University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Hardy Geraniums
Peter Yeo, 2002, Timber Press, 218pp, hardcover, 2nd ed.

If you are a serious gardener interested in this genus, then this reference is for you.  It is an expanded and updated version of the author's classic first work, containing over 50 color photos and many line drawings and silhouettes, particularly of the leaves in order to tell them apart.  The first few chapters include such topics as history, garden culture, and botanical aspects such as structure and terms for plant parts.  Most of the book is plant descriptions, with in-depth but understandable descriptions, native habitats and locations. The author is a taxonomist, formerly at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, and has written other books and articles.

Much of the first few chapters provides details important for any serious grower or student of this genus.  The few pages on garden culture cover the basics, and have lists of species by early or late bloom, tall or short, trailing, and basic flower colors.  If you know the species, you can easily find the description from the index, unless you are a serious botanist and know the sections and subsections.  Or you can use an interesting key to find the species. It is based on eleven characters such as divisions of main leaves, fruit habits, and such.  Each variation has a letter, and when you combine all eleven letters, you get something resembling a word from an unknown language yet pointing to a particular species.

One can tell the author is a botanist, as the descriptions focus more on species than cultivars, with few of the latter listed for many species.  Descriptions begin with a summary, then follow with much more in depth botanical information on plant parts.  Many have in-depth line drawings also of these parts, or black leaf silhouettes which are helpful and one doesn’t usually find.  One of the useful horticultural parts to the descriptions is the native habitats, which will help gardeners in proper siting.

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