Art of Perennial Gardening: Creative Ways with Hardy Flowers

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In The Art of Perennial Garding Patrick Lima shares the secrets and strategies he has gleaned from gardening in Ontario's Burce Peninsula, bringing a seasoned, pragmatic perspective to his latest work. Beautifully illustrated, inspiring and often humorous, this book is infused with that staple of good gardening: the promise of what is possible. The author offers hundreds of solutions and options for the perennial garden, suggesting plant combinations for every phase of the growing season. Whether you're cajoling ...

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Overview

In The Art of Perennial Garding Patrick Lima shares the secrets and strategies he has gleaned from gardening in Ontario's Burce Peninsula, bringing a seasoned, pragmatic perspective to his latest work. Beautifully illustrated, inspiring and often humorous, this book is infused with that staple of good gardening: the promise of what is possible. The author offers hundreds of solutions and options for the perennial garden, suggesting plant combinations for every phase of the growing season. Whether you're cajoling a tiny backyard plot into beauty or facing a landscape of intimidating proportions, Lima has much to teach both the novice and the seasoned gardener about the creative act of garden-making.

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Editorial Reviews

Better Homes and Gardens Special Interests
How delightful to find a visually stunning book that is an equally appealing read: wry, witty, and packed with creative ideas ... a valuable and enjoyable addition to any gardener's library.
and Gardens Better Special Interests
A visually stunning book that is an equally appealing read ... a valuable and enjoyable addition to any gardener's library.
— Summer 2000
Better Homes and Gardens Special Interests
A visually stunning book that is an equally appealing read ... a valuable and enjoyable addition to any gardener's library.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781552092194
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/1/1998
  • Pages: 176
  • Product dimensions: 8.27 (w) x 10.51 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

Patrick Lima ; photography by John Scanlan
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Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from the Introduction

The Gardener's Art: In Pursuit of Beauty

The human spirit responds naturally to beauty. Confronted with something beautiful, most people feel a spontaneous surge of pleasure, perhaps even gratitude or awe. The aesthetic merit of paintings, furniture, buildings and all the other "stuff of human fashioning" may provoke debate, but an appreciation for the loveliness of Nature seems universal. Rare is the person who does not respond in some way to a starry sky, a mountainscape or a lovely lake, a brilliant sunset, a forest of towering trees, a flower-filled meadow or garden.

My first book about perennials began: "A flower garden is created for pleasure, pure and simple." Gardeners are not alone in finding a frankly sensual enjoyment in the colors, shapes and scents of flowers. And no flowers, someone once said, are as beautiful as those in your own garden. It has to do with relationship and work: the bond that grows between you and the plants and the place as you design and dig, plant and prune, observe the results of your efforts and make refinements. You exercise your creative muscles and trust that things will turn out more or less as envisioned. A singular satisfaction — often short-lived in the changing world of nature — comes when some imagined scene grows into reality. The artist in you feels fulfilled.

Which is not to say that discouragement never darkens the garden gate. Something or other is invariably being eaten up, dried up, frosted, attacked by mold and mildew; flopping over, falling down, dying back, creeping around, pricking us, sticking us or taxing our backs. But we keep at it — for the flowers, and for beauty.

In June of 1981, my partner John Scanlan and I went on a three-week bicycle tour of English gardens. For six years, we had been making a garden in an out-of the-way corner of Ontario's Bruce Peninsula, and our exposure to other gardens had been limited to the pages of gardening books, most of them American volumes from the early 1900s. Now, around every bend was another wondrous garden — a simple rockery full of interesting alpines in front of a row house; an idyllic thatched cottage up to its windowpanes in flowers; perennial borders glimpsed through a wrought-iron gate; roses and clematis dripping from an old stone wall. Almost without knowing it, we absorbed landscaping lessons. On our return home, we began work on a Quiet Garden, an outdoor room enclosed in trelliswork and planted with a silver, green and white theme. We began to introduce more grasses and foliage plants. We also brought back a name for our garden-"Larkwhistle"-borrowed from a hand-painted sign pointing down a country lane to we know not where. The name seemed appropriate: Every summer, meadowlarks sing in the scrubby field behind our garden. And "Larkwhistle" surely had a more dulcet ring than the sonorous "Greystone Gardens" we had been considering.

We learned something else in England: Attitude can color a garden as surely as flowers. At one perfectly groomed new garden that centered on a swimming pool, the owner grumbled at every step about the performance of her plants, continually pointing out minor flaws which we would never have noticed. In another garden — old arbors askew, weeds poking through cracks in the paving — the maker, now advanced in years, steered us toward plants that were thriving despite unavoidable neglect, speaking so affectionately about the garden's s glory days that what might have been a sad place took on an aura of genuine beauty, a lived-in garden full of character, history and personal touch.

Every day during the growing season, John and I walk around our garden to see how things are doing. It is just as easy for us to slip into critical mode, focusing on a pining plant, worms on rosebuds, a patch of mildew, some wilted stems — the work, in other words — and to miss all the rest. Invariably, one of us will start by saying, "Those delphiniums are overdue for staking." To which the standard reply is, "It's not that kind of tour." A shift in attitude from fretting and criticism to appreciation turns the garden into a different place. You begin to look closely at the fine etching in the throats of blue gentians and to admire the Siberian irises outdoing themselves this year; you poke your nose into a regal lily or a rose, pinch the herbs and inhale their sweet and pungent scents. Nothing keeps you as enthused about gardening as taking time to experience whatever is good and lovely at the moment — and there is always something. Don't worry, the worms and wilt won't go away.

The challenge of gardening — and one of its great attractions — is that we are working with the big forces: changing seasons and shifting winds, the earth, sun and rain in all their moods. A gardener can do only so much; after that, things are quite literally in other hands. In our forgetful day-to-day way, we tend to think of the garden as entirely our own handiwork. By toiling away, getting the place the way you like it, you feel in charge. Until the summer morning when you wander into the dawn-lit garden and find dew-hung spider's webs slung between stalks and glistening water drops like beads, caught on the leaves of Lady's mantle. You marvel at silken poppies freed from the tight green wraps that held them yesterday and now loose on the breeze. Time stands still as a hummingbird hovers above crowns of bergamot. Tall grasses sway and ripple as if caressed by an invisible hand. For a moment, you forget about the staking that should have been done yesterday. You stop and take in the garden's beauty, both the work of your hands and not. You feel restored, refreshed, reminded of "the blessings of the Earth" and "all things bright and beautiful," as the old hymns say.

Change will come, problems will arise. Eventually, you become reconciled to the fact that clematis sometimes wilts and drought happens. In a garden, romantic notions never stop bumping into earthy realities; back and limbs may not be equal to flights of imagination.

But once caught by a vision, gardeners have a tendency to persist. We don't mind getting dirty — grubbing about in flowerbeds is what we do for recreation. We can be perversely happy rooting out our old nemesis bindweed or weaving thorny rose branches through supports at peril to hands and arms — "There are gloves in the shed, you know." We're on a kind of mission. John tells me that when he first saw the flat hay-field that was to become our garden, he thought, "I'd like to make something beautiful here." Which comes as close to a gardener's creed as anything does.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Gardener's Art
In pursuit of beauty

Creative Gardening
Principles of design

Color in the Garden
Exploring the floral spectrum

Fade Out, Fade In
Spring bulbs with summer perennials

Under the Lilacs
Spring flowers in shade

Tulip Time
Compositions for May

June Tapestry
The harmonious hues of early summer

Midsummer Splendor
Compositions for July and August

Hot and Dry
Droughtproof perennials for summer display

Fountains of Foliage
Ornamental grasses for graceful effects

Pushing the Limits
Growing perennials beyond their zone

Classic Duet
Roses and Clematises

Sources
Further Reading

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Preface

Excerpted from the Introduction

The Gardener's Art: In Pursuit of Beauty

The human spirit responds naturally to beauty. Confronted with something beautiful, most people feel a spontaneous surge of pleasure, perhaps even gratitude or awe. The aesthetic merit of paintings, furniture, buildings and all the other "stuff of human fashioning" may provoke debate, but an appreciation for the loveliness of Nature seems universal. Rare is the person who does not respond in some way to a starry sky, a mountainscape or a lovely lake, a brilliant sunset, a forest of towering trees, a flower-filled meadow or garden.

My first book about perennials began: "A flower garden is created for pleasure, pure and simple." Gardeners are not alone in finding a frankly sensual enjoyment in the colors, shapes and scents of flowers. And no flowers, someone once said, are as beautiful as those in your own garden. It has to do with relationship and work: the bond that grows between you and the plants and the place as you design and dig, plant and prune, observe the results of your efforts and make refinements. You exercise your creative muscles and trust that things will turn out more or less as envisioned. A singular satisfaction -- often short-lived in the changing world of nature -- comes when some imagined scene grows into reality. The artist in you feels fulfilled.

Which is not to say that discouragement never darkens the garden gate. Something or other is invariably being eaten up, dried up, frosted, attacked by mold and mildew; flopping over, falling down, dying back, creeping around, pricking us, sticking us or taxing our backs. But we keep at it -- for the flowers, and for beauty.

In June of 1981, my partner John Scanlan and I went on a three-week bicycle tour of English gardens. For six years, we had been making a garden in an out-of the-way corner of Ontario's
Bruce Peninsula, and our exposure to other gardens had been limited to the pages of gardening books, most of them American volumes from the early 1900s. Now, around every bend was another wondrous garden -- a simple rockery full of interesting alpines in front of a row house; an idyllic thatched cottage up to its windowpanes in flowers; perennial borders glimpsed through a wrought-iron gate; roses and clematis dripping from an old stone wall. Almost without knowing it, we absorbed landscaping lessons. On our return home, we began work on a Quiet Garden, an outdoor room enclosed in trelliswork and planted with a silver, green and white theme. We began to introduce more grasses and foliage plants. We also brought back a name for our garden-"Larkwhistle"-borrowed from a hand-painted sign pointing down a country lane to we know not where. The name seemed appropriate: Every summer, meadowlarks sing in the scrubby field behind our garden. And "Larkwhistle" surely had a more dulcet ring than the sonorous "Greystone Gardens" we had been considering.

We learned something else in England: Attitude can color a garden as surely as flowers. At one perfectly groomed new garden that centered on a swimming pool, the owner grumbled at every step about the performance of her plants, continually pointing out minor flaws which we would never have noticed. In another garden -- old arbors askew, weeds poking through cracks in the paving -- the maker, now advanced in years, steered us toward plants that were thriving despite unavoidable neglect, speaking so affectionately about the garden's s glory days that what might have been a sad place took on an aura of genuine beauty, a lived-in garden full of character, history and personal touch.

Every day during the growing season, John and I walk around our garden to see how things are doing. It is just as easy for us to slip into critical mode, focusing on a pining plant, worms on rosebuds, a patch of mildew, some wilted stems -- the work, in other words -- and to miss all the rest. Invariably, one of us will start by saying, "Those delphiniums are overdue for staking." To which the standard reply is, "It's not that kind of tour." A shift in attitude from fretting and criticism to appreciation turns the garden into a different place. You begin to look closely at the fine etching in the throats of blue gentians and to admire the Siberian irises outdoing themselves this year; you poke your nose into a regal lily or a rose, pinch the herbs and inhale their sweet and pungent scents. Nothing keeps you as enthused about gardening as taking time to experience whatever is good and lovely at the moment -- and there is always something. Don't worry, the worms and wilt won't go away.

The challenge of gardening -- and one of its great attractions -- is that we are working with the big forces: changing seasons and shifting winds, the earth, sun and rain in all their moods. A gardener can do only so much; after that, things are quite literally in other hands. In our forgetful day-to-day way, we tend to think of the garden as entirely our own handiwork. By toiling away, getting the place the way you like it, you feel in charge. Until the summer morning when you wander into the dawn-lit garden and find dew-hung spider's webs slung between stalks and glistening water drops like beads, caught on the leaves of Lady's mantle. You marvel at silken poppies freed from the tight green wraps that held them yesterday and now loose on the breeze. Time stands still as a hummingbird hovers above crowns of bergamot. Tall grasses sway and ripple as if caressed by an invisible hand. For a moment, you forget about the staking that should have been done yesterday. You stop and take in the garden's beauty, both the work of your hands and not. You feel restored, refreshed, reminded of "the blessings of the Earth" and
"all things bright and beautiful," as the old hymns say.

Change will come, problems will arise. Eventually, you become reconciled to the fact that clematis sometimes wilts and drought happens. In a garden, romantic notions never stop bumping into earthy realities; back and limbs may not be equal to flights of imagination.

But once caught by a vision, gardeners have a tendency to persist. We don't mind getting dirty -- grubbing about in flowerbeds is what we do for recreation. We can be perversely happy rooting out our old nemesis bindweed or weaving thorny rose branches through supports at peril to hands and arms -- "There are gloves in the shed, you know." We're on a kind of mission. John tells me that when he first saw the flat hay-field that was to become our garden, he thought, "I'd like to make something beautiful here." Which comes as close to a gardener's creed as anything does.

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Excerpted from the Introduction

The Gardener's Art: In Pursuit of Beauty

The human spirit responds naturally to beauty. Confronted with something beautiful, most people feel a spontaneous surge of pleasure, perhaps even gratitude or awe. The aesthetic merit of paintings, furniture, buildings and all the other "stuff of human fashioning" may provoke debate, but an appreciation for the loveliness of Nature seems universal. Rare is the person who does not respond in some way to a starry sky, a mountainscape or a lovely lake, a brilliant sunset, a forest of towering trees, a flower-filled meadow or garden.

My first book about perennials began: "A flower garden is created for pleasure, pure and simple." Gardeners are not alone in finding a frankly sensual enjoyment in the colors, shapes and scents of flowers. And no flowers, someone once said, are as beautiful as those in your own garden. It has to do with relationship and work: the bond that grows between you and the plants and the place as you design and dig, plant and prune, observe the results of your efforts and make refinements. You exercise your creative muscles and trust that things will turn out more or less as envisioned. A singular satisfaction -- often short-lived in the changing world of nature -- comes when some imagined scene grows into reality. The artist in you feels fulfilled.

Which is not to say that discouragement never darkens the garden gate. Something or other is invariably being eaten up, dried up, frosted, attacked by mold and mildew; flopping over, falling down, dying back, creeping around, pricking us, sticking us or taxing our backs. But we keep at it -- for theflowers, and for beauty.

In June of 1981, my partner John Scanlan and I went on a three-week bicycle tour of English gardens. For six years, we had been making a garden in an out-of the-way corner of Ontario's Bruce Peninsula, and our exposure to other gardens had been limited to the pages of gardening books, most of them American volumes from the early 1900s. Now, around every bend was another wondrous garden -- a simple rockery full of interesting alpines in front of a row house; an idyllic thatched cottage up to its windowpanes in flowers; perennial borders glimpsed through a wrought-iron gate; roses and clematis dripping from an old stone wall. Almost without knowing it, we absorbed landscaping lessons. On our return home, we began work on a Quiet Garden, an outdoor room enclosed in trelliswork and planted with a silver, green and white theme. We began to introduce more grasses and foliage plants. We also brought back a name for our garden-"Larkwhistle"-borrowed from a hand-painted sign pointing down a country lane to we know not where. The name seemed appropriate: Every summer, meadowlarks sing in the scrubby field behind our garden. And "Larkwhistle" surely had a more dulcet ring than the sonorous "Greystone Gardens" we had been considering.

We learned something else in England: Attitude can color a garden as surely as flowers. At one perfectly groomed new garden that centered on a swimming pool, the owner grumbled at every step about the performance of her plants, continually pointing out minor flaws which we would never have noticed. In another garden -- old arbors askew, weeds poking through cracks in the paving -- the maker, now advanced in years, steered us toward plants that were thriving despite unavoidable neglect, speaking so affectionately about the garden's s glory days that what might have been a sad place took on an aura of genuine beauty, a lived-in garden full of character, history and personal touch.

Every day during the growing season, John and I walk around our garden to see how things are doing. It is just as easy for us to slip into critical mode, focusing on a pining plant, worms on rosebuds, a patch of mildew, some wilted stems -- the work, in other words -- and to miss all the rest. Invariably, one of us will start by saying, "Those delphiniums are overdue for staking." To which the standard reply is, "It's not that kind of tour." A shift in attitude from fretting and criticism to appreciation turns the garden into a different place. You begin to look closely at the fine etching in the throats of blue gentians and to admire the Siberian irises outdoing themselves this year; you poke your nose into a regal lily or a rose, pinch the herbs and inhale their sweet and pungent scents. Nothing keeps you as enthused about gardening as taking time to experience whatever is good and lovely at the moment -- and there is always something. Don't worry, the worms and wilt won't go away.

The challenge of gardening -- and one of its great attractions -- is that we are working with the big forces: changing seasons and shifting winds, the earth, sun and rain in all their moods. A gardener can do only so much; after that, things are quite literally in other hands. In our forgetful day-to-day way, we tend to think of the garden as entirely our own handiwork. By toiling away, getting the place the way you like it, you feel in charge. Until the summer morning when you wander into the dawn-lit garden and find dew-hung spider's webs slung between stalks and glistening water drops like beads, caught on the leaves of Lady's mantle. You marvel at silken poppies freed from the tight green wraps that held them yesterday and now loose on the breeze. Time stands still as a hummingbird hovers above crowns of bergamot. Tall grasses sway and ripple as if caressed by an invisible hand. For a moment, you forget about the staking that should have been done yesterday. You stop and take in the garden's beauty, both the work of your hands and not. You feel restored, refreshed, reminded of "the blessings of the Earth" and "all things bright and beautiful," as the old hymns say.

Change will come, problems will arise. Eventually, you become reconciled to the fact that clematis sometimes wilts and drought happens. In a garden, romantic notions never stop bumping into earthy realities; back and limbs may not be equal to flights of imagination.

But once caught by a vision, gardeners have a tendency to persist. We don't mind getting dirty -- grubbing about in flowerbeds is what we do for recreation. We can be perversely happy rooting out our old nemesis bindweed or weaving thorny rose branches through supports at peril to hands and arms -- "There are gloves in the shed, you know." We're on a kind of mission. John tells me that when he first saw the flat hay-field that was to become our garden, he thought, "I'd like to make something beautiful here." Which comes as close to a gardener's creed as anything does.

Read More Show Less

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