By Ruth Rogers Clausen and Thomas Christopher
An attractive reference guide, Essential Perennials (Timber Press, 2015) makes weeding through hundreds of plant options a bit less bewildering and would make a lovely gift for new homeowners planning a garden or established gardeners looking to refurbish one.
Authors Ruth Rogers Clausen and Thomas Christopher are experienced gardeners, trained horticulturists and longtime writers. In the Introduction, they explain botanical naming conventions and make a persuasive argument for paying attention to them. They also explain what information is provided for each plant and why. And, they admit to being selective rather than exhaustive, limiting themselves to 2,700 plants, as noted in the subtitle, The Complete Reference to 2700 Perennials for the Home Garden.
Before diving into the plants, the authors present perennial gardening basics, such as site selection, soil preparation, maintenance, irrigation and propagation. One particularly useful section covers shopping for and selecting perennials, in person and online.
But most of the 425-page book is devoted to perennials that Clausen and Christopher think you might want to consider growing in your garden. The plants are grouped by genus and each genus is listed with its botanical family. Many, but not all, are illustrated in beautiful color photos labeled with captions in unfortunately small type.
Each summary includes the usual details of size, color, sun requirements, hardiness and common names. The authors are diligent about noting a plant’s shortcomings as well as its winning attributes, particularly when considering invasiveness. And, they often explain the reason for a plant’s seemingly inexplicable common name(s).