University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

The Flower Gardener's Bible
Lewis and Nancy Hill.  2003.  Storey. paperback, 372pp.

In this latest book by writers and life-long nursery professionals in Vermont, the Hills really give a wealth of practical ideas for gardeners in three main sections.  In the first on The Joy of Flower Gardening, they cover tips and techniques from design to installation to care.  In the second on A Gallery of Gardens, they cover about two dozen types of gardens, giving a couple pages of characteristics of each, sample plants, even a sample simple garden design.  In the third section on A Feast of Flowers they cover 350, making a good starting selection from shrubs as well as herbaceous plants.

In the first section on design and culture, they begin with design considerations such as choosing the right site, how to plan on paper, how to coordinate the colors, and incorporating such items as ornaments and illumination.  Next they devote a whole chapter to soil improvement, as this is so key yet so often overlooked by gardeners.  Helpful tables, such as the pH chart here, are throughout the book.  The next chapter on planting covers such topics as new plantings, transplanting, bulbs, mulches, and even reviving an old bed.  Throughout this chapter and the book are helpful inserts, illustrated with close-up photos, on how to perform various activities.  This is especially true in the next chapter on propagation from various means.  Garden pests deals with insects, diseases, weeds and animals.  Finally in this first part are tips on caring for your garden, even by season.

The second section on various garden types includes such common ones by location as shade, decks, containers, seashore and foundation.  Functional gardens are interspersed such as for herbs, butterflies and hummingbirds.  Others include those for kids, for taking it easy, roses, fragrance, hillsides and others.

In the last section, illustrated with beautiful color photos as is the whole book by Joseph de Sciose, is the A-Z listing of plants.  In addition to a photo or more of each, is a bit of background and several choice selections.  Cultural information includes plant type, bloom time, best location, diseases, garden pests, companion plants, propagation, and growing zones.  The book ends with several appendices including the hardiness and heat zone maps, further reading, plant societies, and a glossary. It is well-indexed for ease of finding specific topics, tips, plants or information.

This affordable book should be a one-stop reference for those interested in flowers, especially those beginning, as it covers what previously you would have found in at least 3 books.  Being so inclusive, I plan to use it as a reference for my university course on herbaceous garden plants.  It is also easily read, and is packed with information you can rely on, being one of the few books written by nursery professionals with years of experience and many other popular books still available.

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