University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Growing Perennials in Cold Climates
1998. Mike Heger and John Whitman. Contemporary Books, 431 page, hardcover.

Written by two professional growers and writers, this is a good basic and practical reference for those growing herbaceous perennials in northern climates. Most of the book is a listing, from A-Z, of the most common perennial genera. The second section, although much shorter, covers the basics from planting to care, illustrated and with photos.

Although not exhaustive or extensive in the coverage of species and cultivars, this book covers the most important ones, helping most gardeners sort out from the many available ones to get acquainted with first. Each genus has a photo, pronunciation, brief notes on bloom time, longevity (not usually seen in references), maintenance, years to bloom, and light. Following in the text are how the plants grow (habit), where to plant, companions to plant with them, planting, care including potential pests or problems, any special uses, and sources. Most larger genera have a list of main varieties, by species, with key differences in a table format--such as color, height, and hardiness.

For cold hardiness this is one of the better references you can find, the authors having years of experience growing thousands of varieties in Minnesota. This book is also one of the few I've seen to contain a European hardiness zone map, in addition to the U.S. one. An example of the reader-friendly nature of the book, is the list of perennials, by common name, right at the front of the book. This book is great for those less experienced with perennials, and even those with more experience can learn something from the observations and suggestions of the authors.

Mike Heger runs Ambergate Gardens, selling upwards of two thousand perennials a year from Chaska, MN. He has been active in many specialty plant groups as well as the Perennial Plant Association. Prior to his nursery, he worked for 15 years at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. John Whitman is a garden writer, photographer and gardener, having been a grower prior at Bachmans-- the largest retail florist and nursery in the country.


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