The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer 

The Perennial Gardener's Design Primer
by Stephanie Cohen and Nancy J. Ondra
Storey Publishing, 2004.

This practical and comprehensive text provides gardeners friendly guidance in the design of a garden using perennial plants.

"Creating a beautiful perennial garden is more than just choosing the right colors and proportions," authors Stephanie Cohen and Nancy Ondra explain. "It's also a matter of developing a good 'mental encyclopedia' of plants. There are plenty of on-paper plant enyclopedias, of course, and they're an invaluable reference for gardeners of all levels. But let's face it. Plants don't read books, so they don't know where the books say they are supposed to grow, how tall they are supposed to get, and so on."

To develop an internal database of plants, especially the ones growing locally, they suggest visiting other people's gardens, frequenting nurseries, and going to arboreta or botanical gardens in the area, paying attention to what's growing where and how.

This book covers the fundamentals of effective garden design, introducing readers to color and shape concepts in plant selection and structural detailing. Twenty sample designs are included with plant lists and descriptions, garden plans, and a discussion of the problems encountered on the site and how the designer solved them.

The appendix in the back of the book includes a useful perennial planning chart that highlights the key features of each species mentioned in the book, their bloom season, hardiness zone, estimated height and color.

Back to the Book Stall

The Three Bs of 
Designing for Large Landscapes

Selecting plants for a large perennial design comes down to the three Bs: big, bold, and bright. It's important to keep the plants in scale with their setting, so the dainty ground-huggers aren't going to do the job. You need large bushy plants, or at least substantial groupings of smaller perennials, to make an impact. Large leaves and flowers also help to keep the plants in proportion with their surroundings. And because you'll be seeing the planting from some distance, you'll want lots of bright color so the bed or border doesn't blend into the background.

Now, all this is well and good, but unless you have an unlimited plant-buying budget, just how are you supposed to afford all of the big, bold and bright perennials you need for a new planting? Here are a few ideas.

  • Investigate options for buying at wholesale nurseries in your area.
  • Stick with older, tried-and-true cultivars.
  • Purchase one or a few pots of each perennial you want, then grow them in a "nursery bed."
  • Grow them from seed.
  • M. Hofferber Books 
    browse our new and used gardening books

    Visit the Booths
    Shopping Lists
    Market Entrance
    Sign Our Guestbook
    Bulletin Board
    Search the Market
    Lease a Booth
    Book Search
    Buy Direct Directory
    Farmer's Market Online.
    Information in this document is subject to change without notice.
    Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.