Reviews of Armitage's Manual of Annuals, Biennials, and Half-Hardy Perennials
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Annuals are experiencing a resurgence, as today's gardeners demand a wider variety of options in plant selection. No longer confined to monotone bedding plants, dozens of "unusual" annuals are now available at garden centers in colors and forms far removed from the classic annual bed of pink petunias or red geraniums.
In the tradition of his classic Herbaceous Perennial Plants, Allan M. Armitage has compiled descriptions and assessments of 245 genera of true annuals as well as plants that behave like annuals in USDA zones 1-7. Focusing on identifying the plants, successful culture, and their primary garden attributes, Armitage discusses 279 species in detail and summarizes the distinguishing features of hundreds of cultivars, many of which he has tested himself. Classics like begonias and pelargoniums are juxtaposed with newcomers from Australia, and all are subject to Armitage's critical eye. Color photos and line drawings illustrate the text, and he suggests additional reading in books, articles, and websites for many of the covered genera.
Armitage bases his descriptions on extensive personal experience. His frank and conversational style keeps potentially dry details fresh, and each entry is liberally sprinkled with strong and sometimes amusing opinions ("Triphylla Hybrids...should be actively sought out if you have grown dead fuchsias in the past."). Useful lists in the appendix are further evidence of his expertise, as he compiles biennials, half-hardy perennials, winter annuals, shade-tolerant plants, fragrant plants, climbing plants, and everlastings. These lists extend the volume's application beyond a necessary tool for horticulturists and nurserymen to a practical guide for the dedicated home gardener.