University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

The Exotic Garden. Richard Iversen. Taunton Press, 1999. 169pp, hardcover.

One of the big trends in recent years, as it was 100 years ago in Victorian times, is the use of tropical (or tropical looking) plants in the garden. Of the several books on this subject, this is one of the best, with much for both beginners and experienced.. The author, with M.S. with perennials from Cornell University, direct experience with tropicals in the West Indies, and teaching now in NY state, is well qualified to write on this subject and make it meaningful and practical. So many of the books now deal with tropicals either in tropical zones or native habitats, or just the plants and not their culture and design in temperate climates. This book treats these subjects admirably.

Beginning with an overview of tropical plants, what they are, characteristics such as bold foliage that make them "tropical", the author next treats designing with them. Basics of design such as the color wheel are described, and combinations are shown with beautiful photos, often using some of the latest and most tready new tropicals to be used outdoors in temperate climates. Take for instance a pink fuchsia and the purplish foliage of Persian shield; or a pink Justicia echoing the pink from a caladium.

Tropical border, then beds, are described next with many examples. Again, more photos illustrate the ideas, as well as color diagrams, and black and white schematics of the basics such as cross sections of beds. Containers are similarly treated.

Finally are sections on growing tropical plants in temperate climates, and the largest part-- the glossary of plants. This latter section covers most the ones you might use outdoors in a temperate zone, descriptions, culture, propagation, design use and most important and seldom found elsewhere--overwintering. Each plant is illustrated, often with a choice and new cultivar.

Whether you currently use tropicals and need some new ideas, or need some tips on how to start and which plants qualify, no matter where you live, this book will be helpful.

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