The Perennial Care Manual: A Plant-by-Plant Guide: What to Do and When to Do It by Nancy Ondra is the book I wish I’d had in my hands when I first started growing ornamental perennials over twenty years ago. Wait, make that over thirty years ago, when I was in high school and didn’t even know perennials existed until my girlfriend’s mother showed me the Wayside Garden catalog. Back then, there was no Amazon to search for books on a particular topic, and the gardening books at my library were written in a dry, third person tone–an attempt to be objective and scientific I’m sure, but it left me wondering if the author really liked gardening, or just thought it was good for you.
You will have no doubt of Nancy Ondra’s enthusiasm after reading the first page of her book: “True gardeners know that the real fun of gardening is in the process–the planning, the planting, the nurturing, and the learning.” I could tell as I read through the book that Nancy carefully observes her plants throughout the year, taking notes on what she’s learned. That’s the kind of gardener I want to learn from!
Nancy Ondra is Honest
Even more important, she’s honest. She addresses such topics as perennials that self-sow too freely, ground covers that cover more ground than you expected, and invasive plants. She offers general suggestions for dealing with these problems, and also highlights them when profiling specific plants. For example, she tells you that Tradescantia (spiderwort) had pretty flowers, but they only last a day. Furthermore, the plant tends to sprawl and can self-sow prolifically. I have one spiderwort myself, ‘Concord Grape,’ and while I agree the flowers are short-lived, I haven’t had the flopping or self-sowing problems. But I know to look for the seedlings now. More importantly, a novice gardener trying to decide between two plants can make a more informed decision.
Throughout this book, both in the first section of general principles and the second section on specific plants, Ondra guides you to best practices and common sense solutions, saving you time, money, and aggravation. If you don’t have a gardening neighbor or relative who will share their favorite plants, encourage you as you split your first daylily, and in general show you how to do things, this book will be the next best thing.
Review copy supplied by Storey Publishing. Link to Amazon is an affiliate link.