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Reviews of The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: Planting & Pruning Techniques (Expanded Edition)

Good Rating
Book Profile
Author (1): Tracy Disabato-Aust
Author (2): Steven M. Still (foreword)

Hardcopy edition:
Publish date: July 2006
Published by: Timber Press
List price: $34.95
ISBN Number: 0881928038



  Garden Bookworm editor's notes:  
The difference between a garden that looks its best for a few brief days and one that delights the eye for weeks and months on end is frequently just a matter of good planning and judicious care. Tracy DiSabato-Aust has devoted years to studying how to plan and care for perennials so that a garden can be a real showplace with a minimum of maintenance.

The first key to success lies in good site planning and plant selection that emphasizes each plant's strengths. Following that in importance is learning how and when to prune and shape perennials to produce more flowers, encourage lush new growth, discourage pests, stagger bloom times, and maintain vigorous health.

Amazingly, this is the first book that covers this essential topic in detail, although books on pruning woody plants abound. Deadheading, pinching, cutting back, thinning, disbudding, and deadleafing are among the techniques in the gardener's arsenal that are thoroughly explained and illustrated. An extensive encyclopedia of important perennial species and cultivars explains the pruning and maintenance needs of each plant. Wonderfully useful appendices offer a month-by-month planting and maintenance schedule for the typical perennial garden.

Illustrated with 131 striking photographs by the author, this book will show both amateur and professional gardeners how to give their perennials the kind of care that will allow them to look their very best.

  Feedback History and Summary  
27 positives
2 neutrals
No negatives


Positive HamptonsGardener On Feb 13, 2012, HamptonsGardener wrote:

This is my favorite book on perennials. Has taught me a lot and continues to help me select plants for my garden. My best lesson from this book was the section on pruning to control height and delay blooming. Who new? I'm now more in control of my bloom performance. Thanks Tracy!


Neutral helenwells On Dec 20, 2009, helenwells wrote:

This is a book that doesn't "age" all that well. I read it, found some of it helpful and interesting, but there are much better perennial gardening books out there. I find I don't refer to it much.

Positive milesf1 On Apr 28, 2009, milesf1 wrote:

Fantastic book. I buy a lot of garden books, but this is the first one dedicated to pruning based on plant type. Will be invaluable this year to maintain my ever expanding collection of perennials.


Positive kentstar On Apr 6, 2009, kentstar wrote:

It is my Bible! What more can I say?
Great info on very practical advice, such as, pruning, pinching, deadheading, etc. I refer to it often! A definite must have for any beginner gardener or garden guru! It even has pages in the back to keep your own garden journal! Great pics too. Well worth the money for sure.

Positive EugeniaBostwick On Feb 26, 2009, EugeniaBostwick wrote:

The author doesn't suffer from self-doubt, includes lots of pictures of her blonde self, and is a bit smug, but hey,...this is a useful book. I don't know of another book that has exactly this approach. And I like the lists in the appendix on times of year to divide plants, etc. Although I think Larry Hodgson's book on perennials is better, I wouldn't be without this one either.

Positive julias On Nov 17, 2008, julias wrote:

I have found this book very helpful. The author does a great job having before and after pictures ( or you could say pruned and unpruned plants) of the plants she is describing. If you don't have this book, you should!


Positive staceysmom On Jul 25, 2008, staceysmom wrote:

This book tells it all. A one stop place for all the information you'll every need on how to care for your perennials. I just received it and have refered to it several times. I'm sure this will be one of my best used.... first go to gardening books.

Positive PaulFromAL On May 23, 2008, PaulFromAL wrote:

A revised edition of this book was released in 2006.....This is a great book about plant maintenance....deadheading, pinching, fertilizing, dividing, just about everything you need to know to maintain your plants. The lists in the back of the book are one of the most useful and helpful things about this book. This edition has more photos, a new journal for your own garden and expanded commentary.

Paul from Alabama

Positive rebecca101 On Jan 6, 2008, rebecca101 wrote:

Truly excellent book. Has the most specific and comprehensive information I've seen on how to care for perennials. I also really like the extensive plant lists at the back. Includes things like plants which do not need staking, plants which do need staking, plants which do not need division, plants which need division every 1-3 years, plants which need to be cut back after flowering, etc. Gives you a very detailed picture of how much and what kind of work you'll need to do to take care of each plant, so you can be realistic and make good choices that fit your needs.

Positive juanwillis On Dec 21, 2007, juanwillis wrote:

Really, really practical advice--this book is indispensable for anyone with a perennial border. The photos are incredibly helpful as well, and in the new edition they're nicely interspersed with the text instead of bunched as plates (as they were in the old edition).

Positive Windy On Oct 21, 2007, Windy wrote:

I found that with pruning information on my perennials, I often get smaller and more compact plants that will rebloom.

Positive birdiegirl On Jun 2, 2007, birdiegirl wrote:

This is an excellent book…my garden bible. It covers soil amendments, pruning and care of many individual perennials. And the author advocates the use of organic techniques over “chemical” gardening.

Positive egm On Mar 23, 2007, egm wrote:

I bought this book this past winter, and it couldn't have been better timing. I have, over the past years cleared about an acre in total of bush on my country property, ammended the soil slowly over this time, grew perenials from seed and have finally got a large collection of maturing plants that are hardy and deer/ground hog/bug resistant. This book is just what I needed for my next step .. to tidy up the planting and get my plants looking there best. I never realised that there are so many reasons/ causes and effects to pruning. This book identifies what types of pruning are required for each different perenial and when to do it for best effect (extended flowering, tyding up the foliage). I found it to be an enjoyable read, and will be referring to this book for many years to come.

Positive vsanthony On Feb 15, 2007, vsanthony wrote:

One of the best all-around books, both for beginners and more experienced. It's the first book I recommend to my (perennial) customers.

Positive roseladymd On Oct 15, 2006, roseladymd wrote:

This is one of the best books on perennial garden maintenance I have seen or owned. I refer to it constantly.

Positive Penelopeann On Aug 10, 2006, Penelopeann wrote:

Out of all the gardening books I own...which are too many to count, this is the best, I refer to it time and time again.

Positive mkf1 On Jun 10, 2006, mkf1 wrote:

Great book! I refer to it all the time.

Positive rsquared On Jun 4, 2006, rsquared wrote:

This is one of the most practical gardening books I own. It is very useful and informative. It has given me new ideas and provided me with tools for better perennial gardening.

Neutral Jadwin59 On Jul 13, 2005, Jadwin59 wrote:

Gee, I must be the only person who's been underwhelmed by this book.

It has two basic themes: soil improvement and "cutting." The instructions on soil amendment/prep are nothing new - andin fact many gardeners would disagree with the author's technique of rototilling - but the sections on cutting back plants are interesting.

However, much of my experience differs from the author's (for example, my experience with peony foliage, which does not turn brown and need cutting back, or with baptisia, which grows without staking in my garden). I take her comments, which tend to be phrased absolutely, with a grain of salt.

Almost all the photos in the book are of the author's garden or gardens she has designed. This is fine, if you like what she does, but I think more variety and a broader outlook would improve this book. There is a "my way or the highway" slant to this book, which is even more pronounced in its successor ("The Well-Tended Mixed Garden") which limits its appeal to me.

I took some notes on plants I grow, but this book is not a "keeper" for my garden library.

One more thing: the degree to which you find this book useful may depend a lot on how manicured you like your garden to look.

The author is *very* put off by decaying or dropping blossoms and foliage of many plants, with the exception of those with winter interest and those that attract birds.

Her section on daylilies is peppered with comments on how revolting their dying flowers look. (She calls them something like "gummy mummies.") I deadhead my daylilies, but I enjoy this process, and if I don't get around to it, I don't mind the appearance of the spent blossoms.

Positive jgsearls On Jun 28, 2005, jgsearls wrote:

Couldn't agree more with the other commenters. The book is excellent and I refer to it often.

Positive Miggy On Jan 22, 2005, Miggy wrote:

I got this book after reading the reviews above. They are completely right in saying this book is worth the money. I don't miss the twenty bucks as much as I'd miss having this book.

Positive roundshm On Dec 31, 2004, roundshm wrote:

I am new to gardening so I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on before I made too many expensive mistakes. This was THE BOOK to buy. Simple, concise and full of great tips to make a garden thrive. An easy quick read. I especially found the information on soil prep helpful. I only wish I had read it earlier.

Positive SalmonMe On Oct 17, 2004, SalmonMe wrote:

This is unequivocally THE MOST USEFUL book on perennial maintenance I have seen. The author's tips on pruning are outstanding, opening up doors you never even knew existed for your garden! I love it. I flip through it constantly. It's an unparalled reference for the perennial gardener.

Positive jamie68 On Oct 13, 2004, jamie68 wrote:

This is one of those books you read clear through, and then go back to again, and again, and again to look up some info, or re-read sections as you are doing different gardening chores. A great read, and a wonderful reference for the novice gardener or the more experienced!! I borrowed a fellow gardeners book - then promptly went and got my own (as well as an extra for my sister for christmas!!). Everyone who has been bitten by the flower gardening bug should have this book!! WONDERFUL!!

Positive amr0719 On Oct 4, 2004, amr0719 wrote:

After much "hemhawing" around whether to spend the money or not, I purchased this book while traveling and proceeded to read it during the flight home. I have referenced this book many times during the year and shared the information with other gardeners. Next year, I plan on following her recommendations regarding pinching back so that my garden has longer bloom time and stays more "controlled". This book is worth every penny!

Positive pubcast On Sep 25, 2004, pubcast wrote:

I bought this book (and to me, it was expensive!) but it is like a bible of perennials, worth every penny and more. It is understandable to the novice, yet informative to the more experienced gardener. Her discussion of seasonal pruning has been a treasure--when to cut some things to the ground, when to cut/prune after blooming and what plants will greatly suffer from that type of pruning. Color in the garden is in the book, but frankly I use other sources (color wheels) to get ideas on that. If you're going to spend $$ on one hardback book, and you grow perennials, get THIS book.

Positive sylvi74 On Jun 28, 2004, sylvi74 wrote:

This is a wonderful book. The author clearly knows her subject from hands on work with the plants. I found the pruning instructions so helpful and my garden looks much better now that I know what to cut when and where.

Positive LimeyLisa On Feb 9, 2004, LimeyLisa wrote:

Not only does this book very concisely explains how many different types of plants can be cared for and made to look better by dead-heading and proper pruning, it also shows one how cutting back many taller plants in the spring can make them "fit" better, stagger the bloom time in your garden, or help them not flop over.

In addition, she gives lists of plants that work in many different garden types. For example, Clay Busters, Low Maintenance Perennials, Perennials that Require Staking, Reseeding Plants, etc.

A great beginner book that has many things for the more experienced to learn as well.

Positive Happenstance On Feb 9, 2004, Happenstance wrote:

Great info on pruning, dead-heading and general year long maintenance of perennials. Lots to learn from this well done volume.

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