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Win A Signed Copy of “Essential Perennials”

Category: Presenting "The Curious Gardener"


Womanswork is giving away a signed hardcover copy of “Essential Perennials” by our friend Ruth Rogers Clausen and Tom Christopher, published by Timber Press. Photos are by the husband and wife team of Alan and Linda Detrick.  Margaret Roach says, “Finally, a guide to navigating the staggering possibilities among perennials.” Essential Perennials COVER 3D

I interviewed Ruth Clausen about the book and about her life as a gardener and writer. She and her writing partner wanted to make a book that is a reader-friendly reference for inexperienced gardeners, but also provides a resource for the more experienced gardener. I find the book to be an inviting one. It’s not a densely packed reference book, it has lovely colorful plant photographs, lots of white space on the pages, and bullit points that help facilitate comparisons between plants.

I have known Ruth for years but have never talked to her about how she first became interested in gardening . So we talked about her mother and grandmother in South Wales where Ruth grew up. She remembers putting pieces of broken pottery around the base of plants that needed extra alkaline; she remembers making sachets with her mother, using the lavender growing in her grandmother’s garden. As a young girl she road horseback along the coastline near her home, observing the seaside plants growing along the paths. She grew up learning words like Hamamelis and other latin names.

I asked her what her favorite perennial is. It is difficult to pick, she said, but “Today it is the epimedium. I like it because it comes up early in the season, likes shade, grows among tree roots, is drought resistant, has dainty flowers and looks good all summer. Tomorrow I will have another favorite.”ruthrogerclausen

Please tell us what your favorite perennial is, or share with us your stories about gardening, past or present. What are your memories, who inspired you, what do you dream about? Write your comments below and we will select one person to receive a signed copy of Ruth’s book.  Thank you!


40 thoughts on “Win A Signed Copy of “Essential Perennials”

  1. Fran Kessman says:

    Oh how wonderful to be able to write about such beauty! Perfect reading for spring!

  2. Candace Korzenko says:

    I would so love to win this book…Really enjoyed the article on black bears, thank you.

  3. Sheila Press says:

    My grandmother, Mona Reeside Kirkland, spent her time in the hard winters of Kansas looking through Burpee’s catalogs and dreaming of what she would plant in Spring. She lived with us, and we worked together in the garden digging, watering rows of Iris, burning off the grass in the Fall. I love to dig, because of her. She would ask me to stand on the tines of the digging fork while she worked it back and forth in the hard soil. I felt useful, included in something important to her. I remember this time when I dig in my garden and thank her for it.

  4. Anne Edelen says:

    I was blessed to be able to help care for my mother, Aida, over the last ten years as she suffered from a disease that left her body quite fragile. During her stays at our home and since she was unable to venture outside and enjoy the sunshine, I would every few days wander through the garden to pick from the year-round color that was planted in the gardens of our previous home. It reminded her of the days that as a child I would sneak down the alley behind our house to find all the ‘flowers’ that grew there (a.k.a. weeds), and bring her home a ‘bouquet’. My mother never tired of enjoying and closely examining the tiny treasures that we had always before her that bloomed constantly. Since she was also immensely frugal, she loved that they returned year after year. (She never would even give up on an annual, propagating even an impatiens plant from year to year and sharing rooted sprouts with all of us.) Since her native language was Spanish, she also loved learning their Latin names, as she was able to enjoy their meanings from the similar roots.

    The perennials she was able to enjoy continually and she called them her “indoor sunshine”. I hope, now that she is no longer with us, to plant a new “Aida” garden in our new yard in her memory. I promised her in her last days that I would always fill a small vase on the desk and remember her fondly. I am hoping to borrow from the year-round color theory that some gifted gardener left us with in our previous home, My personal favorites were the varieties of heucheras that lived just outside our dining room window. What a treat when they would send up a delicate spike of tiny blooms! Even their leaves were an array beautiful colors.

    I would love to know when you will be selecting the lucky book winner! 🙂

  5. Marianne Simonetti says:

    Hydrangeas have always been my favorite perennial…linked back to the earliest memories of my grandmother’s beautiful garden. I often look back in my mind’s eye and can picture the large, rock bordered, crescent shaped planting beds that showcased her lovely flowers, herbs, and shrubs. Her garden was truly a delight for all of the senses!
    My mother, too, shared this love of the garden. I can still hear the echoes of her voice listing the names of all of the plants and trees we would pass while on our afternoon walks…my sister and I holding either side of the baby carriage holding our younger brother…an especially poignant memory since we lost mom in late August…
    How wonderful it is that each of us has the love of gardening as well as the beautiful garden she so lovingly tended as an enduring remembrance!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Is lily of the valley considered a perennial? Because I love them perennially; their delicate bell shaped flowers, their beautiful leaves and their heavenly scent! And they grow in the shade! Plus, they were the flowers my mother carried in her wedding bouquet. Today and always, they are my favorite perennial!

  7. Sally Hemingway says:

    My grandmother was my inspiration. She had a huge perennial garden and would always pick flowers in the morning for me to take to my teacher – so generous with her flowers! When my parents sold “the old home place,” we dug up some of her flowers and I’ve transplanted them for the past 35+ years as we’ve moved from house to house. My favorite is her purple iris. I haven’t been successful in identifying exactly which variety, but they’re HUGE and beautiful. Maybe this book could identify them for me? Thanks for the opportunity!

  8. Sometimes I think gardening has saved my life, or at least my sanity. And I don’t like to get hot & sweaty, which you always do in the South! I came to it slowly. attracted by my love of beauty. When my children were young it was a way to keep an eye on them without being obtrusive. It also gave me much needed excercise I now have had hundreds of roses over 3 homes, untold perennials & annuals, attracting birds, bees & people. I give away bouquets by the dozen to friends, neighbors, & interior design clients.People leave vases at my doorstep because I tell them they will get more flowers that way! I’m following in my grandmother’s & father’s footsteps & I’m glad!

  9. Janice Brown says:

    Epimedium is lovely.

  10. My parents and paternal grandmother instilled in me a love of plants quite naturally. I grew up hearing the stories of the oaks my parents planted in front of our first house. Then watched them mark trees to save at our second house- a lot of oaks and elms. Then they planted dogwoods under them. Mother grew passed down plants of irises, peonies and daffodils, sweet williams, azaleas, a gardenia and roses carelessly. She neither fussed over them nor failed. Things just grew for her. Turns out, she was composting in place all those years! Way ahead of her time. We visited my grandmother in Louisiana with its steamy summers and mild winters- oaks, dogwoods, roses, figs, gardenias, camellias, soft soil with its Centipede or St. Augustine (?) grasses. Even the now much reviled Mimosa trees played into my memories- Powder Puff Tree! So I guess plant lovers don’t fall far from the family tree.

  11. Sandra Falco says:

    Poppies are probably an all-time perennial favorite for me–big, bright orange ones. While growing up, we had a large garden of them, which I will always remember.

  12. Betty Fockler says:

    I have 3 perennial gardens plus those small areas I don’t count. I am sure this book would be welcome on my gardening reference shelf. Thanks for the opportunity to enter for a win!

  13. My favorite perennial is day lilies. I have many tall orange ones ( I call them roadside day lilies since where I live they grow along the roads with no care but Mother Nature), these lilies surround the chain link fence in my yard where my built in pool is and are a beautiful camouflage. I have them also along one side of my driveway and then two front flower beds with assorted colorful day lilies. my very, very favorite is the “Stargazer Lilly”, their fragrance is intensely refreshing. Gardening us such a great stress reducer and also works as a form of meditation for me. Let me escape outdoors to weed my flower beds and listen to the sounds of nature around me and my heart, soul and mind are at peace.

  14. Stargazer lillies are my favorite. Their scent is intoxicating! Someone else’s experience and knowledge inspire me to contunually work in my garden! When I am working in my garden, I am living my dream. What more could I want?

  15. Stargazer lillies are my favorite! Their scent is intoxicating! Someone else’s experience and knowledge inspire me to work in my garden. When I am working in my garden, I am living my dream! What more could I want?

  16. I have no favorite perennial per se, I like them all, but I do have a story to share. I am battling Breast Cancer, and it has been very hard on my body…am home bound. I love to garden, but unable to do as much as I used to. Anyhow, the area where I live is bordered by an alley, and one day I noticed someone had thrown out a potted rose tree surrounded by ivy…it was looking pretty dead. I asked my Brother, who is my caretaker during this ordeal, to bring the rose tree over…he was not amused, his exact words, “You’re too sick too garden right now,” but, begrudgingly brought it over. I knew immediately why the rose was dying…the ivy was choking it to death. I had my Brother pull out the plants from the pot, and like an archaeologist, I dissected the ivy from the rose’s roots…quite a chore, but I did it. My Brother helped me re-pot the rose, gave it some Miracle Grow, and prayed. Much to my Brother’s surprise, the rose tree is now growing strong and blooming beautifully. Now every time we walk by it I remind him that it takes someone with enough love and caring to help bring life into things, and his reply, “I can’t believe you brought it back from the dead.” My dream, at the moment, is to rid myself of this monster and get back to some type of normalcy.

  17. I absolutely LOVE flowers. It doesn’t matter what kind they are but any yellow and purple flower is my favorite. There is something about flowers that speaks to my soul.

    I enjoy making container gardens with different flowers and plants in pots that I customize with paint and stencils.

    If there are flowers around – count me in!!! I would love to have this book on perennials – my yard would be filled with them!

  18. I don’t have a favorite perennial. I’m just getting familiar with them as I’ve mostly planted annuals. I also plant veggies and herbs. A big thanks to my parents for getting me in the dirt early! C’mon Springtime weather!!

  19. Jean DeSavage says:

    I’m fairly new to gardening, this being only my fourth year. I’m still learning how to grow many perennials, what to do in the fall, do I clean then or wait until spring? When do I prune my bushes? One of my biggest areas of confusion is fertilizers-it seems every flower needs a different combination of fertilizers, what should I buy that will give me the best turnout for the most flowers?
    I’ve endeavored to make a cottage style perennial garden, with one end having flowers with “warm” colors of yellows, reds and oranges. The other end is the “cool” side with blues and purples. I have white flowers between the groups as a transition. I especially love blue flowers, with delphinium being my favorite!

  20. Amy Teich says:

    I have been gardening since I could walk. When I was a little girl, my parents let me dig up a good portion of our backyard, which wasn’t very big to begin with. I would plant vegetables in the spring and summer. Some of my favorite memories are of climbing our sour cherry tree with my best friend Matt, and picking (and eating) the cherries so my mom could bake a cherry pie! I guess my favorite perennial are black eyed susans. The have such happy faces during the summer months and add a texture to my winter garden. I think the goldfinches are happy that I have planted so many of these also.

  21. My mother was an amazing gardener. I recall her in the garden until the sweat dripped off her face. At the time I avoided the garden since I did not want to weed and she did not go for veggie gardening. My 3 sisters were about the same: we headed for the Orange groves that surrounded our house. Now I am a professor of botany, another sister has an off the grid house and garden, another is a high powered landscape architect to the stars in Santa barbara, ca. The last one is a ceramics teacher with a yard full of figs, oranges, grapes, and grapefruit! We were all inspired in our own ways, and we all know it was passed. Down by our wonderful mother, Alyce.

  22. Mary Lou Soffa says:

    I began flower gardening in earnest 19 years ago with the purchase of a home with a small but deep city lot. The backyard needed much TLC but I was fortunate to find a large pile of composted leaves behind the garage! A month later, the back third of the yard was a profusion of coneflowers, black-eyed susans, lupine, and veronica. A gravel path outlined the garden and I had the most wondrous view of flowers from the chair in my sunroom. Needless to say, I was hooked! I moved to my present location on a lake 2 years later and have spent many years coaxing my shaded yard to a colorful garden. But that first creation sold the house and remains a “perrenial” favorite.

  23. Tracy Nabholz says:

    I didn’t grow up gardening so I have taught myself and still don’t know everything. I guess when my husband and I moved into our first home was when I started becoming more interested in gardening. It can be frustrating at times but when you have flowers blooming you realize that it was all worth it. My flowerbeds are not worthy of a magazine picture but they’re mine and I love them!

  24. Corey Volo says:

    My favorite perennials are the ones that live in my memory garden – the garden I started as a place I could go to be with the memories of loved ones lost. Shasta Daisies remind me of Aunt Viv and her cheerful outlook, no matter what. Easter Lilies make me think of Mom and smile. My lavender was the favorite flower of a hospice patient that became a friend… So many beautiful memories blooming before me, reminding me of the people that have blessed my journey on earth.

  25. Deborah Johnson says:

    Ornamental grasses, iris, and hostages are my favorite garden plants.

  26. Rifka Saltz says:

    My favorite perennial is roses. For some reason mine don’t require a lot of work, thank G-d! And they come back year after year providing me with enough to enjoy several vase fulls through the season.

    As a child even though I grew up in the city, I watched my grandmother go work in the garden all day long. She would go inside long enough to prepare lunch for my grandfather, and then come back outside to the garden.
    The children from the elementary school down the street would bring classes to admire the colorful flowers. Roses were the centerpiece!
    I guess I inherited the passion.

  27. Lisa Lindsey says:

    My favorite perennial is the Bachelor Button. That beautiful iridescent blue always reminds me of my grandmother who instilled such a love of gardening in me. She spent so much time telling me about each and every flower in her garden that, years down the road, I couldn’t wait to have my own.

  28. Juanita, thank you for sharing this personal story with us. We wish you well! –Dorian

  29. Linda Rea says:

    My mother inspired her daughters (three of us) to garden. She grew up during the Depression and learned how to utilize everything and had a prodigious green thumb. She could coax her small garden to produce enough food to feed all ten of us. She was an organic gardener and a recycler before it was even a thought. It’s difficult to pinpoint one perennial. I just love seeing all the tulips, daffodils, iris and oriental poppies flooding my garden with a myriad of color each spring. And then eagerly await the roses, lilies and daisies.

  30. I LOVE my LILACS!!! Every spring I anxiously await those blooms & when I cut my first blooms of the season it feels like Christmas to me. I share them with only a few that I feel are worthy. Two years ago when my mother was in a physical therapy rehab, I thought I would bring the nurses some blooms in a vase. I brought them to the nurses station at 3oclock & when I left at 4:30 the shift had changed & I didn’t see my lilacs anywhere. When I asked where my lilacs were, the new nurse explained to me she was allergic & gave them to the hairdresser. Well the hairdresser left for the day, the door was locked & she wasn’t coming back until Monday. Well it was only Thursday. I insisted someone call the janitor to come unlock the door for me. They weren’t too happy with me but you know what? I didn’t care, how dare that nurse. She should had tried to find out who brought them. Anyway, since then I have been extremely picky on who is worthy of my Lilacs!!

  31. My favorite flower is lily of the valley. I can’t get enough of the intoxicating fragrance, and I always have a vase filled with the delicate flowers during their short season.

  32. It would be really difficult to pick just one perennial favorite. I love, love, love roses & hydrangea. Columbine is another favorite & Iris. My Mom is a fantastic gardener. Everything she touches turns amazingly beautiful. Growing up I wasn’t exactly fond of all the plants & flowers everywhere, not really sure why. I did love to watch my Mom when she was gardening & I suppose the appreciation of the art of it grew from there. I have all kinds of flowers on my property including over 20 rose bushes. There’s just something very soothing & very Zen about being in the garden & tending to the delicate blooms.

  33. Ina Rea Bicknell says:

    My favorite flowers are tuberoses. The bulbs can be
    difficult to find, but the scent of the flowers is worth the effort.
    I love lavender, too, because I can dry it and enjoy it all year
    long. Bees also love, love, love it!

  34. My favorite are peonies. So pretty and fragrant. I also like to grow flowers that I remind me of fond memories with loved ones. Marigolds and pansies remind me of my mother. Hydrangeas remind me of my great-grandfather. Sweet peas remind me of my grandmother.

  35. Looking for best plants for Lake Michigan Island Perennial Garden Northeast Wisconsin.

  36. Favorite perennial is peony. So many to choose from. Peonies are reliable, fragrant and very showy. Great shrubs after the show is over.

  37. Paula Redd says:

    would love a copy of this book. we moved last fall to a new area and have lots of plans and dreams of our landscaping, this book would be a lot of help.

  38. These stories are lovely. Websites and books like this as well as magazines inspire me. Nature images are a joy.

    Eagerly awaiting some day lilies I planted last fall. From childhood I remember lilies of the valley, as well as snapdragons, tiger lilies, and mini strawberries from around my grandparents’ house. The snapdragons stood out in tropical colors.

    Last year, I had the opportunity to work alongside some wonderful garden designers from April through November. As a relative newbie to the Midwest, this allowed me to learn about native plantings and creative combinations for large containers, and border gardens.

    My education continues. I dream of having an herb/tea garden, and planting more perennials around the border of the house, as I learn more about which plants work best in different areas.

    Cheers, fellow garden visionaries.

  39. tricia reynolds says:

    A Gardener’s Analogy: My love for gardening began with my grandmothers who handed their passion for floriculture down to my mother, who then literally pressed a love of gardening into my psyche. I had a small interest in Mom’s perennial and cutting gardens as a girl, but when I married a man whose career was in the USAF, I certainly did not plan to carry on her gardening traditions. Yet each time my mom visited, she brought cuttings, seedlings, and pots of perennials, insisting that I give them a home. And so it came to be that no matter how often we moved (which was yearly) or where we went (which was all over the country) more and more pots of transplants moved with me; I couldn’t bear to leave them behind. After fifty years, I am at last settled in a home where I can put my “roots” to rest in permanent soil. Like my matriarchs, gardening has become a way of life for me. Every bush I prune, every flowery clump I plant, I sense my mother with me, looking over my shoulder, guiding my hands to give that life every chance to mature. By nurturing that need to garden, my mother also blessed me with memories that connect me to the women of my past, a link that reminds me of the strong, loving women who must not be forgotten.

  40. I have been gardening most of my life. I would like to get more into perennials. I live just south of Wichita, Kansas. Can you suggest certain perennials for my area? Thanks!

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