Bookshelf: Plant specific - Other:

An Encyclopedia of Shade Perennials
 
This reference book provides information on more than 7000 species -some new and others overlooked.

There are also over 500 photographs to help you pick your perfect plant.

This book should be on the shelf of every shade gardener to use as a great reference....

book review by Susan Johnston...

I have very mixed feelings about this book. The first 50 pages are a very pleasant read. The author has an engaging narrative style and a similar taste in gardening to my own, which made for easy reading! The introductory sections include a good discussion on the nature of shade, soil requirements, and an interesting personal account of the development of the author’s own shade garden. Since the author gardens in Georgia, I assumed that a lot of the discussion would not apply to me here in southern Ontario. But, since the author spends a lot of time collecting and observing plants in the mountains of the eastern U.S., a lot of the plants that he discusses are familiar to me and have a place in my garden. In the introductory discussion he referred to flowering dogwood's invasive roots. That worried me a lot as I'm planning to plant it this year! He also referred to Stewartia as having invasive roots. Since I had planted a Stewartia last year, that worried me too! On further checking, I found confirmation that flowering dogwoods do indeed have an extensive, shallow root system but was unable to confirm that my Stewartia will become a root problem. So the book was of immediate use to me by adding to my plant knowledge and causing me to reevaluate the placement of my planned dogwoods. Both these dogwood and Stewartia are small trees/large shrubs and fall outside the scope of the encyclopedia section of the book as that section only covers perennials, not trees and shrubs. The comments that sent me off on a hunt for further information were in the nature of a casual aside in the introductory sections.

The rest of the book consists of an encyclopedia of perennials that will grow in various degrees of shade, arranged alphabetically by botanical name. Unfortunately, this is where the book loses its attraction. There's an interesting discussion when each genus is introduced, covering such things as general characteristics, growth habits (including a discussion of it’s invasive character if applicable) and needs, degree of shade tolerance, geographic origin, propagation information, and pest and disease problems. However, it is difficult to quickly extract the relevant information about hardiness ratings, shade tolerance, soil needs, etc. from the discussion of particular genus or species as it is all included in general text instead of being highlighted in summary fashion at the head of each genus or species section. As a result, this book is useful if you're looking for information on a particular plant, but not so useful if you want to skim the book looking for plants suitable for your shade situation and your zone.

While there are pictures of many of the plants in the book, all the pictures are gathered in the center of the book instead of being placed near the related text. There is no cross-reference between the pictures and text. When a picture of a particular species has been included, the name is in bold print in the text. However, since the picture pages are not numbered, you have to find the relevant picture by flipping through the pages - which are, fortunately, arranged in alphabetical order by botanical name! A similar search must be carried out in reverse to find the text information for a particular picture….

This is a good book as a supplementary reference if you already know what you’re looking for at least at the genus level. It would not be the best place to start for someone, unfamiliar with shade perennials, who is looking for a book to skim through quickly to identify candidates for a shade garden. The author’s frank discussion of his own personal encounters, and those of gardening friends, with the invasiveness of certain plants is particularly useful if you are considering planting something and want to know whether you might be introducing a problem into your garden. If you are new to shade gardening, this is a book you might want to borrow from the library or friend first before deciding to invest in it yourself. If you have a reasonable degree of familiarity with shade plants, this book would be a good addition to your shade library.


Author : W. George Schmid
ISBN : 0881925497
Publisher : Timberpress/Whitecap Books Ltd.
Sugg. Retail Price : $49.95
Available in Hardcover
Number of Pages : 343

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