University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Herbaceous Perennial Plants
Allan Armitage. 1997.  Stipes Publ., 1141pages, 2nd ed., softcover.

THE reference I use most for herbaceous perennials, written by prolific author, speaker, photographer and professor at the Univ. of Georgia, Dr. Allan Armitage. Building on his extensive travels and contacts, and on his trials with various genera for "southern" performance, this book has both depth and breadth for all gardeners, in all climates.

After some brief thoughts, and overview of basics of plant and leaf shapes, and such, the book is an A-Z listing of genera. For each genus is given family, and overview. For the larger genera, a quick reference is then given-- a table of main species and distinguishing characteristics. Then the species follow, with pronunciations, bloom time, origin, size, zones (cold and heat) and some overview. These overviews are fascinating, often going into the persons behind the plants, lore of the plants, and the author's own personal observations and experiences. A similar description, but shorter, follows for the main cultivars of each species. Then at the end of each genus, to sum up the larger groups, is a quick key to species based on easy characteristics for gardeners not botanists. There is also a list of additional reading for each genus, in case the reader wants to learn more.

The second edition incorporates many newer cultivars, and many more obscure genera, including some of the grasses and many native plants and bulbs. Photos are given for the main perennials (the author as many hundreds more available in separate book and Cdrom). The author has an easy to read conversational style of writing. From his many contacts and travels, his information is about as accurate as you'll find. I particularly appreciate his views on scientific plant names or taxonomy-- giving the several versions often debated by botanists, but not getting too wrapped up in which may be correct, often going with the more traditional, used and accepted names by gardeners. If you have any interest in perennials, this is a must-have reference.

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