshooting as it puts everything you can imagine in one place.  Weeds, critter problems, diseases and pests are discussed as well as protecting the good insects.  I like that she gives you many options so you don’t have to reach for chemicals.




Not So Much

DSCN9373While Nancy’s book deals with the most common perennials, I would love to see a similar book that goes into specifics about native plants in different areas of the country and how to care for them.  I know I have reviewed several native plant books, but none go into the how tos of growing and care of the top native plants for any garden the way this book does for perennials….hint, hint for any authors out there!   And if there is such a book please let me know.




Final Thoughts

This book is a must have for anyone beginning perennial beds.  You will learn more from this how to book than many books put together.  And I love books that give you so much info in one place.  I often have to look up plants if I want to divide or learn how to plant or care for them.  Now I can just flip open this book, and I will have many questions answered quickly.DSCN9391

I think any seasoned gardener can learn from this book as well.  One of the side benefits of Nancy’s book is you will learn about new plants, cultivars and combinations you might not have considered.  Maybe I will even be able to grow some plants I have not had much luck with like delphiniums.  At least she is honest and says they are not easy to grow, but if I follow her tips I might get a few more to grace my beds. 



Do you have a favorite perennial garden book?  What plants do you have problems growing, but still want to try in your garden?



Visit my new blog: 

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I want to thank all the wonderful people who have been visiting my new blog, Living From Happiness.  It is a blog to celebrate life, lessons, change, challenges and creativity.

I post there every Thursday, and sometimes on Sunday with a creative post.  In August I am participating in a photo challenge and posting some of my pics on Sundays.

I do hope you will join me there.  



Next up on the blog:  Monday brings another In A Vase On Monday post, and Wednesday I will have an update on the veg garden, I hope.


All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.




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