The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: A Biased Review and a Giveaway

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Mid-August meltdown

It’s mid-August. Do you find yourself apologizing for your perennials right about now? Stems that can’t hold their flowers up? Foliage that’s become tattered and sad? Plants that have outgrown their space and are crowding their neighbors?

Third time’s the charm

All of these problems have clear solutions in the new third edition of Tracy DiSabato-Aust’s bestselling book, The Well-Tended Perennial Garden: The Essential Guide to Planting and Pruning Techniques, from Timber Press.

Because I helped out on this book with some editorial work and photos, this will be an unabashedly biased review of it. And because I received an extra copy of the book from Timber in conjunction with that work, I’ll be giving one away at the end of this post!

Snippity snip

Pruning perennials.

Nobody gave the idea much ink (other than in reference to mums) until the first edition of The Well-Tended Perennial Garden in 1998. But Tracy was, and is, a perennial-pruning evangelist. She spelled out the many reasons why pruning shouldn’t be reserved for our woody plants.

In the new edition, she gives 15 functions (fifteen!) that pruning can serve in the perennial garden.

Proper pruning—Tracy shows you exactly how to do it—can prevent problems like those in the opening paragraph: floppy stems, ragged summer foliage, and plants that get a little too big.

For example, here’s a native lupine I grew from seed. It was glorious this spring. I wanted to collect seed, so I let it go to seed, and afterwards it looked horrible. Huge, messy, and horrible. I cut it back to the ground in early summer.

Today, despite no rain in almost two months and practically no love from me, it has a sweet, fresh mound of basal foliage.

This is an agastache I got from Xera Plants called ‘Mandarin Dream’. It usually gets too tall for its pot and looks out of proportion, but this year I pruned it back in the spring, so it wouldn’t get so tall. I also didn’t fertilize it, which is why it’s so pale, but you get the idea.

I have lots of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Pruning in this case can help to encourage rebloom. I sheared this patch as soon as the blooms faded, and now it has buds again.

Whereas this patch of butterfly weed I left alone, and now it’s covered in seedpods. No flower buds.

Everything you need to know

The new Well-Tended also discusses staking, dividing, watering, and fertilizing perennials. You’ll learn how to control and prevent pests and diseases without harsh chemicals. And Tracy shares her steps in creating beds and borders from start to finish. Good, meaty stuff.

There are many new beautiful photos in the plant encyclopedia, if I do say so myself.

Then there is the updated plant encyclopedia, with more than fifty new entries. Each item has detailed info about its maintenance—the kind of info that you don’t find elsewhere.

Boltonia asteroides ‘Snowbank’ is a lower-maintenance perennial that blooms in late summer and fall.

But wait, there’s more! Lists of perennials according to their maintenance needs: plants that need dividing only every ten years or more, clay busters, lower-maintenance perennials…

Win a copy now

That’s right! I have one free copy of the 2017 edition of The Well-Tended Perennial Garden by Tracy DiSabato-Aust to give away to a lucky reader. Just let me know in the comments below that you’d like to enter, and I’ll choose a winner at random on Sunday, August 20, at 5:00 pm Pacific Time. Good luck!

And the winner, courtesy of, is… Mary Hayden! Congratulations Mary, and thank you to everyone for participating and for reading my blog.

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40 Responses

  1. Tracy
    Tracy at | | Reply

    I need this book!

  2. Tracy
    Tracy at | | Reply

    I need this book! Pick ME!!

  3. Dave
    Dave at | | Reply

    This will be like all of those reality competition shows where they interview one of the contestants:”I want this book more than ANYONE else in the known and unknown universe in all dimensions of all universes. Trust me, no one wants this book more than me!”. How’s that for unabashedly putting it out there? 🙂

  4. cg davis
    cg davis at | | Reply

    This is the book I’ve been looking for. Please please pick me

  5. Jane / MulchMaid
    Jane / MulchMaid at | | Reply

    My garden desperately needs me to win this book. Pick meeeee!!!!

  6. Chad Finn
    Chad Finn at | | Reply

    Would love to learn more through this book! Fingers crossed!

  7. Tsheila
    Tsheila at | | Reply

    Hi Amy, I’d like to enter for the book giveaway. The photos look lovely and what sharp editing! Also, you are wildly attractive. 🙂

  8. Mike Snyder
    Mike Snyder at | | Reply

    Hi, Amy, Please put me on the list of entries for the book. Thank you.

  9. Linde
    Linde at | | Reply

    Sounds like the perfect book! Would love to have it as well!

  10. Margaret
    Margaret at | | Reply

    Hmmm… there seems to be quite a demand for this book. Here’s to great sales! Please put my name in the pot!

  11. Nancy Zimmer
    Nancy Zimmer at | | Reply

    This book looks like a great piece of knowledge most gardeners could use and
    I would love to win it.

  12. Soozie
    Soozie at | | Reply

    Looks like this book is a gardeners new best friend and I would love to have a new gardening buddy! Congratulations to whomever receives this book.

  13. Jenni
    Jenni at | | Reply

    I would love to win this book!

  14. Dick Culver
    Dick Culver at | | Reply

    We will even pay to have your book. Love, Mary C and Dick C.

  15. Tim W Talbert
    Tim W Talbert at | | Reply

    I would love a copy of this book to help with the new landscaping I will be putting around my new house!

  16. Alyse Lansing
    Alyse Lansing at | | Reply

    Amy–Congrats! How great that you’re involved with this new edition. I have the first one, and absolutely need the update! LOL to your reader comments competing for your favor. Luckily (because I cannot top them!) your pick will be random 😀

  17. Grace Peterson
    Grace Peterson at | | Reply

    In years past I have cut back my tall phlox and late-summer blooming asters. I didn’t do it this year and REALLY regret it now. I’m seeing a lot of other perennials that could also benefit from a late-spring haircut. I really need to take notes now for a more manageable garden next summer.

    You don’t need to enter me in the contest. I already know everything… Kidding of course. I can get the book myself and write a review.

  18. Barbara Kelberlau
    Barbara Kelberlau at | | Reply

    Please enter me! Thanks!

  19. Loree
    Loree at | | Reply

    Yep, looks like something I should add to my library! Thanks for the chance to win.

  20. Phillip
    Phillip at | | Reply

    I think I lost my previous copy in the move or gave it away so I could use it!

  21. Marilyn Foster
    Marilyn Foster at | | Reply

    I’m actually kind of sort of related to the multi-talented Tracy, and I would love to win her book! Her sweet hubby and my sweet hubby are cousins.

  22. Linda Light
    Linda Light at | | Reply

    Believe I first heard of this book in February at the N. W. Flower and Garden Show
    in Seattle during a seminar. Thought then I should have bought it, and now it crosses my path again. Thank you for the reminder. It is appreciated.

  23. Thomas C. Davis
    Thomas C. Davis at | | Reply

    Tracy, you ROCK! Over the past 20 years I have introduced your book to so many newbie gardeners and said, ‘follow her directions’. I have always loved your lectures at the CENTS show and wish you all the well earned success this new edition will bring. All the Best!

  24. Rochelle Benoit
    Rochelle Benoit at | | Reply

    I would like to be entered for the free book giveaway. Please and thank you.

  25. Brenda C. Adams
    Brenda C. Adams at | | Reply

    My dear friend Tracy wrote the Foreword for my recently recently released book, “Cool Plants for Cold Climates: A Garden Designer’s Perspective”. (University of Alaska Press, 2017)

    Having read the earlier edition of her “Well-Tended Perennial Garden” as well as her “Well-Designed Mixed Border” years ago, I am a long term fan. Would love to complete the trilogy and read the new edition of “Well Tended” this winter!

  26. Mary Hayden
    Mary Hayden at | | Reply

    Please put my name in the basket. Thanks.

  27. Nancy L. Wells
    Nancy L. Wells at | | Reply

    Hi Amy: Ever since I met you when on a walk a few years back — we ended up talking for quite a bit of time — I interrupted your time that day as you were doing some photo work in random neighborhoods you told me. I learned a little about your interest in the plant world and since have realized the depth of it and how involved you are. I was able to keep your name/blog info in my mind that day on my walk home and looked up your site and signed up to receive your blogs. Have been enjoying them alot ever since whenever they arrive in my email. Thank you. The location when we met was on NE Alameda and about 20 something St. – for get the exact street number now. I remember enjoying our visiting.
    I would love to receive this book to learn more about growing and pruning perennials as I want to have more of them in my yard than I have now.

  28. rickii
    rickii at | | Reply

    Count me in! Linda Coombs calls it the Chelsea Chop and when I think to do it the plants thank me and my garden looks ever so much better. This book might be just the push I need to be more diligent.

  29. Jessica Greenwood
    Jessica Greenwood at | | Reply

    I’d love that book!

  30. Szilvia
    Szilvia at | | Reply

    Thanks for your blog! I definitely learned something today. One of my favorite plants in my garden is the asclepias, especially because of all the bees feeding on the blossoms. Sadly, it looks like the second photo. I’ll be sure to prune it next year for more blooms and more bees!

    I would love to be entered into your book raffle!

  31. Karin Haderly
    Karin Haderly at | | Reply

    Just got serious about my perennial garden this year, and this book would be super useful to my edumacation. 😀

  32. Lisa Ricciardi
    Lisa Ricciardi at | | Reply

    I’d like to enter. I am a gardener by trade. Love to keep collecting reference material. Never stop learning and looking at pictures and reading new books. Thank you so much for giving a book away.

  33. Leah Alskog
    Leah Alskog at | | Reply

    I Would love a copy- I’m trying to read everything I can get my hands on before I start digging. This sounds like a staple for any gardener’s collection! Thanks!

  34. Mercedes L Lawry
    Mercedes L Lawry at | | Reply

    What a great addition this would be to my gardening books collection!

  35. Stephen Hackett
    Stephen Hackett at | | Reply

    I’m probably ineligible being in the UK – but you never know. The book looks very useful.

  36. Sandy Bown
    Sandy Bown at | | Reply

    This book would help us plant a perennial garden at our new home in southern VA. The weather here is quite different from that in northern Pennsylvania and we could use any suggestions to get us started.

  37. Vin Raj
    Vin Raj at | | Reply

    Sounds like just the book every gardner needs to have! Good luck

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