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Book Review: Powerhouse Plants

Powerhouse Plants
510 Top Performers for Multi-Season Beauty
by Graham Rice

powerhouse plants

284 pages
Timber Press, 2013
List price: $24.95

After the brutal summer we experienced last year here in the U.S., many gardeners are looking to garden a little differently. Even if you were one of the fortunate ones that had a normal year (what is that anymore?), you’re likely seeking out plants that will give you the most bang for your buck without being fussy when it comes to care.

Graham Rice has delivered, with Powerhouse Plants: 510 Top Performers for Multi-Season Beauty. We all have plants we grow that have a short window of awesomeness, but just as structure is important to a garden’s overall design, so is performance, and those that continue to shine through more than one season are invaluable.

Rice’s book brings a large assortment of these hard workers together, listed alphabetically by genus, and points out their star qualities. Flowers and foliage are foremost, but many of the plants listed also excel with their fruits and stems, and many of them are outstanding through three, even four seasons. He includes annuals, perennials, vines, groundcovers, trees, and shrubs, so there’s no excuse for a boring garden, no matter what the time of year.

The descriptions of each entry are detailed, giving specific cultivars to look for and possible companion plantings, along with the usual basic information such as hardiness zones, moisture and light requirements, and mature size.

While you may be tempted to skip the first section and head on into the plant descriptions, don’t. The first chapter is one of the best “how to use this book” introductions I’ve ever read. It will help open your eyes to the possibilities that can become a reality in your garden.

Graham Rice is a distinguished international garden writer and is unique in having won three awards for his writing in the USA, as well as three in the UK. Trained at the prestigious Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, he is editor-in-chief of the American Horticultural Society's Encyclopedia of Perennials and the author of more than twenty books, and he runs the Royal Horticultural Society's New Plants blog as well as his Transatlantic Gardener blog.

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Read Kylee Baumle’s blog, Our Little Acre.