Garden Gear - Gardening Books

Book reviews: Annuals and perennials

Armitage's Manual of Annuals, Biennials, and Half-Hardy Perennials
by Allan M. Armitage,
Timber Press, 539 pages,
hardcover, $54.95

This is a wonderful reference for gardeners who want to grow something beyond the latest offerings of traditional bedding plants such as impatiens, geraniums or petunias. A transplanted Canadian, Armitage is professor of horticulture at the University of Georgia.

He defines annuals as all plants usually killed by winters in USDA Zones 1 to 7, which includes all of Canada, except the West Coast, and at least three-quarters of the U.S. Thus, plants such as passionflower (Passiflora) and plumbago (also known as leadwort because it was once thought to cure lead poisoning), both considered perennials in more tropical climes than ours, are profiled with details on how to overwinter or propagate them.

Focusing on plant identification and primary garden attributes, Armitage discusses 279 species in detail. He offers us the benefit of his extensive personal experience, as well as additional reading suggestions on genera. The plants are listed in alphabetical order according to their botanical names, ranging from Abelmochus (musk mallows) and Abutilon (flowering maples) to Zingibar (ginger) and Zinnia. Colour photos (grouped together in a single section in the centre of the book) and on-page line drawings illustrate the text.

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